How to write an Australian CV / Resume

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If you are applying for a job in Australia and you are uncertain about how to write an Australian CV / Resume, you are in exactly the right place. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about writing a resume for Australia.

NUMBER OF PAGES

If you undertake a search on how to prepare a résumé, so often you end up on career sites that make a strong suggestion as to the length of your résumé.  Please IGNORE those sites that advice you to limit your résumé to one or two pages, as usually these are American or UK sites where the recruiting practices are different from those prevalent in Australia.

Instead, focus on a résumé that truly reflects your skills and experience and even if this takes five pages, so be it (unless a page limit is imposed by the employer).  HOWEVER, make sure you don’t waffle, and don’t include information that is not required, repetitive, or irrelevant.

Note: The average length of résumés I professionally prepare for clients is usually anything between three and no more than four pages.   This length is usually more than adequate, even at the very senior executive level, and I can include all the relevant details required by employers.  So, if your résumé runs into six or more pages, it is time to refine your current document.

PAPER SIZE

In the US, typically the paper size for a resume is the letter size 8.5 x 11 inches. In Australia, the paper size of a resume is A4 210 x 297mm.  So if using a letter size document, you will need to change this to A4.

SPELLING

Australians adopted the UK English spelling style. So if you are coming from North America, you will need to make sure you check your spelling. So for example replace center with centre, organized with organised, specialize with specialise and color with colour.  The easiest way to do this is to simply change your spell check on MS Word to the English (UK), or English (AUS) dictionary under Options in Spelling and Grammar.

PERSONAL DATA

For the most part you should NOT include personal data, since the purpose of a résumé is to screen candidates out, not in. While in Australia, there is a raft of legislation protecting candidates, I still don’t include personal information that could unnecessarily place my client in a position of being ‘pigeon holed’ by employers and selection panel members, or indirectly discriminated against.   So please leave the following details out of your résumé:

  • Date of birth
  • Martial status and number of children
  • Photographs, no matter how photogenic you are
  • Personal data, such as health status, height and weight
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Photocopied written references attached at the end of your résumé.  Save these for the interview, unless specifically requested in the application form.

However, ignore this rule, if these personal attributes will enhance your application.

  • If applying for an entry-level training position that is targeting disadvantaged groups, include all your personal details that address their selection priorities, in particular age and ethnic background.
  • Use your interests to enhance your application, if your interests and hobbies reinforce your passion or capacity to do the job.  For example, including hobbies relating to looking after wildlife, if applying for a conservation traineeship, or listing your sporting achievements and interests, if applying for a job in which high levels of fitness are a requirement.
  • Include your photograph, height and so on, if this is a requirement of the employer.  For example a portfolio for models, or an application for a major airline.

GENERALLY THE DOCUMENT IS CALLED A RESUME, NOT A CV

If coming from the UK, or New Zealand then you might be confused as to whether to call the document a resume or CV. Some employers request the submission of a curriculum vitae rather than a résumé.

The literal Latin translation of curriculum vitae, means ‘the course of one’s life’, and is usually used by candidates within the areas of science, education/academia or medical communities.  CV’s within these professions incorporate detailed information relating to professional activities, including journal articles, research, scholarships and publications and the correct term is curriculum vitae.

However in Australia the term CV is used interchangeably with résumé and you will be requested to forward a CV, rather than a résumé.  If this is the case, simply change the heading of your current résumé, or alternatively, do what I do, and that is I usually don’t provide the document with a title.  After all, it is pretty obvious to the reader, what the document is about, even without a title.

FOCUS ON A PROFILE, NOT CAREER OBJECTIVE

I generally do not like career objectives and only occasionally utilise them, for example for a career changer or new graduate.  The reason is that a career objective is entirely focussed on YOUR needs, rather than the employers!  Since the most effective résumé is focussed on the potential employers needs, why focus the prime real estate space of your document on what you want!  (That visual centre, 1/3 down on your 1st page of your résumé, is where the employer will typically stop first, so this is where you should pack your biggest punch!)

A better alternative is to include a profile, an introduction or qualifications and experience summary.  That way you can really provide focus on the value that you offer the employer.  This critical, but subtle difference might just result in you securing an interview.

MOST EMPLOYERS AND RECRUITERS PREFER A CHRONOLOGICAL FORMAT

Unless you are a chronic job hopper, have large employment gaps, then use a chronological resume, where you present your employment history in reverse chronological order, with the most recent position first, followed by previous positions. This format is the most common one utilised and is usually preferred by employers in Australia.

OUTLINING YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

You should provide the following information relating to your employment history.

  • Job Title
  • Name of Organisation
  • Start Date and Finish Date (month and year), unless using a functional résumé, or you want to disguise very old work history.

You should also consider providing a short profile of the organisation, if the company is not well known in Australia and you want to put your position into context for employers and recruiters.  Information you might include could be details relating to the number of staff, products and services provided, through to annual turnover (if this information is already in the public arena and not confidential).

If you don’t include this information, than a potential employer or the recruiter might overlook your application, if they are not familiar with the organisation, or you don’t make them aware of your scope of responsibility.  

I know this for a fact, as many years ago upon returning to Australia, I was initially bypassed for a very lucrative job in a top Australian law firm, as the recruitment agency was unaware that Clifford Chance LLP, was the largest law firm in the world, (at the time Clifford Chance did not have an Australian office) – and therefore my experience had been obtained at the leading global law firm, not a small suburban practice.  

When outlining your employment history, the core focus should be on achievements, not long lists of duties and responsibilities.

One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is providing long lists of duties and responsibilities without providing any tangible evidence of achievements.

Achievements should always be included and should be the major factor highlighted in your résumé.

While a brief list of your responsibilities should be included, don’t include everything; otherwise you risk having your résumé sound like a boring list of duties, without providing any tangible evidence of the VALUE you can provide to an employer.

If you have had several roles that involve exactly the same duties, don’t reiterate the same duties.  Instead, distinguish each role, by emphasising different elements and focus on the contributions you made to each and every employer.

To help you brainstorm your achievements, I have listed some general questions below, outlining areas in which you as an employee may have contributed to an organisation.  

  • Have you saved money for an organisation?
  • Did you build organisational capability?
  • How have you solved a specific or major problem?
  • Are you a key ‘trouble-shooter’?
  • Have you delivered on an intended outcome?
  • Did you introduce new procedures that improved operational processes?
  • Did you improve the overall management of a functional area?
  • What did you accomplish for your clients?
  • Were you selected for any significant projects and what were the outcomes of these projects?  Benefits / cost savings / improved processes
  • Did you mange the same or greater amount of work than your predecessor?
  • Are you more efficient than most?
  • Did you exceed expectations of clients?
  • Did you exceed expectations of management?
  • Have you improved customer relations?
  • Did you develop and implement long term planning initiatives?
  • Did you develop partnerships with external stakeholders that were beneficial to the organisation?
  • Did you increase productivity or efficiency within an organisation?
  • Did you achieve a result within a tight budget and or time constraints?
  • Did you develop, manage, implement or contribute to any major changes within an organisation?
REFEREES

It is NOT necessary to include referees in the modern Australian résumé, unless specifically requested by the employer.

Other articles you might find useful

Resources so you can create your own knock out resume  

Everything you need to know about Applicant Tracking Systems  

How to select the best resume writer 

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