I’ve worked on many recruitment processes so when it comes to resumes, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the truly bewildering.

In a crowded job market right now, one way to stand out is to have a high-quality resume. If you don’t know where to start, or you have a resume but think it needs improvement, here are some helpful tips.

Oh, and I can do up a resume for you, too.

Resume vs CV (Curriculum Vitae)

 In Australia, resume and CV means much the same thing but, in some countries there is a definite difference between the two. A resume contains a brief (2 pages tops) rundown of your contact details, skills, qualifications and work history.

A CV is longer – about 6 pages – and goes further back into your work history as well as giving more detail about your skills, qualifications and career activities, such as board appointments or conference appearances. Strictly speaking, it is used by people who have had academic papers, research or other work published.

How far back? 

If you’ve been in the workforce for a couple of decades, listing every job you’ve had would take up quite a few pages. As a rule, your resume should go back 10-12 years. If it is a proper CV, it is accepted that more detail is included, so if you wanted to include your ground-breaking research from 25 years ago, go ahead. But if you’ve been working for 20 years, the part time job you had at Maccas when you were a teenager, or your first job sorting the mail is not important if you are in another line of work entirely.

Should I include a photo?

It is not common practice in Australia, so no, it isn’t necessary. Occasionally an employer will request it so in that case, include a photo. Make sure it is a professional looking headshot, not a photo of you brandishing a bottle of champagne at a party (or similar).

What not to include

There are some things you are not obliged to put in your resume. Personal information such as your age, relationship status, religion or political affiliations, whether you have children, and medical history, is left off resumes. If, for example, you were applying for a job at an organisation like Anglicare which is run by the Anglican church, and you are Anglican, it is something you could include in your cover letter, or refer to in the interview but it doesn’t belong on your resume.

There are laws which prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, sexual preference, relationship status, religion, other affiliations (e.g. union membership) and disability.

Other interests

There was a time when it was advised to put your hobbies on your resume, to show you were a well-rounded individual or something. It is up to you, but if you’re keeping things brief, my recommendation is to include other activities only if it is relevant to the job. If you are a personal trainer and you run marathons in your spare time, it is relevant. If you are a personal trainer and relax by doing cross-stitch, not so much.

Gaps in your work history

Employers are people, too (hopefully), and understand life can be complicated. If you have taken time out of the workforce, a brief statement, along the lines of “parental leave”, “family responsibilities”, “injury or illness – now fully recovered” or “self-employed/ freelance work”, is sufficient. There’s no need to go into detail (see section on what not to include) and don’t try to fudge an explanation.


Ideally, you should list your current supervisor as a referee. This isn’t always practical, especially if your current supervisor is the reason you’re looking for another job! If the situation arises where you can’t provide referee details at the time of submitting your job application, it is acceptable to include the statement “Referee contact details are available upon request”.

A referee should be someone senior to you in the workplace, who can vouch for your work and who has worked with you recently (not your favourite boss from 2004). Check with your referees first to make sure they are happy to act as referee and let them know if you’ve got an interview, so they won’t be unprepared if they get a call.

Most importantly

The most essential part of your resume is the information in it. Professional presentation is necessary of course (and I can do that for you) but a flashy, colourful resume won’t make up for not having the right mix of skills and experience. I’ve seen a lot of resumes and more often than not, the layout of the shortlisted applicants’ resumes is simple and straightforward – no bells and whistles. It is the way they explain how their work history makes them able to do the job that gets them the interview. Another reason to keep it simple is that many recruitment agencies use Application Tracking Systems (ATS) – that’s right, your resume may not even be seen by a human at the first stage – so a resume full of fancy formatting may not be ATS compliant and essential information about you might be missed by the system. 

Another tip is that your resume isn’t a one-size-fits-all document. It is normal to make minor changes to highlight different skills for different jobs in different industries. Keeping things relevant is crucial.

If you need advice about resumes or would like me to do one for you, contact me.