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How to Write a Resume: Let’s Go Back to Basics

01 March 2021   |   by Explore Careers

If your career is a journey, your resume is your passport!

Okay, we just said that out loud and realised how cheesy it sounds – that’s on us! But, it is kind of true. A well-written resume is your starting point, and it will grow with you alongside your career.

Everyone has different ideas for what makes a ‘great’ resume, but there are some obvious ideas for what makes a ‘bad’ resume – knowing the difference can be confusing!

We’re going right back to basics with this blog because we know that’s the best place to start sometimes. We’ve scoured the internet, picked the brains of our employer friends, and collated the best advice we could find.

Whether this is your first time writing one or not, the below tips will help you build a baseline for resume success:

Cover All the Basics

The goal of a resume is to present your relevant skills and accomplishments best. Every resume requires these basic elements:

  • Contact information: This includes your full name, the city where you live, your email address and phone number. You don’t need to have your full address, but a postcode helps the employer know whereabouts you’re based. Never include things like your age, gender or religion. They’re not relevant for an employer to decide whether you’re a good fit for the job.
  • Relevant skills related to the job: Use some of the words in the job advertisement, provided you have those skills. Begin your list with the most important skills, and don’t be afraid to sell yourself.
  • Relevant work and volunteer experience: List your experiences in chronological order – meaning start with your most recent job or work experience. Focus on listing achievements rather than tasks, and don’t be afraid to be specific. Instead of saying “worked in a team”, say something like, “worked as part of a team of ten customer service advisors”.

Don’t Worry About What You Don’t Have – Focus On What You Do!

Many young people get caught up in all the skills and experience they don’t have or don’t know how to articulate on their resume – don’t worry!

Employers aren’t expecting the world from you; they’re generally pretty okay with the fact you don’t have experience. They’re more interested in how you talk about what you can do.

It’s all about how you present yourself so:

  • Use school projects, team sports and personal hobbies to detail your passions and skills. This includes teamwork, project management, communication and working to deadlines!
  • Part-time work and odd jobs all count, too – it demonstrates commitment and organisation, including that babysitting gig or helping the grandparents with the garden.
  • If you’re unsure, ask parents and teachers what they think you’re best skills are – then think about the experiences you have that back up those skills.

When you can, back up your achievements with real data to add detail. For example:

  • Unquantified: Delivered a quality presentation in class.
  • Quantified: Received the highest grade in the class for the end of a year group presentation.

Keep it Short & Simple

For young people with less work experience or fewer educational achievements, employers aren’t expecting a two to three-page resume!

One side of A4 is more than enough to detail your experiences and create a really clear idea of who you are and what you can offer.

This means paying attention to how you format your resume on the page, too, so keep your experience as a list of short, scannable statements rather than writing out long paragraphs.

Proofread to Catch Typos!

Unfortunately, a single spelling error is sometimes enough to get your resume in the bin!

Review your resume multiple times, doing a thorough line-by-line, word-by-word edit. Even if you’ve used spell check or grammar checking software, be sure to do a read through again – these things aren’t always perfect!

And an outside perspective is always a good idea. Ask a friend, teacher or mentor, or family member to review your resume for you before submitting it to employers.

Tailor It!

And last but by no means least, make sure you tailor your resume for each job you apply to.

This means using the job descriptions to help you understand what skills and experience to focus on, identify keywords you should be implementing, and generally getting a vibe for how you need to present yourself.

It’s totally fine to keep some things the same, but make sure you add a few tweaks here and there to align yourself with the job you’re applying to.

And that’s it!

As you grow with experience and confidence, you can keep adding to your resume and creating a stronger picture of who you are as a professional – this is just your starting point, and these tips will help you start strong!

Interested in finding the right career for you and your new resume? Try our Career Quiz to see where you should get started!


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