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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 provides a summary of your work history, training and knowledge.

A CV (curriculum vitae) is similar, but tends to be longer and more detailed. In Australia, both terms are often used and we will refer to resumes here.

As well as your resume, you will need a cover letter to accompany your job application. It should be short and specific, highlighting your skills and experience in relation to the position 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. Employers often have to read many job applications so use headings and dot points so that it is easy to scan.

Employers will be looking for your:

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

Read more about how to write an effective resume.

If you need help with formatting, resume templates are provided with some word processors (e.g. Microsoft Word) and are available online.

Go online to find templates, cover letters and resume examples, and advice about how to apply for jobs (e.g. myfuture).

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).

You only need to write a 1 page letter and it should be personally addressed to the employer or contact person for the job.

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

Learn more about writing a great cover letter.

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.