Resumes in Australia have been transformed over the past few years. Not too long ago, dates of birth,
marital status and interests took “pride of place” on page one, followed closely by education and the
ubiquitous set of generic skills that the masses all claimed to possess. Was there a person in Australia
who didn’t declare they had “excellent communication and interpersonal skills” and that they were “team
players” with “strong organizational skills”? If a smattering of these people existed, they were certainly in
the minority of Australian workers!
In the fast-moving pace of today’s global workforce, résumés have had to keep up with changes in
legislation, changes in perception, and to what is considered “politically correct.” Whether the reason lies
behind the vast resources of the Internet and greater exposure to the international community or not,
résumés in Australia have come of age, being recognized as a critical selling tool, and the first step in
gaining an edge on a highly competitive workforce.
CV or Résumé?
A résumé in Australia is more often than not referred to as a CV (Curriculum Vitae). While strictly
speaking a résumé and a CV are two distinct documents—the curriculum vitae being traditionally a tool
used by the medical, scientific, and academic communities, the term CV has been embraced as an
industry standard regardless of the type of document it is.
While résumés vary appreciably in terms of style, format, and approach depending on the job seeker’s
talents and the market they hope to penetrate, there are a few absolutes when composing an
employment document for the Australian job market.
Spelling is a particular issue. Words often considered “misspelled” are frequently those deemed as
“American/English.” Words such as Centre=Center, Organise=Organize, Cheque=Check,
Realise=Realize, Colour=Color, Specialise=Specialize, Recognise= Recognize, Licence = License,
Defence = Defense, are many of the main offenders that will be considered glaring spelling errors should
they find themselves in an Australian résumé, and only serve to reinforce the candidate’s lack of
familiarity with the norms of the country. The suggestion is to set the word processing software to
Australian English, or English UK, and take prompts from there. If unsure, an outstanding internet
reference for clarifying these spelling anomalies can be found at the Australian Macquarie Dictionary site
Paper size in Australia conforms to European standards. It is expected that a résumé will be composed
using A4 size paper (217mm x 297) and not US Letter size (8”x11”).
Australian employers and recruiters tend to reach agreement about the length of Australian résumés
across all industries and occupations. One-page résumés are particularly out of vogue with a format of
this nature widely considered as lacking in detail. As a country with only a population of 20 million and a
land mass of almost the size of the United States, it is clear Australians are used to “spreading out” and
this also translates to résumés! White space is considered desirable for easy reading, with 1” (2.54cm)
margins acknowledged as the industry norm, and information spreading from 2-4 pages considered an
appropriate length. Résumés extending to 5 or more pages are for the most part, considered
Intention of Direction
So, what are the key components of an Australian résumé? Well certainly, a “theme” is important. Just as
a person seeking a particular genre of novel at a bookstore, it is desirable for the reader to be presented
with information that supports the book’s theme. Consequently if a job candidate wants to pursue a
career in the Information Technology industry for example, then providing lengthy non-IT descriptions of
unrelated work that detracts the reader from the overall “theme” of the résumé is considered unwise.
Similarly for an individual who may have two streams of career possibilities; it is advantageous for the
candidate to showcase his/her talents in two separate résumés, than placing a confusing assortment of
non-matching skills for the employer to “take their pick” of which ones they would prefer!
Consider the case of a classroom teacher, who may be interested in theatre acting and media arts.
Could the following “skills” be considered anything but confusing by the reader?
• Classroom Teaching & Discipline
• Curriculum Development
• 5’6” tall, blue eyes, blonde, 36 24, 26
• Experience in theatre production of Hair
• Understudy for part of “Hooker” in the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”
• Children with Special Needs.
While the above example is played for laughs, comparable poor decisions are not uncommon and
Australian decision-makers are likely to quickly discard a résumé that presents the individual as a “Jackof-all-Trades.” In other words, a job seeker must quickly establish where they are heading, what they are applying for, and must support their case through a résumé that showcases and supports their
Duties, Responsibilities or Achievements?
In recent times, Australian résumés have transitioned from primarily “duties-based” to “achievementbased” mirroring the rapid increases in employee working hours, the intense job-market competition, and the perception of employers that employees at all levels should be increasingly productive. Solid thought should be give to initiatives, special ideas, or inroads the candidate made during their employment, that distinguished them from their peers.
Let it all hang out? Not anymore!
A hallmark of the Australian résumé in mid eighties-early nineties was to “let it all hang out.” Routinely at
the conclusion of each employment, text would invariably explore why the employee chose (or was
chosen to) leave that company. “Reasons for Leaving” typically ran from the obvious “to seek new
challenges” to the completely inappropriate “ideas differed from management, prompting my decision to
leave.” Despite some individuals still believing that the résumé should fully disclose minute detail, this way to “shoot yourself in the foot” has all but disappeared from the Australian résumé in the new millennium.
First Person/Third Person
Australians are an outgoing race of people, not shy to voice their achievements; yet similarly bragging is
considered immodest. To circumvent the constant references to “I, me, my, our” Australian résumés omit
the first-person references. In place of “I spearheaded a new procedure that increased productivity by
45%” the preferred way is to say “Spearheaded a new procedure….” The trend in the early ‘90s to refer to
the job candidate in the third-person, i.e. “John spearheaded a procedure…” has virtually disappeared
from the Australian résumé, although it is still routinely used in company biographies.
Education is highly prized in Australia and impresses many employers; studies should be disclosed along with any training that supports the candidate’s employment goals.
Personal details once considered a prominent fixture on an Australian résumé have all but disappeared in today’s “career marketing” documents. Certainly legislation prohibits employers quizzing job candidates on their marital status, dates of birth, and religion, and although many in Australia still volunteer this information, together with hobbies and interests, there is a growing trend away from revealing what most consider being irrelevant to the candidate’s capacity to perform their job well.
Unlike most of their American counterparts, references are still routinely disclosed on the Australian
résumé, although this, like many other components of the traditional Australian résumé is a declining
trend. Privacy seems to be a particular case in point, where many job candidates have found that their
references (or referees as frequently called by many Australians) have been contacted for purposes other
than to provide a reference! In today’s large databanks of names and contact information, many job
candidates are wisely recognizing the need to shield these cherished “assets” until a firm job offer is
presented, and simply placing “Available upon request” under the Reference heading.
Government applications are a clear exception to the rule where job candidates are customarily required
to disclose full reference details, and on occasion, obtain a written report on the job candidate by
responding to a series of job-specific and performance-based questions.
If there’s one absolute to composing a résumé for the Australian job-market it is “nothing stays the same.”
In a rapidly changing employment market, employers are continually seeking new ways to uncover the
talents of the people they hire, and new ways to reveal their strengths; as their tactics evolve, so should
those of the savvy Australian job hunter, who will know the current trends sufficiently to stay ahead of the