Your CV is your most important tool when job-hunting, here are some top tips on effective CV writing for the Australian market.
A CV has three goals.
- To get through any key-word screening software and rank high in search results.
- To secure an interview.
- To influence the interview process.
When you prepare a CV, you need to keep in mind that you are communicating to two audiences:
- The recruiters: They don’t do your job and may not be from your industry – they have first say in the recruitment process
- The hiring manager: The person who will manage you and knows the industry well.
Recruiters will scan a CV and make a decision in seconds whether to call / meet or reject a candidate.
The key relevant information needs to stand out and be communicated in effective terms for this “quick scan” process.
The recruiter has a list of non-negotiable criteria to address, based on the hiring managers instructions and requirements for the vacancy. Then they have a wish list of other attributes they are looking for.
This typically includes the candidates job role, what they have worked on, level of responsibility, specific technical knowledge and experience.
CV presentation, grammar, spelling etc. Also play a large part in this “quick-scan” process and can impress or distress.
If you make it through the first review, this is where the CV content comes into play and the recruiter will read the detail.
This is your opportunity to gain a competitive edge on the other shortlisted applicants.
An interview is a short and intense session to demonstrate your skills, behaviours and values to secure a job. Your CV starts to influence the interview process before you even meet,
Let me set the scene….
Your CV has secured you a meeting, this is your one chance to impress in an hour.
The interviewer controls the meeting.
“Candidate A” has written basic information on their CV which details their experience, job title etc.
The interviewer asks “Candidate A” a bunch of skills and behavioural based questions relevant to the job, which they answer.
“Candidate A” leaves the meeting and realises there was no opening to tell the interviewer about all the money she saved on a project, or communicate the time she hired three new teams and trained them from scratch. It didn’t come up in conversation.
You have written concisely about your results, achievements and value-add.
You have communicated your key skills with demonstrated examples throughout your job history to back these up.
The interviewer has read this and is already excited to meet you.
Your CV says: “I saved $300K per annum, by negotiating contracts with all major suppliers”
The job you are applying for does not include procurement but its one of your best achievements.
If it was not on the CV it would not even come up.
The interviewer has read this information and asks you more, you get to champion your value-add.
The interviewer thinks: innovative, good communication skills and proactive focus to saving money.
“Candidate A” might have the same abilities, but she did not position herself to market her value-add and behaviours.
How to plan and write your CV
CVs are marketing documents; therefore, they need to be targeted to the audience. Before you even start writing, look on job-boards and do some searches for jobs that meet your criteria. Read the detail of adverts you want to apply for and note the following:
A: Check all the key words and phrases recruiters are using and the experience they are asking for in the advertisement. In a digital age its important the CV is key-word rich, so write down all the relevant words and phrases associated with your job including all the different job-titles recruiters are using to hire someone with your skills. Use the same language and phrases on your CV.
B: List all the core candidate requirements recruiters are asking for in the jobs you are targeting. This includes practical experience and soft skills (negotiation, communication, relationship building, leadership etc.). You can ensure you cover how you demonstrate these in your CV.
2. Reflect on your career
Go through all your previous roles and think about the things you are most proud and make notes. These could include:
- Business growth and success, you contributed to.
- Improvements / processes / procedures you developed and implemented.
- Money, you saved, business you won.
- Significant challenges you overcame (the worst project you worked on, could be the best example to showcase your skills and ability to navigate problems).
- General achievements.
3. CV Layout
The core sections to include are as follows:
- Contact Details
- Key Skills
- Education (tertiary – if you have none or its irrelevant, place this section above training)
- Work Experience (responsibilities, projects, achievements listed in reverse chronological order)
- Additional Training
- Voluntary Activities (if relevant, voluntary work is great)
- References (to close, stating “References available upon request”)
- Less is more, I will go as long as five pages for an executive level candidate that’s had a number of roles but 2-4 pages is ideal for the Australian market (4 pages for someone very senior). Other markets in the world expect a shorter “resume” but we don’t mind a bit of length here.
- Use a contemporary font, 11pt or 10pt for the text.
- Break lines up as I have in this document, have breaks in between dot points, space information out so the eye can read it easily.
