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Resumes and Curriculum Vitaes – Australian tips and suggestions

What does an Australian resume (or CV or Curriculum Vitae) look like?  

This is a question that has many variables and this article will discuss some of the options and choices you have for creating a successful resume for your job hunting inAustralia.

Firstly you need to begin with some research.  You need to find out what are the standards in: your industry in Australia; your profession in Australia; your location in Australia; the recruiters in Australia; the Human Resource Managers in Australia; and the final decision makers in Australia.

In many respects, a successful resume depends on many factors.   The tips in this article are designed to give you some ideas to consider – but they are not definitive for every resume for every job in Australia – that is why you personally need to find out what the norms are for your industry, profession, location etc.

A good way to find out this information is to list yourself on LinkedIn and contact other people who are already in the industry and profession in your new location and ask them for their tips and advice.  You need to speak to at least three people to get a good idea of local Australian requirements.

Reminder: As I have mentioned in other articles I have written, most people who have moved to Australia find their first job in Australia through networking – so the resume is reviewed after the person has already met you or you have been referred to someone. 

It does not mean that you can just simply leave your resume in its current international format.  When the potential employer or recruiter sees your resume, they need to see an appropriate quality document as soon as possible.  You are increasing your chances of success by creating a good quality document and you are also preparing yourself for your second position in Australia as well.

What is the purpose of a resume?

  • It needs to represent you when you are not there (think of it as your text only personal advertisement ).
  • It needs to explain your skills and abilities in a way that the reader can understand them.
  • It needs to indicate how you are a good match for the organisation’s job, culture and purpose.
  • It needs to sell your services for this current job and be a reference point if you are being considered for another position in the future.
  • It needs to clearly show how you are a good match for the current position available.
  • It needs to demonstrate your level of professionalism and ability in producing good quality documentation (even if you need assistance to do this). it needs to have all key words listed in it so that if it is added to a recruiters database and a search is completed, your resume appears in the search results.
  • It needs to help you get the job you are seeking.  If you have just arrived in Australia, you may consider doing a job in the same industry and profession that is slightly less complex than your previous role so that you have extra time and space to make all of your new household arrangements, to do some local sight seeing, to make new friends (this will take time) and to accommodate any other personal needs you or other family members may have after leaving friends and family in your previous location.

I have heard of many stories of people who have sent hundreds of copies of the same resume for different jobs and yet they expect to be successful every time.  Other people expect to find a job within two weeks but find that it can take around two years to be in an equivalent level position. 

Some people make no effort to learn anything about Australian culture or seek professional job hunting assistance, even when they know nothing about the Australian job market.

Would you rather pay an hourly fee for three to six hours of expert advice and increase your chances of success or waste six months of your own time (and not be earning any money) whilst you work it out through trial and error?  The skills to find a job are different to the skills you need to do a job.  If you have a medical complaint, you would go to a doctor – and I would encourage you to consider working with an Australian resume specialist in your industry and profession if you would like a good quality resume.  This person may also have contacts that they can refer you to for more advice.

The guidelines in this article will give you some clues as to some of the ideas to consider for your resume. Hopefully this will give you more time to then have a final review with an expert before starting multiple concurrent job search strategies that lead to your next great job.

Your resume (or personal advertisement) needs to be appealing to the reader and the final decision makers.  It needs to be in the language and format that they like and understand.  What are the common resume questions?

Do I need to include a photo?

This is a personal choice – but if you do, make sure it is an attractive, clear photo and you are smiling . If you are seeking a management position, wear executive clothing (including a jacket).  If you are in the creative industries, you may like to consider a more artistic style photograph.  If you are a technical expert, wear a shirt and tie (no jacket) or modest clothing (if you are female) so that you look like you are ready to work and apply your skills immediately.

Do I need to change my name to an ‘Anglo’style name?

There has been some research done and unfortunately, names that are of Indian or Chinese origin may be perceived less favourably than Anglicised names.  However, my own Anglicised name has also been miss-spelt and recorded incorrectly so there is no guarantee that if you use a different name you will have it used correctly when you start work.  Some points that may be worth considering are:

  • Use two names only – a first name and a family name (in that order).
  • If it is easier to pronounce, you could use a shortened version of your first name.
  • If an Australian may not be able to tell if your name is male or female, you may like to write Ms or Mr before your first name.  You can then use your full name on any official documents, company records etc . senior position resumes may include post nominals (your qualifications)

What style of resume is used in Australia? Reverse chronological or functional?

