Top 10 FAQs About Writing a Professional Resume

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Top-10Did you get the big Heave Ho just before Christmas? Did you see it coming?

The end of the year is often the time when organisations make drastic changes to their workforce. The lucky few may be elated by receiving a healthy bonus, but there are thousands of workers who received their Marching Orders.

If you are one of these people, you probably had no idea you’d be fired….especially just before Christmas.  You went into work as normal, counting down the days until the Christmas break… and left minus your job and your feeling of self-worth.

If this sounds like you (or someone you know), this article will help you take the first step to bounce back.

Here are some tips to get you on the right track. It’s always a good idea to have your resume updated and ready to send quickly when an opportunity presents itself. So, let’s get to work.

1. What’s the difference between a résumé and a CV?

The terms ‘Résumé’ and ‘Curriculum Vitae’ are both in common use these days. When you respond to an advertisement, use the term in the ad to name your document. For example, If you are asked to send    your CV and cover letter, call your document a CV. Similarly, if you are asked to email your résumé, call your document a résumé.

2.   How long should my résumé be? 

Your résumé needs to be long enough to succinctly ‘sell’ your skills and experience – and not one word longer. The length of your résumé will depend on your employment history. Obviously, if you’ve only had one job, it will be a lot shorter than someone with a 20 year work history. Here’s a tip – only include the last 10 years’ work history in your résumé. You can list earlier jobs as headings. For example: ‘Key roles held prior to 2001: Bank Teller; Administration Officer; Customer Service Officer’.

3.   Should I include a photo of myself in my résumé?

Some hospitality positions and flight attendant positions require you to send a photo with your application. Generally speaking, the only time you need to send your photo is if your appearance is directly related to the role. For all other positions, do NOT send a photo.

4.   Should I include my hobbies and sports in my Personal Details section?

Only include your hobbies or sports if they are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a Sports Coach and you play sport at a high level, then it is relevant to include in your résumé. Keep your résumé professional by only providing your contact details, (name, email address, home phone and cell phone number) in your Personal Details section.

5.   Should I include how many children I have and their names?

No. Your résumé is not the place to mention your family. It might be perceived as a negative to an employer. For example, they may be thinking ‘Will Mary need time off during school holidays or when the kids are sick?’

6. Are résumé templates okay to use?

One size definitely does not fit all. Your résumé needs to be tailored to your individual background. You also need to put your most important information upfront. For example, if you are a graduate, your educational qualifications will be more important than your work history. Conversely, if you are a mature-age applicant, your career summary and employment history are much more important than your education, so should be listed immediately after your contact details and career objective.

7. How many referees do I need?

Choose at least three verbal referees (people who can be contacted by  phone) even if you are only asked to supply two. This is because your referees may be on holidays or out of the workplace when the recruiter calls to do the reference check. Make sure you include your referees’ mobile numbers and email addresses to make it easy to contact them.

8. Who should I ask to be a referee?

This is one of the most important parts of your résumé. Choose three people who can comment on your work performance. Your referees can ‘make’ or ‘break’ your chances of getting the job, so choose them carefully. A good choice would be your manager, supervisor, work colleagues, suppliers, customers, etc.

9. Should I explain gaps in my employment?

Yes! You need to answer any questions that may be in the employer’s or recruiter’s mind when reading your application. If you have been unemployed for a period of time, but have held a voluntary role, state: ‘2007 – 2008: Voluntary position as Treasurer ‘XYZ Charity’. If you’ve  been at home caring for children, state: ‘2006 – 2008: Full Time Parenting Duties.’

10.  How do I make my résumé look professional?  Here are a few ‘insider’ tips used by professional résumé writers:

  • Use a reverse chronological format (start with the most recent position and work backwards)
  • Choose headings to match your individual educational and employment background.
  • Use an 11 or 12 point font such as Times New Roman for hard copy applications and ‘Arial’ or ‘Verdana’ for online applications.
  • Use bullet points and white space between paragraphs to make your application easy to read.
  • Put your name, page number and the position you’re applying for in the header or footer on each page of your application.
  • Don’t squeeze lots of information onto the page to save having extra pages – it makes your application hard to read.
  • Proofread your application carefully and get someone else to read it  to make sure it is error-proof.

Good Luck with writing your resume. It’s the first step to getting a fantastic new job.  For further free articles and resources, go to

Do you need a career coach to guide you through the job maze?

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Job Maze1I’m thinking of putting my 18 years as a Career Coach to good use. Would a blog providing specific answers to your job questions be helpful to you?

It’s one thing to write job applications, but would it be helpful to you to find out why you didn’t get the job and what you can do next time to enure success?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m thinking of charging a nominal annual fee to provide personal assistance to members.

How to choose a resume provider

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think about it signDon’t be fooled by unbelievable deals on sites such as that offer vulnerable people the opportunity to have a professional resume written for just $29. Get real! I’ve written an article giving you Seven Questions you need to ask the service provider before you put your trust in them.

