Landing that job overseas – whether it be the elusive dream job, or just a position that suits you well enough to make the big move – takes time, persistence and a good marketing document to catch the attention of prospective employers.
CV or resume: just to clarify, this is easy-going Australia and what you call your piece of paper generally doesn’t tend to matter. We know what you’re getting at.Daniela Cristofaro, an Australian-based expat working for speciality recruitment firm Tandem Partners, says “Here in Australia we look for short, sharp and easy-to-read resumes that are tailored to the position which we are looking to fill. Sending us a 10 page resume, full of long paragraphs, will not capture our attention. Avoid listing positions and skills which are not relevant to the position to increase your chances of being shortlisted.”
“Employers in Australia often look for good tenure and consistency with well known brands, because it demonstrates dedication and shows that you don’t run away when things get tough. If you have done lots of short roles, try to group roles together into fewer chunks. Ideally we want to see a natural progression along your career journey and understand your reasons for changing roles. This demonstrates your good judgement to develop your skill set.”
To do or not to do
Following these guidelines will help you put together a CV that suits the contemporary Australian job market.
• Keep it short and to the point. Using bullet points is a great way to keep your writing succinct and easy to skim through quickly. This is a very common format in Australia.
• Use active language to start your sentences and highlight skills – coordinated, managed, negotiated, produced, provided, developed, built, etc.
• Focus on your achievements, not your routine tasks. For example, ‘providing administrative support’ is not as powerful as saying ‘provided administrative support to several public policy conferences’
• Get specific! Quantify, qualify, name. For example, the above would be strengthened by saying ‘provided administrative support to over 300 delegates from 5 states attending the Policy Development in Uncertain Times, Public Policy for Health Professionals, and From Evidence to Change: Policy with Impact conferences in 2017’.
• Make it about you. Aussies are humble folk, but a CV is not the right place to take on this cultural trait! Where possible focus on your role and your achievements, rather than a broader team.
• Personalise your CV for each different job application you submit. Beef up the parts that are most relevant to the position, take out less relevant information, and swap in words that have been used in the job advertisement to adapt to the language and style of the organisation.
• Include personal information such as your age, marital status or religion. This is not commonplace in Australia, and it will make you stand out – but not in the good kind of way. Discrimination laws in Australia mean that prospective employers aren’t actually permitted to use this type of information to judge your suitability for a role, so it’s better not to include it.
• Include a photo of yourself. Again, this is not common in Australia and would not be considered relevant to your application.
• Include your full address. This is the information privacy era! A suburb/state or state/country and postcode combination is fine, and if you progress further in the hiring process then you can provide your address when needed.
• Have an overly lengthy CV. Yes, you’ve probably done a lot of amazing things, but there is significant skill involved in honing this down to a short, sharp and engaging document – and employers know this. Less is more, and if you are exceeding 3 – 4 pages you might need to do a revamp.
Sections to include
This should be up the top, right under your name, and is your chance to tell an employer who you are. One of the best parts about including this section is that you can easily update it to help personalise each application.
For example, ‘I am a degree-qualified digital marketing professional with seven years of experience across the not-for-profit and private sectors. My expertise includes social media strategy, website management, marketing campaigns and supporter retention. I have a particular interest in search engine optimisation and developing engaging digital content to grow fundraising revenue.’
What you shouldn’t write is something impersonal and jargon-filled that says nothing about you, like ‘motivated ambitious professional with great communication skills and the ability to work autonomously and in a team.’ Focus on summarising your unique skills and interests.
This is where you put your contact details. Mobile phone, email address (a professional sounding one, please!), address (suburb/state/postcode or state/country/postcode is fine) and LinkedIn if you have one. You can also put in additional information that may be useful such as languages you speak, and countries of experience if you have been an expat in a few different places.
List the degrees and any other qualifications you have, where you obtained them, and what year. You can adapt this section to suit how you wish to present yourself, with highest obtained qualification or most recent qualification listed first. If you’ve done a lot of short training courses, you could expand this section to ‘Education and Training’ and list these here also.
Education can come before or after employment history – there is no standard format here, it is up to your personal preference.
List your work experience in reverse chronological order – the most recent position first, and going back in time from then. You don’t need to list every position you’ve ever had, the most recent and most relevant positions to support your application will do a better job of selling you. Bullet points can be an effective way to present your achievements in a digestible format for prospective employers who are skimming many resumes to find stand-out candidates.
Optional sections to include
The jury it still out on this one. On one hand, it can be a nice way to add a human element to your CV. But, your love of tennis/baking/gaming could get you over the line or out of the pile depending on who is assessing your CV. Do your research and include these only if you think it will give you an edge.
Including this section can waste precious space in the few pages you have to sell yourself, and it’s perfectly fine to leave this out on an Australian CV. Employers will almost always ask your permission to contact your referees if you progress to this stage in the hiring process, and you can then provide them with the relevant details. Including this section and saying ‘referees will be provided on request’ is a similar waste of space… of course you will do that!
If you have them, put them in. If you’ve been publishing like a fiend, narrow it down to the more relevant publications for the position you’re applying for.
These can be very important for certain types of positions. If this would be the case for you, most certainly include them. If you need to be registered with a certain body to perform your work in Australia, you may wish to note if this is in progress.
This is your sales pitch, and you have creative licence to present information in a way that best suits you and your industry.
Top tips for standing out
Remember that a CV is not a legal document, it’s a marketing document! Daniela from Tandem Partners advises jobseekers “make it easy for us to follow your career journey and showcase the skills we are looking for. Infographics and creative designs can really help to make it punchy, attractive and easy to glance over. There are loads of great apps out there that provide a range of eye-catching templates. If you’re struggling with what to leave out, remember that you can save some details for the interview.”
Another top tip for success is to focus on the commercial value that you added to an organisation. For example, have you reduced inefficiencies by streamlining a certain process, increased customer engagement by 17% by some new initiative, or developed x,y & z policies that reduced business costs by 42%?
And if you land an interview?
If you’re invited for an interview, the ball is now in your court to make a good first impression. With social media access these days, it’s so easy to do some background research into the interviewers and into the company. Find some common ground or congratulate them on an exciting event that’s been in the press. Relax, smile, give a firm (but not crushing) handshake, and remember that they have invited you because they WANT you to do well! Good luck!
What’s the best piece of advice that somebody has given you about writing a CV for Australia? Share your thoughts in the comments!