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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Make your resume exceptional

With the final Master of Marketing course wrapping up last week, many students have already begun looking for job opportunities. Some have even sought out short- term professional experience opportunities to undertake during the study break period. To speed up the process, we spoke to the Careers and Employability Office at the University of Sydney Business School who gave us some useful tips on how to effectively navigate the job application process.

We start this series of posts with tips for resumes
Your resume is your marketing tool to an employer.  They will use it to determine if you have the potential to do the job and want to further explore this potential at an interview.   Your task is to ensure that your resume presents you in the best possible light and provides information that convinces the employer that you can do the job.  Therefore it should focus on the skills set needed to for the advertised role – this skills set is often described as the selection criteria.


So how can you focus your resume? 

Don’t use the same resume for every job, highlight information most relevant to the selection criteria.

Under each job heading when you record your duties, record the most relevant duties (to the job you are applying for) first.  Use active verbs to start the sentences that highlight your duties.

Make sure your resume is achievement oriented – highlight academic achievements and work based achievements.  These could include positions of leadership, prizes, awards, promotions, additional responsibilities, targets met or exceeded etc.  The achievements could be included under each job you have held or recorded as an Achievement Summary

Include a skills section that directly addresses the selection criteria. Don’t rely on a simple dot point list – state the skill and then provide evidence to demonstrate where you have developed or enhanced the skills. For example:


Special Events Coordination - Initiated several local and regional promotions. This involved extensive research, planning, negotiation of sponsorship, liaison with police, councils, community service groups, volunteers, sponsors and media. Organised production of leaflets and promotional material and distributed and directed operations on the day. Responsible for budget and the financial success of events.

Employers will spend a very short period of time scanning your resume looking for relevant information.  An often quoted figure is that they will spend no more than 30 seconds –although one recent report says only 6 seconds! Therefore you need to make it reader friendly, with clearly defined headings, and dot points instead of long blocks of text.

Many large companies and government departments use online applications and some will not require a resume so you may not need to send one for every job you apply to.  Read the instructions carefully before you attach your cover letter.

Online applications
Think about this simple equation:

Your strengths and skills + the skills and behaviours the job requires = A MATCH!

Online application forms are designed to see if you have the motivation, the necessary insight and the personal effectiveness to make the right impact as a graduate in that organisation.   

Follow these top 5 tips and ensure your application form makes it through to the next round.


PREPARE! – all the clues are right in front of you.
Research and analyse the company, its goals and values, the graduate stream that you are applying for.   All the clues you need to complete your online application form are there on the company literature, annual reports and website.  Attend employer sessions on campus and use every opportunity to network through careers fairs and campus events.

WHY THEM?  - what is it about THAT organisation that stands out?
Don’t proceed to tell the employer why you want to work for them by stating the obvious. Banks already know if they are in the top 4 in the country. You need to differentiate more on why they are your employer of choice, by the values they hold, the graduate programme they offer, the opportunity for exposure to key influencers and mentors in your profession.

If you need anymore information, visit the Careers Office


WHY YOU? - be clear about your skills and value.
Approach the application with a clear idea of your strengths and skills and your career aspirations. Draw out how this organisation will play to your strengths and enhance your career prospects. You need to be aware that every question they are asking on the application is a chance for you to market yourself well. Have you really understood the role that you are applying to and what you will be asked to do as a new graduate? Within a couple of weeks, you’ll be working with your own clients and solving problems that you might not know anything about!  Resilience, the ability to ask the right questions, the confidence to take the lead, the professionalism to deal with the situation. 

WHY NOT? – give them a reason to say yes!
Try to steer away from bland, vanilla statements that don’t really get to the heart of the question. Really THINK what behaviour or skill they are trying to elicit from the question. Be specific, be focused and drill down to a deeper level to describe your behaviours and prove why you should get the job.

For more information and help on how to complete resumes and application forms, please visit our website for more information.


Susan Smith
Careers Services Manager – Education, Careers and Employability Office, The University of Sydney Business School

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