Here’s my response to the $29 deal – well, Smart Start Services asked for my comment…

‘As a professional careers consultant for the past eighteen years, I am very sceptical of organisations that offer ridiculous offers such as this. You might note that there is no mention of the qualifications or experience of the resume writers. If you proceed to the next page of the website, you’ll find a template of questions, where you ‘write your own resume’.

I’m sure it will look pretty- but it will be totally useless. If you’re going to write your own resume, don’t pay an invisible person to do the job for you.’

Here’s an article I wrote to protect vulnerable jobseekers from unscrupulous resume providers.

PS It’s interesting that my company is called Smart Start Marketing (and has been in operation for 18 years) and this company is called Smart Start Services…makes you wonder who’s following the leader…or trying to mislead people into believing it is the same company. Don’t be fooled!

Get That Government Job ebook is now available on Ipad and Iphone

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GTGJ2eGet That Government Job by Dawn Richards is available for download on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, and on your computer with iTunes. $16.99 AUD

Get a free sample from the Itunes Store…

Who will benefit from this book?
For anyone facing the whole process of applying for an Australian government or corporate private sector job, here’s an easy way to understand the requirements of the position and write your own powerful application using proven marketing strategies that `sell’ your skills to the employer. Answering the selection criteria is easy when you know how.

This book takes you through the application process step by step and provides dozens of examples from a wide range of occupations and industries. The book will help the reader: gain insight into how employers think; translate selection criteria mumbo-jumbo; sell themselves and their skills; write resumes and letters that get results; handle tricky criteria in OH&S and EEO; and stand out in interviews.

View In iTunes
Available on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
Category: Careers
Published: 05 May 2011
Publisher: Woodslane Press
Seller: Woodslane Press Pty Ltd.
Print Length: 210 Pages
Language: English

Mature Age Jobseekers – 7 Step Plan to Choose Your new Career

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Portrait of smiling mature businesswomanMature Age Job Seekers: 7 Step Plan to Choose Your New Career

In the late 1800s, our forefathers laughed at the Wright Brothers’ foolishness in trying to fly an airplane. But, Wilbur and Orville were creative thinkers who believed in themselves and continued in their efforts, finally succeeding in flying a distance of 120 feet (37m) in 1903.

Starting a new career can be as daunting as trying to fly, especially if you’re over 45 and you’ve just lost your job. The secret of success is to believe in yourself and to ‘think outside the square’ about your new career.

Here are seven ways to get your creative juices working on your new career:

Step #1: Add up what you have to offer

When you continually improve something, little by little, the final result is totally different from the original object. Consider how vastly different the Airbus is today compared to the first aircraft that the Wright brothers designed. Let’s apply this creative approach to your career. When you started in your job, you probably had base skills and little experience, but during your time with the organisation, you may have attended seminars, conferences, training courses, tertiary study or on-the-job training that has enabled you to evolve into the highly experienced person you are today. The Formula for Success = you + your experience + training + a positive attitude.

Jot down your professional development here.

Step #2: Combine all of your skills and experience

Most people over forty-five have experience in at least two career areas. The old adage of ‘once a teacher, always a teacher’ no longer applies in today’s employment environment. To illustrate this example, consider a teacher who is also trained in information technology. (Schools usually have one of their own staff trained as a specialist in computing.) This teacher could combine their skills and experience from both areas to develop a new career as a Computer Consultant, Help Desk Support Officer, Online Tutor or Corporate Trainer, where they would use the combination of their teaching and computing skills.

List your areas of skills and experience here.

Step #3: Consider all possibilities

This method involves developing a completely new idea to replace the old one. For example, a fifty year old Workplace Health and Safety Officer might ask herself ‘How can I get a new position that pays me what I believe I’m worth when I’m considered ‘over the hill’ by recruitment consultants aged twenty-something and can’t get to an interview?’ The creative answer might be to try a totally different employment option such as opening your own consultancy business, where your extensive experience is perceived to be an asset, rather than a liability.

Decide if self-employment is an option for you.

Step #4: Look at what you do with ‘Fresh Eyes’

This method involves looking at something familiar with ‘fresh eyes’ to find other applications for it. A wire coat hanger takes on new meaning when you’ve locked your keys in the car and you bend the wire to lift the lock. To apply this method to the workplace, the Workplace Health and Safety Officer mentioned in the previous example might choose to write a book based on the knowledge and experience they have gained in this role. Alternatively, they might decide to become a Workplace Trainer and conduct induction and safety training courses for organisations in the industry they worked in previously. A third choice might be to tap into opportunities offered by recent changes in legislation about complex requirements for workplace compliance. They could use their knowledge and experience to become an accredited ‘Compliance Officer’ in their own industry or start their own consulting business as a Compliance Consultant.

Think ‘outside the square’ – how can you use your skills and experience?

