a Resume for the Australian Job Market
By Gayle Howard
Resumes in Australia have changed dramatically over the past few years.
Not too long ago, your date of birth, marital status and interests took
"pride of place" on page one, followed closely by education and the ubiquitous
set of generic skills that the masses all claimed to possess. Was there
a person in Australia who didn't declare they had "excellent communication
and interpersonal skills" and that they were "team players" with "strong
organizational skills"? If a smattering of these people existed, they
were certainly in the minority of Australian workers!
In the fast moving pace of today's global workforce, resumes have to keep
up with changes in legislation, public perception, and with what is considered
"politically correct." Whether the reason lies behind the vast resources
of the Internet and greater exposure to the international community or
not, resumes in Australia have come of age, are being recognized as a
critical selling tool, and are the first step in gaining an edge on a
highly competitive workforce.
CV or Resume?
A resume in Australia is more often than not referred to as a CV (Curriculum
Vitae). While strictly speaking a resume and a CV are two distinct documents—the
curriculum vitae being traditionally 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.
While resumes vary appreciably in terms of style, format, and approach
depending on the job seeker's talents and the market they hope to penetrate,
there are a few absolutes when composing an employment document for the
Australian job market.
Spelling is a particular issue. Words often considered "misspelled" are
frequently those deemed as "American English." Common misspellings include
words like centre (not center), cheque (not check), specialise (not specialize),
and licence (not license). Most American spellings will be considered
glaring spelling errors on an Australian resume, and only serve to reinforce
the candidate's lack of familiarity with the norms of the country. The
suggestion is to set the word processing software to Australian English,
or English UK, and take prompts from there. If unsure, an outstanding
internet reference for clarifying these spelling anomalies can be found
at the Australian
Macquarie Dictionary site.
size in Australia conforms to European standards. It is expected that
a resume will be composed using A4 size paper (217mm x 297) and not U.S.
letter size (8"x11").
Australian employers and recruiters tend to agree about the length of
Australian resumes across all industries and occupations. One-page resumes
tend to be particularly out of style; this format is widely considered
as lacking in detail. Living in a country with only 20 million and a land
mass almost the size of the United States, it's clear Australians are
used to "spreading out," and this also translates to resumes! White space
is considered desirable for easy reading, with one inch (2.54cm) margins
acknowledged as the industry norm, and information spreading from two
to four pages considered an appropriate length. Resumes extending to five
or more pages are, for the most part, considered unnecessary.
Intention of Direction
So, what are the key components of an Australian resume? Well, a "theme"
is definitely important. Just as a person seeks a particular genre of
novel at a bookstore, the reader needs to be presented with information
that supports the book's theme. Consequently if a job candidate wants
to pursue a career in the Information Technology industry, for example,
then providing lengthy non-IT descriptions of unrelated work will detract
the reader from the overall "theme" of the resume. Similarly, an individual
with two potential career possibilities should showcase his or her talents
in two separate resumes, rather than placing a confusing assortment of
non-matching skills for the employer to "take their pick" of which ones
they would prefer!
Consider the case of a classroom teacher, who may be interested in theater
acting and media arts. Could the following "skills" be considered anything
but confusing by the reader?
> Classroom Teaching & Discipline
> Curriculum Development
> 5'6" tall, blue eyes, blonde, 34-28-26
> Experience in theater production of Hair
> Understudy for part of "Hooker" in the "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"
> Children with Special Needs. While the above example is played for laughs,
comparable poor decisions are not uncommon and Australian decision-makers
are likely to quickly discard a resume that presents the individual as
a "Jack (or Jane)-of-all-Trades." In other words, a job seeker 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
Duties, Responsibilities or Achievements?
In recent times, Australian resumes have transitioned from primarily "duties-based"
to "achievement-based," mirroring the rapid increases in employee working
hours, the intense job-market competition, and the perception of employers
that employees at all levels should be increasingly productive. Solid
thought should be given to initiatives, special ideas, or inroads the
candidate made during their employment, that distinguished them from their
Let it all hang out? Not anymore!
A hallmark of the Australian resume in mid-eighties to early nineties
was to "let it all hang out." Routinely at the conclusion of each employment,
text would invariably explore why the employee chose (or was chosen to)
leave that company. "Reasons for Leaving" typically ran from the obvious
"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
way to "shoot yourself in the foot" has all but disappeared from the Australian
resume in the new millennium.
First Person/Third Person
Australians are known as outgoing people who aren't shy about voicing
their achievements; yet bragging is considered immodest. To circumvent
the constant references to "I, me, my, our", Australian resumes 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..." has virtually
disappeared from the Australian resume, although it is still routinely
used in company biographies.
Education is highly prized in Australia and impresses many employers;
studies should be disclosed along with any training that supports the
candidate's employment goals.
Personal details, once considered a prominent fixture on an Australian
resume, have all but disappeared in today's "career marketing" documents.
Certainly legislation prohibits employers from quizzing job candidates
on their marital status, date of birth, and religion, and although many
in Australia still volunteer this information, together with hobbies and
interests, there is a growing trend away from revealing what most consider
being irrelevant to the candidate's capacity to perform their job well.
Unlike most of their American counterparts, references are still routinely
disclosed on the Australian resume, although this, like many other components
of the traditional Australian resume, is a declining trend. Privacy seems
to be a particular case in point, where many job candidates have found
that their references (or referees as frequently called by many Australians)
have been contacted for purposes other than to provide a reference! In
today's large databanks of names and contact information, many job candidates
are wisely recognizing the need to shield these cherished "assets" until
a firm job offer is presented, and simply place "Available upon request"
under the Reference heading.
Government applications are a clear exception to the rule where job candidates
are customarily required to disclose full reference details, and on occasion,
obtain a written report on the job candidate by responding to a series
of job-specific and performance-based questions.
If there's one absolute to composing a resume for the Australian job-market,
it is "nothing stays the same." In a rapidly changing employment market,
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 savvy Australian job hunter, who will know
the current trends sufficiently to stay ahead of the game.
About Gayle Howard
Gayle Howard is the first Australian to be awarded dual certifications
as a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and a Certified Resume
Writer (CRW). She is also Australia's only Credentialed Career Master
(CCM). Her work has been featured internationally and she is the author
of the eBook "PS You Need a Resume!". Email