Job Seeker Series – Resume & Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts?

We screen HUNDREDS of resumes every week…..and we can tell you that a huge number simply don’t get a pass mark!!! Frequently throughout the we will be frustrated by the format of resumes and commenting on the poor quality.

As per my last blog – What Jobs Should I be Applying for ( – the information I’m putting out in this blog is not wrapped in fairy floss…..I’m giving REAL WORLD information and perspective….no BS or hot air!!!

Your resume is meant to be a clear overview of your experience, skills and qualifications.

When I’m screening applications for a particular role, I ALWAYS go straight to the resume…..not the Cover Letter. If the role I’m recruiting for requires a particular qualification, then I will look for this first of all…..If you don’t have the qualification…..then I don’t look any further (eg Town Planning, Civil Engineering, Accounting qualification etc).

Next….I go to your employment history……looking at the most recent and working backwards. I have liaised closely with my client to profile the role along with the experience and skills required. So I’m looking for these in your employment history…….If you don’t have these listed…..then I don’t look any further.

I’m also looking at how long you were in each of your previous roles……are there gaps in your employment (and do you say why)……how relevant is your experience (ie same or similar industry)…..are there spelling mistakes or errors.

Only then if everything checks out, do I look at your Cover Letter.

My PET HATES with resumes… Major don’ts:

  1. No dates in your employment history – only the years. 2013-2014 could mean that you worked there 2 years or 2 months…..the lack of dates normally means that you are covering up short periods of employment and/ or gaps in your employment…..and therefore I’m already suspicious.
  2. Employment history listed from oldest to newest…….why on earth would you want me to review what you did 10 years ago instead of looking at your current experience and skills…..and why make it harder for me to compare your skills and experience against the requirements of the position?
  3. Qualifications listed at the end…..and lacking details.
  4. Missing Personal Details – ie Phone Number, Email and Address
  5. Poor format in general… font is too small or a colour that is difficult to read, too wordy and not clear

When putting your resume together or updating try to put yourself in the shoes of the Recruiter, Hiring Manager or Business Owner…….they know what they’re looking for…….you’re definitely not the only applicant – it is a very competitive market out there…….and they are going through a SHORTLISTING PROCESS.

So make it easy for them to see that you have the qualifications, experience and skills that they’re looking for……and don’t leave room for them to make assumptions!!!

Here’s my Resume Tips:

  1. Start with your basic Personal Details – Name, Phone, Email and Address. If you live a long distance from the place of work, then include how you will handle this….ie planning to relocate closer…..businesses do not like to employ people that have to commute for an hour or more…..if your commute will take more than an hour and you have no intention of moving closer….then seriously consider whether you should apply.
  2. Detail your RELEVANT Qualifications – If you’re applying for a Bookkeeping role, then your Hairdressing qualification or Responsible Service of Alcohol will not help you to get this job – INCLUDE What the Qualification is…..when you gained/ completed it……where did you do it ie Southbank Tafe, QUT etc.
  3. List your RELEVANT Technical Skills or Experience… again in the case of a Bookkeeper…..I would expect to see MYOB, Zero, Quickbooks, Accounts Payable & Receivable, Payroll, BAS Preparation etc
  4. Then detail your Employment History:
  • From Current and work backwards
  • I would suggest including up to the last 10-15 years and then just list the remaining under “Prior Employment History”.
  • Include the Month and Year – eg Jan 2013 to Current or June 2009 to Dec 2012.
  • Then your Position Title.
  • Next the name of the Employer.
  • I sometime see resume where the applicant has included a very basic summary of what that business is/ does……& I find this VERY helpful as it saves me having to Google.
  • Use dot points to list the Primary Duties & Responsibilities you had in each role –maximum 10 dot points (REVIEW THESE AND MOVE THEM IN ORDER DEPENDING ON THE SPECIFIC ROLE YOU’RE APPLYING TO…..READ THE ADVERTISEMENT AGAIN).
  • Provide your reason for leaving each position – They’re going to ask you at interview anyway.
  • If you have a gap or gaps in your employment history provide a reason – eg overseas travel, study, parental leave, care for elderly parent etc…..don’t allow for incorrect assumptions to be made.

5. Provide work related Referees – Contact Details (Name, Position, Company, Phone, Email) for 3 Managers/ Supervisors from your most recent positions……try to include someone from your current role – even if it is someone who no longer works there.


Now for the Cover Letter……yes you do need one…..if the advertisement asks you to provide any specific information….then you MUST do this here!! Failure to respond as specifically requested will usually result in your application not being considered.

Make sure the information you include is correct – I often see that people just use a template letter and forget to change their reference to the job, company or specific person….Your Cover Letter must be specific to the role you’re applying for!!

Ideally combine your Cover Letter and Resume into the 1 PDF document……this will make it easier for the Recruiter, Hiring Manager or Business Owner and increase the likelihood that your Cover Letter will actually be read.