Resumes in Australia are not the same documents they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Dates of birth, marital status and interests that used to take “pride of place” on page one, followed closely by education and a general listing of soft skills, is a formula for a less cynical time.
20 years ago, the terms “text me” or “DM me” or would have been met with a blank stare in an environment where mobile telephones were just starting to be used by a lucky few. Today, resumes in Australia are rightly acknowledged as a selling tool; the critical first step in reinforcing personal brands and getting noticed to achieve the competitive edge.
CV or Resume?
Australian resumes are typically referred to as CVs (Curriculum Vitae). While strictly speaking a resume and a CV are two distinct documents (the curriculum vitae being traditionally a tool used by the medical, scientific and academic communities), the term CV has been embraced as an industry standard regardless of the type of document it is.
Resumes are as diverse in style, format and approach as the jobseekers they represent, however, there are a few areas that must be observed when composing an employment document for the Australian job market.
Words often considered misspelt are American English adaptations. Words such as Centre=Center, Organise=Organize, Cheque=Check, Realise=Realize, Colour=Color, Specialise=Specialize, Recognise= Recognize, Licence = License, Defence = Defense, are considered as errors. Before you start to compose your resume, change the language used in Microsoft Word to review spelling by clicking on the Tools menu and selecting Australian English. If that is not available on your system, try English UK. If unsure, an outstanding internet reference for clarifying these spelling anomalies can be found at Australian Macquarie Dictionary.
Paper size in Australia conforms to European standards. Australian resumes use A4 size paper (217mm x 297mm). Using US Letter paper (8 x 11 inches) will mean that tabs will be misaligned with dates encroaching past the margins and text only filling two-thirds of the page. Clearly, this will not be aesthetically pleasing to look at by the search companies in Australia!
Number of Pages
One-page resumes, the traditional preference for many years in the United States, are somewhat of a mystery to Australian job search consultants who prefer more content. Generally, Australian search consultants consider the one-page resume lacking in detail and volume and prefer two-to-four pages, depending of course, on the experience level of the job seeker. Resumes extending to five or more pages are perceived as the upper limit by most decision makers.
Make your Case
It is important for the candidate to provide a compelling case for his or her services and ensure that all information on the resume points to the job target. For example, if a job candidate wants to pursue a career in the IT sector, then providing lengthy descriptions of unrelated work tasks detracts the reader from the direction of the resume. If a job seeker has two different career interests, then having two resumes is preferable to creating a one-size-fits-none assortment of non-matching skills for the employer to select which he or she likes best.
General or Generic Resumes
Australian decision-makers are likely to discard a resume that presents the job candidate as a Jack-or Jill-of-all-Trades. In other words, job seekers must quickly establish where they are heading, what they are applying for, and must support their case through a resume that showcases and supports their achievements.
Duties, Responsibilities or Achievements?
Australian resumes are achievement-based mirroring the long working hours, intense competition, and the expectation that employees will strive hard to make a difference and improve the workplace during their tenure. Solid thought should be give to initiatives, special ideas, or inroads the job seeker made during his or her employment, regardless of the level of employee. Everyone from Receptionists to Chief Executive Officers are expected to make their mark.
Full Disclosure? No Way!
A hallmark of the Australian resume in mid eighties and early nineties was to “let it all hang out.” Content would detail why the employee chose (or was chosen to) leave that company by including “Reasons for Leaving” such as “to seek new challenges” to the completely inappropriate “ideas differed from management, prompting my decision to leave.” Despite some individuals still believing that the resume should fully disclose minute detail, this method of full disclosure has almost disappeared from Australian resumes.
First Person/Third Person
To circumvent the constant references to “I, me, my, our” Australian résumés omit the first-person references. In place of “I spearheaded a new procedure that increased productivity by 45%” the preferred way is to say “Spearheaded a new procedure….” The trend in the early ‘90s to refer to the job candidate in the third-person, i.e. “John spearheaded a procedure…” is no longer used on Australian resumes, although it remains in use for executive biographies.
Education impresses many employers. Degrees should be listed along with the university attended and any on-the-job training that supports the job seeker’s goals should also be completed. Note, dates on degrees are not mandatory and in fact, can serve to age candidates, so consider removing the graduation year after the age of 30. Training does not need to include the company or dates completed.
Legislation prohibits employers quizzing job candidates on their marital status, dates of birth and religion, and although many in Australia still volunteer this information, together with hobbies and interests, revealing what most consider as irrelevant to a candidate’s capacity to perform his or her job well, tends to be a thing of the past.
Although many people still place names and contact details of references (called referees in Australia) on resumes, this trend has been in decline for more than a decade. Privacy is important and many people are unwilling to have contact details placed in databases online. Today, the need to protect references from any unwanted contact until a firm job offer is presented, is paramount.
Government applications are an exception to the rule where job candidates are frequently required to disclose full reference details and sometimes, request references provide a written report responding to a series of job-specific and performance-based questions.
Advice is to check the job description or advertisement. If references are required prior to interview the applicant information will state this.
Employers are continually seeking new ways to uncover the talents of the people they hire, and new ways to reveal their strengths. As their tactics evolve, so should those of the Australian job seeker, who needs to stay ahead of the game.
Update February 4, 2018
Gayle has now created a short course just for you! Writing the Great Aussie Resume is available now. Click below!