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How to write a professional resume

Create a better resume to help you stand out in a competitive job market.

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Whether you're just starting your career or searching for a new job, you'll need a high-quality professional resume that showcases your skills and experience. Creating a great resume can be a daunting task, but it's crucial if you're going to set yourself up for job-hunting success.

In this guide, you'll learn what you need to know about professional resumes. Plus, advice on what you should and shouldn't include in your CV.

What is a professional resume?

When you apply for most jobs, you'll typically be asked to provide a cover letter and a resume. A resume is a document that features a summary of your employment experience, education, key skills and important achievements.

It's a quick and concise document that provides an overview of what you have to offer to a prospective employer. The employer can use your resume to determine whether or not you'd be suitable for a particular role, and whether they should contact you to arrange a job interview.

What are the features of a professional resume?

A professional resume contains a range of essential information about you, your career and your skills. It includes details about:

  • Who you are
  • Your relevant employment experience
  • Your educational background and qualifications
  • What skills you would bring to the role

However, there are different ways you can structure your resume, with three main layouts to choose from:

  • Chronological resume. Also known as a reverse-chronological resume, this layout sees you focus on your relevant work experience. Start by listing your most recent job and then previous positions in reverse-chronological order.
  • Functional resume. A functional resume layout prioritises your skills above your work experience. This structure can be useful if you don't have much relevant experience, or if you're switching careers to a new industry.
  • Combination resume. As the name suggests, this layout is a hybrid of the two previous designs. It lets you combine your work experience and skills together to create a full picture of what you're bringing to the table. A combination resume may be useful if you have some prior experience but you can't show a lengthy employment history.

What should I include in a professional resume?

You'll need to include the following information in your resume:

  • Your name and contact details. Provide your name, email address and phone number.
  • Professional summary. This is your chance to provide a snapshot of the skills and experience you can offer an employer. If you're switching careers or don't have much in the way of relevant experience, you may want to include a career objective here. Just make sure to keep it succinct and focus on a few key points.
  • Work experience. Now it's time to list details of your previous employment. Include the dates of employment, the employer, your job title, and bullet points outlining your roles and responsibilities.
  • Education and training. Next, provide details of your relevant qualifications. List the years you studied, what course(s) or training you completed, and at which educational institution. Start with your most recent qualification and work backwards, but make sure it's relevant — let's face it, employers aren't going to care where you went to primary school.
  • Your skills. Here is where you can focus on the key skills and capabilities you can offer to an employer. This may include specialist certifications or licences, technical skills specific to the role you're applying for, and more general skills that could be useful in a variety of roles.

How much does a professional resume cost?

There are many providers that specialise in creating professional resumes — for a cost. Prices vary depending on the provider you choose, but it's not uncommon to pay a few hundred dollars, or even more in some cases.

If you don't want to pay a professional resume writer, there's no shortage of free professional resume templates available online. They're easy to use and contain all the essential features you need to include to build an impressive CV.

Once you know how to tailor a template to showcase your skills and experience, you'll be well placed to create a professional resume that's sure to get plenty of attention.

Frequently asked questions

How long should a professional resume be?

As a general guide, many sources recommend limiting your resume to two pages. By keeping your resume sharp and concise, you'll make it easy for an employer to quickly assess your strengths and skills.

However, there are situations where it's OK to go beyond this limit — for example, if the employer requests a detailed rundown of your work history, or if you've got plenty of relevant experience worth including.

Do I need to include my age or my marital status?

No, there is no need to include your age, marital status or other personal information aside from your name, phone number and email address.

Should I include information about my hobbies?

Generally, no. Most employers won't care whether you enjoy stamp collecting or horse riding in your spare time. However, if your hobby is relevant to the position or shines a light on specialist skills you can offer to an employer, it's worth including.

Do I need to include references on my resume?

No, it's not essential to include contact details for references in a resume. If a prospective employer wants these details, they'll ask for them, so you can fill the space set aside for references with other, more important details.

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