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Secrets of a successful resume

by Kathie Kelly on October 24, 2013

As the famous saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.

When putting together your resume, remember that the purpose of this document is to get you in the door and in front of either the recruiter or hiring manager. This decision will probably be made within a couple of minutes, so your key objective is to make it a no-brainer for them to put you on the shortlist.

Whilst no two resumes will look the same, there are certain common points that all good resumes adhere to:

  • Keep information relevant to the position on offer. This may involve having a few resumes on hand e.g. sales focus, management focus, community focus.
  • Keep sentences short and to the point. Ensure correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. Don’t rely on spell check – have a couple of people read through it to check for you.
  • Ensure you maintain the same formatting throughout – capitalisation, italics, underlining should be used sparingly to highlight relevant points. Margins and spacing must be consistent.
  • Almost every resume should include the following headings; personal details, objective, educational or vocational qualifications (depending on age), career history, awards and achievements and referees.

Personal Details

It’s essential to keep this information up to date. Use personal email addresses not work ones. It goes without saying (but I will anyway!) that if your current personal email is [email protected] then get a specific job application email address. Also ensure your message bank has a professionally spoken message and that it is working!

Objective or Executive Summary

If you are relatively new to the workforce or looking to change careers, this is where you state your career goal – hint, match it to the job that you are applying for. If you are experienced and looking to move into a similar role type, then provide a brief overview of your professional history and highlights. This allows the reader to get a sense of who you are professionally and a smart applicant will tailor this segment to the job they are applying for by using some of the same descriptive words that the advert uses (without completely plagiarising).

Educational or Vocational Qualifications

If you left school in the last five years then state your grades. If not, leave them out. List your tertiary qualifications, any apprenticeship/traineeships, industry accredited courses, technical training, specific skills training, management courses and the like.

Career History

Here you should focus on your skills, experiences, responsibilities, achievements and career progression. Listing employers in chronological order, starting with the most recent position first, is the most popular layout.

Think carefully about your role, the skills and attributes you used or developed in each position. Did you save your company money, increase efficiency, identify new ways of doing things, attract new clients? Regularly update these details, ensuring again they are relevant to the position you are applying for. Do NOT just list your position description. We want to know what you achieved and how.

Awards and Achievements

List any awards you or your team has won, any board or committee positions, any volunteer roles or significant achievements.


Make sure you choose people that you reported to and who can verify your responsibilities and skills. Sounds simple but you’d be amazed at how many referees I speak to that can’t provide clear details. You can list that you will supply referees on request if you wish to, this allows you to make contact with your referee to let them know who will be calling. Again something that many people don’t do, and it’s extremely unprofessional. Ensure if you do list them that you state their name, job title, organisation, phone number, address and email.

Good luck with your job hunt!

SPECIAL OFFER FOR LEADERS IN HEELS READERS AND SUBSCRIBERS: If you would like Kathie to review, revamp and rejig your resume then head over Facebook and LIKE her Square Pegs page to take advantage of a special deal for November – Half Price Resumes only $50!

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Kathie Kelly

Kathie is the Director of Square Pegs Consulting which was founded to provide affordable assistance to not for profits, businesses and individuals with recruitment/HR, resume writing, tender submissions and business sales coaching. Kathie has spent a number of years in recruitment, workforce planning, marketing/business development and community/corporate partnerships in both NZ and Australia. As a keen follower of the arts Kathie has also been on the board of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, loves to travel and is an avid rugby league follower. You can connect with Kathie on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @1kathiekelly.

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Kathie Kelly
With a background in both corporate and community organisations, Kathie felt there was an opportunity to use her skills to assist not for profit, charitable and arts organisations reach their potential through providing assistance in raising funds, generating and diversifying income streams. Hence Square Pegs was born - to help identify and connect partners and stakeholders with the aim of building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships. This might be through reviewing or writing grants/tenders/award submissions, developing strategies to attract sponsors, negotiating corporate partnerships or creating fundraising campaigns. All with the aim to help you keep doing the good work you do, but with a sustainable funding base to work from!
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