- Ensure you check and double check the final document for spelling and ask someone to proof read it. Its very easy to make minor errors when typing that don’t get pricked up on because they are actually a word …… (spot the deliberate mistake!)
5. Writing the Document
The best place to start is writing the job content first, then prepare the profile and key skills to reflect and encapsulate this information.
When you write the content, make sure you are using the key words and phrases you noted earlier throughout the text.
A: Job History
Presume the reader knows nothing about your company and job. One of the most common errors people make on CVs is writing a list of random responsibilities without telling a story or providing context.
- Write a brief overview of your employer (one to two lines).
- To start your responsibilities, write an overview of your job remit, this is one of the most important elements as when a recruiter scans the resume so they can see what you were responsible for at a glance.
“As Project Manager, I was responsible for the management of construction projects valued up-to $50m from tender phase to handover”
“As Safety Coordinator, I led a team of two administrators to develop and implement safety systems across a portfolio of 5-10 projects running concurrently”
You will notice I have also used the job title again, this overview can be a great opportunity to get your keywords repeated in the document.
- List your responsibilities in a logical manner that tells a story to your job. Give context to them, for example:
“Preparing project reports” can become:
“Preparing and analysing project reports to identify areas to improve productivity”
“Procurement of subcontractors” can become:
“Preparing scopes of work and tenders, sourcing new subcontractors, negotiating prices and awarding contracts”
- Next, list the achievements you made a note of earlier, use the STAR technique to tell the story and give context so the reader understands what you did. For example:
Situation: Took over the management of a $20m project that was 50% complete, forecast to be 20% over budget and behind program.
Action: I redeveloped the delivery methodology and program.
Result: and completed the project on time and achieved original target profit margin.
- If you work in a project focused role, it’s important to list your projects, recruiters make interview and hiring decisions based on your project experience. Provide project name, value, scope and positive outcomes. If you have worked on lots, you can list some examples; whilst ensuring the projects you showcase demonstrate your scope and breadth of experience.
B: Profile and Skills
Never never write a defined career objective, this is a guaranteed way to rule yourself out of an interview if your objective does not align with the job you are applying for.
Use the profile (two to three paragraphs) to tell your story and capture your unique selling points based on your target position. This is another opportunity to add your key words into the CV for example:
“I am a highly skilled Construction Project Manager with expertise working as Project Director and Program Manager. Throughout my career I have demonstrated the ability to successfully deliver major construction projects or programs of work.
This section can tell recruiters what they need to know about you before they even read the work history. Make sure that its relevant to the positions you are targeting.
Then list key skills. You can either have these in short form, dot point, or give some context on them.
Clearly communicate this information using the information you gathered from job advertisements.
For example, if you are a Project Manager and the advertisements are looking for the following experience:
Leading Bids, Developing programs, Leading Procurement, Developing and managing budgets, Design management, Leading delivery, Leading Safety,
Along with the following soft skills:
You should mirror these based on your experience with definition and positive outcomes – for example (soft skills in italics and outcomes underlines)
Design Management: Managing consultants and engineers, leading value-engineering exercises to reduce costs, whilst maintaining quality.
Safety: Developing Safety Management Plans and leading the implementation on site to ensure zero LTI’s. Building strong relationship with subcontractors to influence positive safety behaviour and a culture of compliance.
Procurement: Leading procurement processes from development of scope and tender through to award of contract. Negotiating contracts to achieve preferential pricing and commercial terms.
Never list references unless the job advert specifically asks for them. Provide them when asked through the recruitment process.
A CV should just showcase your professional talents so judgements are made based on these. We leave off personal information so a recruiter or hiring manager can’t make judgement on whether they feel your hobbies or religion are aligned with theirs or that you are the same age as the rest of the team.
- Every country is different but in Australia, a photo is deemed a faux-pas.
- Don’t include your date of birth.
- Don’t go back too far, the last 10 years are the most relevant, I recommend going back 10 to 15 years ideally – 20 years max, depending on how relevant your job or achievements were 20 years ago.
- Don’t include every detail, stay on subject and keep it targeted.
- Unexplained gaps, always write reasons, even if they are just talking a few months career break.
- Unexplained brief periods of employment, if its less than a year, you should explain why, whilst keeping it positive.
Now you have showcased your value-add, its time to start applying!