The New Resume Rules

Like spotting a fake Fendi from 20 paces, we all think we know the difference between a good and a bad CV. Too wordy, no-one will read it. Too short, you’ve clearly got no experience. Reams of paper and emoticons galore, don’t even get us started!

But if you’ve been in your field of work for more than five years and you’re getting polite “thanks, but no thanks” responses to applications for positions you know you’d be perfect for, the fault could lie between the pages of your résumé – and it might be time to read up on the rules of engagement.

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New rule: tailor to suit your skills

Like a beautiful suit, a résumé will always benefit from individual tailoring, says Katie Roberts, director of Katie Roberts Career Consulting. And although all CVs should be concise, there are no hard and fast rules for the perfect length.

“For a graduate, two pages is perfect,” says Roberts. “For someone who has five to 10 years experience, four or five pages are more realistic.”

Don’t know what to include? Employers want to find out what you’ve done recently, so focus on your previous three positions, listing your skills and achievements as bullet points.

“Employers will look at hundreds of résumés, so they need to be easy to follow,” comments Amanda Morgan, former division manager at recruiting firm Office Team. She advocates ditching the long-winded paragraphs: “For responsibilities, dot points make them quick to read and easy to understand.” Keep it simple and let your experience do the talking.

New rule: sell yourself up-front

Rather than kicking off with your employment rundown, consider a personal statement. “The most impressive résumés I’ve seen start with a clear vision of where the candidate sees herself,” says Michelle Bakar, HR director at Kellogg Australia and New Zealand. “Not many people have clarity on their career goals, but those who do help us align with their ‘dreams’.”

Beware, though, of writing a vision full of meaningless buzzwords. Calling yourself a “proactive go-getter” says very little, whereas detailing how you managed to increase productivity during a time when bud-gets were slashed speaks real success.

Also, using words that were used in the job advertisement will show that, a) you’re paying attention and b) you’re ticking all their boxes, says Nina Mapson Bone, general manager of recruitment NSW/ACT for workforce advisory company Chandler Macleod. “A personal statement is the perfect opportunity to cover any key skills they’re looking for that may not come up in the bullet-point structure of your résumé,” she says.

New rule: be specific

Addressing the covering email/letter to the correct person is crucial and shows that you’ve researched the company and have a real interest. Equally, mentioning a favourable news story you have read about your potential employer, or a new initiative or campaign they’ve championed in the past 12 months, proves you’re invested. After all, an employer isn’t as interested in why you’d love the role, but what you can do for them, points out Roberts.

New rule: Everyone can use Google!

Online privacy, and ensuring your “brand” isn’t damaged by an embarrassing Facebook photograph, is now considered standard practice when applying for a new job. When it comes to Facebook, for example, you have the ability to activate strict privacy settings – so do it now!

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However, don’t panic too much as most HR managers and recruiters in Australia won’t over-Google a candidate to see if she’s a good match for a company. In a survey of 200 HR professionals, only 34 per cent admitted using social media in the process of determining a candidate’s suitability.

Standing out from the crowd

“We received an internship application that was a transcript from a fake game show. It was a creative way to get noticed, but unfortunately her creativity didn’t flow through to the interview. Getting noticed is one thing, but following up a creative concept is what will keep the spotlight on a candidate.” - Chantel Warren, HR manager, Professional Public Relations.

“I received a résumé for a business development design manager position that was graphically designed, with links to previous employer websites and company logos. It was bold and clearly demonstrated that the candidate had the skills for the role before I even read the résumé.” - Julie Galligan, head of resourcing, Minter Ellison Lawyers.

“Be unforgettable. An applicant once sent one of our recruiters a T-shirt saying, ‘I survived an interview with Andrew Kirkby.’ He got the job.” Ann Peacock, general manager – public relations, Crown.