How to write a resume

How to write a winning resume

An effective resume is an essential tool in the job searching process and everyone should know how to construct one. But many people don't know the difference between a good resume and a great one and this could be the deciding factor in securing an interview for your dream job.

After reading this section, you will know:

  • How to create an effective resume that stands out in the crowd
  • The best format to follow
  • What to include and what to exclude in your resume
  • Importance of tailoring your resume to your audience

The format of a winning resume

  • The length of your resume should aim to cover 2 pages and no more than 3-4.
  • The resume will provide a database of skills, experience and achievements from which you should select material to reflect the requirements of the specific post.
  • Always put the most important matching points first, even if they are less important in terms of your present job, or are skills or achievements that go back some time
  • A resume should begin with a short summary of who you are
  • Make sure the resume is objective and avoid all the subjective clichés such as 'excellent self-starter', 'good team player', 'natural leader’ and ‘good communicator'. These qualities can be demonstrated through your tangible achievements which follow in the resume.
  • Remember that your resume will form part of the script for the interviewer's questions.
  • Do not allow gaps or unclear explanations to take up the precious time allotted to you so, try to neatly match their requirements.
  • A resume should also give some idea of your future potential. If you are presently studying for an additional qualification, say so.

Illustrate your achievements

  • It is not sufficient to simply state the posts and responsibilities that you have held. It is vital to illustrate how well you have carried out this work through your list of achievements.
  • How does an achievement differ from responsibility? An achievement is a statement of how you have added value to an organisation.

Make sure to sell yourself effectively

  • Always express your skills and qualities in the present tense - you may not be using them right now but you still have these facilities.
  • Positive features need to jump off the page
  • Resume should be printed and well designed
  • Make sure the material is clear and visually attractive, so many resumes do not reach this standard. Make sure that yours does; otherwise it is a complete waste of effort.

Functional and chronological resumes

  • The most widely accepted style is the chronological resume
  • Career history is presented as a series of appointments with the achievements listed against each one
  • Presented in reverse date order, with the most recent appointment first
  • More space can be allocated to the more recent positions, since these are where you’re most important achievements are usually found
  • In some situations, however, a functional resume is acceptable and may be more appropriate
  • A functional resume is where you group together your skills and experience under `functional' headings
  • It can be helpful to produce a functional resume, even if it is just for your own reference


  • List your professional, higher education qualifications and school results
  • Show recent vocational training
  • Include genuine foreign language skills
  • Include your unusual interests
  • Add a note of any publications and/or external positions you hold
  • Get someone independent to look at your resume when you have completed it - not a friend or family member
  • Be prepared to refine it a number of times until it is right


  • List every training course you have ever attended
  • Indicate race/nationality/politics, etc
  • Put down mundane interests
  • Include present salary details
  • Give references
  • Do not add superfluous details about your marital status, children, religion or political affiliations, etc
  • Do not include a list of all of your interests and hobbies. Is there something that you do in your personal time that has a direct bearing on your suitability for a particular post.

Take a look at our resume tips page for more advice on how to write a resume.

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