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How to write a resume and cover letter

A resume is a written record of your education, skills and experience. It offers a summary of your work history.

A CV (or curriculum vitae) is similar, but tends to be longer and more detailed.

In Australia, both terms are often used, and we will refer simply to resumes on this page.

A cover letter accompanies your application. It should be short and specific, highlighting your selling points in relation to the job you are applying for.

Your resume and cover letter is your first chance to convince an employer that you are the right person for the job.

Resumes

Before you begin writing your resume, think about your work history and note your achievements and skills.

The layout of your resume should be neat, simple and easy to read. Aim for 3–5 pages, depending on how long you have been in the workforce. Use headings and dot points.

Employers will be looking for:

  • contact details
  • career strengths
  • employment history
  • education and training levels
  • referees.

Read more about what to include in your resume.

If you need help with formatting, resume templates are included with some word processors (such as Microsoft Word) and are available online.

Job and career websites may also provide templates, examples and advice.

Cover letters

Your cover letter is an important component of your application and should:

  • introduce you to the employer
  • identify the position you are applying for
  • convey your enthusiasm for the position
  • highlight the stand-out qualities that make you a great candidate
  • inspire the reader to continue reading your application (cover letters are not a summary of your resume).

It only needs to be 1 page and should be addressed personally to the employer or contact for the job.

All cover letters should be tailored to suit that particular job.

Look at examples of cover letters.

Selection criteria

Some jobs (especially government jobs) will ask you to meet particular requirements or selection criteria. Selection criteria may also be known as core or key capabilities.

Your responses should demonstrate, with relevant examples, that you have the required experience, skills and abilities to do the job. Be succinct and use dot points where appropriate.

Read more about how to write selection criteria.

Resume help for over-45s

You can get help to write a resume if you are aged 45 or over and not working full time. Contact a government approved agency in your area. This is a free service.

Resume help for school students and graduates

A resume builder is available to help you create a resume even if you have little or no work experience.

Finding job vacancies

Read about how to find job vacancies including government jobs.

Career advice

Career advice (or counselling) can help you find a job that is right for you. Get help with:

  • matching your skills to suitable jobs
  • finding a counsellor
  • planning your career
  • changing careers.
Licence
Last updated
21 July 2014

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