Step #5: Remove your own limitations

The mighty circus elephant remains secured by a small chain staked to the ground, even though he is the most powerful beast in the jungle. Why? Because when he was very young, he was similarly staked to the ground using a heavy chain. He learned that he could not move, no matter how hard he tried, and eventually accepted this limitation. In your career to date, have you been held back by your own limitations or those set by other people? Have you ever thought: ‘I’m hopeless at computing’ or been told: ‘You’re not as smart as your sister’, or many other negative thoughts that limit your career options.

Note down anything that is holding you back and remove it.

Step #6: Be ready to change direction

Many creative solutions are developed by changing direction. If what you are doing is not working, no matter how hard you try, it makes good sense to change direction. For example, if you send off forty résumés each week and get no response, it’s time to re-evaluate the content of what you’re sending or perhaps trying a totally different approach such as networking. Repeating the same action that isn’t working won’t get you a job. Eighty percent of positions aren’t advertised – they are ‘hidden jobs’ and are won by ‘people who know people’. As part of your plan for the future, it is vital to join professional or industry organisations so you can build a strong network of business colleagues who can provide personal recommendations when you change careers. The old saying: ‘It’s not what you know – it’s who you know’ are words to live by in today’s dynamic employment climate.

Work out a definite plan for getting a job.

Step #7: Change your mind-set about employment

In addition, you need to change how you think about your career. Job security has gone, along with bell bottoms and big hair! Unfortunately, job insecurity is here to stay, so you will need to consider ‘Plan B’, ‘Plan C’ and possibly ‘Plan D’ as well. One way to prepare for this new employment mind-set might involve undertaking further study or training to gain qualifications in your field. Another way might be to work as a contractor or consultant to other organisations in your industry or even to other industries. Think BIG! To use our example of the Workplace Health and Safety Officer, she might need to obtain Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment to gain national accreditation as a Corporate Trainer or additional qualifications to work as a Workplace Health and Safety Consultant or a Workplace Health and Safety Auditor.

Research to find out the training or experience you need to achieve your goals.

Congratulations! You’re ready to roll out your new career. Go for it!

Please leave your comments below to inspire others who are finding it tough.

For further resources, go to

Use ‘Secret Sales Tools’ to SELL yourself in your application

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Sales ToolsWriting a job application is a marketing exercise. You may not realise it, but you have powerful ‘secret sales tools’ that may be lurking in dusty cupboards or under boxes in the garage. This is what to look for:

1. Written references from former employers.

These are very useful to back up claims you have made in your application, particularly if the person who wrote the reference is also a verbal referee.

2.Performance Appraisals/Personnel Reports.
Quotes from performance appraisals and personnel reports can turbo-boost your application onto the shortlist. These official records are very powerful self-marketing weapons and should be in every applicant’s arsenal.

3. Awards or other forms of recognition for achievement.
Similarly, awards or any formal recognition of your achievements provide tangible proof of your capabilities. The employer wants to know what you can achieve for them, so your past performance is highly relevant.

4. Letters from customers, previous managers, supervisors, etc.
Letters or references act as testimonials and validate your claims about team skills, leadership, customer service skills and so on.

5. Details of training and professional development courses.
As qualifications and training courses vary from state to state, it’s a good idea to provide a synopsis of the qualification or course to show its relevance to this application. Remember the old saying: ‘The devil’s in the detail’.

6. Other information in which your clients, colleagues, suppliers or supervisors have commented on your work and achievements.
People tend to believe what other people say, rather than what you say about yourself — this is the reason why successful advertising often relies on customer testimonials to sell products or services. The same principle applies to ‘referrals’ from your clients, colleagues, suppliers, supervisors, etc.

Use quotes from these documents to show the employer what you can achieve for them, based on what you’ve already achieved for previous employers. Good luck!

Hello Career Changers

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Portrait of smiling mature businesswoman Newslash!

Finally, Get That Government Job(2nd Edition) is now available as an ebook for immediate download through Amazon. And, wait for it – the price is just $9.99. You can also purchase it through other book retailers such as Kobo, Dymocks, Fishpond and stores supported by and Overdrive (several independent booksellers are using these platforms). I’m not sure of the retail price at these outlets, but it will be very affordable.

Now, let’s get down to business. I intend keeping you updated about new trends in applying for government jobs and private sector jobs as well.

Last week, I assisted a mature aged jobseeker with his first government application. My, Oh My! What a minefield….

It’s hard enough fighting age discrimination (yes, I know it’s still there) let alone having to do cartwheels to write an application. This poor applicant didn’t even have a CV, as is the case with many Baby Boomers who’ve never really needed to apply for a job in the past.

Let me explain more about this application..

You know how difficult it is to write a Selection Criteria Statement? Well, this was a Key Capabilities Statement – no selection criteria as such. In this three page statement, we had to demonstrate numerous key competencies. As applications go, it was a doozy! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If anyone else has had this experience, I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a comment when you have a moment…