This will depend on the situation and also where you are at with your career.  In most cases, a standard reverse chronological resume is used (listing your most recent job first and then listing all of your previous positions).  However, if you are changing careers or trying to demonstrate how your generic skills can be applied to a new industry or profession, a functional type of resume may be more helpful.

Personally, in an effort to quickly summarise your suitability for the position, I believe a combination of functional and reverse chronological is probably most helpful.  This way, you can summarise your transferable skills in a collective fashion and also show your past history a little more succinctly and not need to repeat the same information more than once if you have completed the same types of duties in more than one role.

What information needs to be on the first page?

As a minimum, you must have your name, your contact phone number (preferably a mobile phone number written in the format of 04XX XXX XXX) and your email address. 

Some people choose not to include their home address (particularly if they think that the travel distance may preclude them from being successful).   It is not necessary in Australia to include your date of birth, your marital status, any disabilities you may have, your country of origin, religion, your passport number or any other government numbers etc.

If you do not have any work experience in Australia, your next goal is to include as much interesting information as possible before it appears obvious that you have not worked in Australia.  You are trying to ‘sell’ your skills and abilities and keep the reader reading for as long as possible (before you are dismissed).

For instance, if you can speak six languages but the only language that is required is English, why would you state this information first?  If you are educated in remote Africa at a place that is completely unfamiliar to an Australian, include this detail later as this information is foreign and takes extra processing time to make a decision.

If you have done voluntary work, this can be listed (highlighting your Australian experience) and you do not need to mention that it has been voluntary.

What editorial style factors are important?

As a general rule, it is best to avoid multiple font types, underlining, capital letters, font sizes less than 10 point, too many punctuation marks (they slow the reading down) and long sentences and paragraphs.  There is no need to write name, phone number, email, address etc – just record the information at the top – everyone is aware of what you are typing here.

It is much better to include only two size fonts (normal and bold), a stylish font (not Times New Roman, possibly a sans serif font to look more modern) size 10 or 11 point, dot points rather than sentences and allow white space to separate information.

It is also important to make sure that your formatting is consistent throughout the document (exactly the same for each section), that you do not have any spelling mistakes, that your grammar is correct (every past job should be written in the past tense, any current jobs can be written in the present tense)

As a minimum, you would include:

  • Personal information (name, mobile phone, email address)
  • Career Objective (one sentence that matches the job you are applying for)
  • Skills List (short summary matched to the job you are applying for)
  • Previous Experience (indicating your current and past roles)
  • Education and Training (detailing courses completed)
  • Qualifications (especially if they are required for the position – have international qualifications assessed so that they can be given a comparable Australian ranking)
  • Personal interests (these demonstrate how you will fit in a cultural sense in your new role)Referees (you would normally mention that these are available on request but it is also a good idea at this point to include your LinkedIn profile hyperlink that has all of your history, recommendations, connections etc to really demonstrate your net worth to the organisation and encourages the reader to click on it for more information).

Additional categories may include:

  • Achievements (either written collectively or next to each position)
  • Licenses (especially if they are needed for the position)
  • Languages (especially if you are working for an international organization)
  • Technical competencies (particularly for people working with many computer programs)
  • Memberships (of professional or industry associations or other relevant groups)

More details may include: the type of organisation you have worked for next to each company name; statistical data indicating your achievements; full names and abbreviations for each acronym; countries you have worked in (for international roles)

Overall, most resumes would be around two A4 pages in length but may go up to three or possibly four if the person has had a very extensive career.  It is important to explain gaps in your resume and it may be appropriate to list years rather than months if there are some gaps.  Older people may prefer to only list the last 20 years of experience.  Some people may choose to leave out information (more comprehensive qualifications if seeking a lower level position) but you must never lie on a resume or provide false information.

Once again, remember that the skills to find a job are different to the skills that you need to do a job.  Do as much research as you can by finding out more about your industry and profession through various people and consider paying for some professional job search advice.  However, the ultimate responsibility for your success depends on your efforts – so take the information that is useful to you in this article and do whatever you can to increase your chances of success.

Sue's photo

Sue is the Founder and Director, Newcomers Network and the Convenor of Victoria International Human Resources Management Network, Australian Human Resources Institute. Sue is passionate about helping newcomers to Australia make the most of their new work life in their new country.
Sue has published websites, e-books, and articles in various forums worldwide and is also a proactive networker, hosting a variety of events, seminars and workshops and continually participating in innovative projects with multiple stakeholder groups.

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