Résumé/Curriculum vitae (CV)

A résumé or CV is a summary of your key skills, education, relevant work experience (including full- or part-time, casual or voluntary), professional development and leisure activities. You may use a standard set of information for each résumé, but it should be targeted to a specific position description, highlighting skills, competencies and attributes relevant to that job.


A résumé should:

  • contain concise content
  • be tailored to show you have the experience to match the key skills required
  • use bulleting and headings to keep information pointed and punchy
  • feature a clear, professional font
  • be no longer than three pages.

Résumés are usually presented in chronological or functional formats, or a combination of the two.


Chronological résumé:

Presents key information under a series of headings commencing with contact details, education and skills. Dates are prominent, with the most recent event listed first. It’s also important to highlight relevant industry experience.


Functional or skills-based résumé:

Focuses on skills rather than a sequential career history. This may be preferred if you have long gaps in your employment history. Work experience can be organised under job or work headings (e.g. project administration or hospitality) rather than by dates. This avoids repetition of job duties while highlighting your skills.


A résumé should always include:

  • your name
  • your address and contact details
  • educational history (tertiary-focused)
  • relevant educational awards, GPA, training or research
  • relevant experience to the job
  • skills acquired
  • extracurricular activities and interests.

You do not need to include personal details such as date of birth or marital status.

As part of the screening process, résumés and cover letters are often scanned for key words from the selection criteria. Applications that contain these terms are more likely to proceed.


Key selection criteria

Employers use selection criteria to quickly and effectively shortlist candidates according to the specific needs of the job. Applicants are rated on how closely they meet key criteria. Criteria vary between jobs, but key employability skills, such as communication abilities and teamwork, apply across most graduate positions. These are generally included with the job description.


Sometimes, an employer requests a separate statement addressing the selection criteria. Address all items in the selection criteria and provide individual responses for each. The key is to demonstrate what skills you have and where you gained them. Don’t exaggerate, as you may have to discuss these further in an interview.


Remember that employers don’t expect you to have an extensive employment history. You’re just starting out! Draw on parallels with your extracurricular, university or casual jobs and activities to give examples of your skills.


Reference lists and letters

A reference list contains the names and contact details of professional acquaintances – ‘referees’ – such as former employers/supervisors, volunteer coordinators, professors or coaches who can provide an employer with background information on you and can attest to your character, personality and attributes.


Before adding a referee to your reference list, confirm the person is willing to participate, and inform them of any applications you’re submitting. You may be asked to provide reference letters later in the application process.


Don’t be surprised if your referee asks you to write your own reference letter for them to review and sign – while it may seem like they’re simply too busy or are avoiding the task, it’s also a reflection of their trust that you will represent yourself in an appropriate manner that also reflects their own views of you!


A reference list should include:

  • three referees
  • name, position title, company and contact information for each
  • your relationship with the referee
  • reference letters are less preferred in the initial application but may substitute if the referee is not available to contact.


Top tips

  • Check your résumé for correct grammar and spelling.
  • Ask your university careers advisor to help refine your application to ensure you don’t repeat information, exaggerate qualities or undersell skills.
  • You might follow up your application with a phone call to demonstrate your enthusiasm.
  • Remember, it can sometimes take several months for a graduate employer to complete the recruitment process.

This article contains edited extracts of a piece by Yvonne Giltinan, Careers Educator at Victoria University, that first previously appeared in Graduate Opportunities 2009

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