unhappy with your job, boss, career prospects or employer and want to move on?
frustrated, angry and baffled because you've applied for jobs you know you can do, but haven't been getting interviews?
anxious to secure your next job quickly because you were recently retrenched?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, the solution is to make sure that employers know that you are what they need with a resume that sets you apart.
In today's increasingly competitive employment market your resume is more important than ever. If your resume is written effectively, you will:
get interviews for jobs you want and know you can do
be asked for interviews for jobs in organisations in which you want to work
maximise your chances of getting a new job quickly if you have recently been retrenched
influence recruitment consultants about where to place you
convince recruitment consultants to submit your resume to their clients.
Your resume determines the number of interviews you get, influences the quality of the jobs you are offered and plays a pivotal role in the salary you can command.
If you do not have a well-written resume, you significantly increase the risk of being overlooked for the career opportunities you want and deserve. This is because your resume must written in a way that make it easy for hiring managers to identify that you are what they are looking for. To do this, you need to understand how hiring managers think when assessing candidates. If you can get inside the heads of the decision makers, you have an edge.
My name is Tom Hannemann. Based on feedback from clients since 1993, I write resumes and prepare responses to selection criteria that significantly increase their chances of being selected for interviews. I also help people prepare for interviews using a unique method based on approaches adopted by people who consistently get job offers in competitive markets.
The experience and credentials that equip me to help people advance their careers include:
Working with one of the world’s largest recruitment firms. You are therefore engaging someone who understands what recruitment consultants want.
10 years experience as an HR specialist and HR manager. This ensures that you are getting help from someone who understands the recruitment process, how HR Managers think and the ingredients of an effective resume.
10 years experience as a senior management consultant specialising in HR and organisation development. This means that you get the benefit of my understanding of how hiring managers think, what they value and what will convince them to invite you to an interview.
An MBA from Australia’s leading business schools, which means I can interpret the impact and benefits of your achievements and experience.
A degree in Psychology, which means that I understand what motivates people and how to effectively communicate with people at all levels.
Further evidence that I can make an outstanding contribution to your career is that:
Seek, Australia’s leading career portal, has enlisted me to provide expert commentary and advice on resume preparation since 2000.
I have been the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ preferred resume writing service since 2005.
Several recruitment firms refer candidates to me to help them overhaul their resumes so that they can successfully compete for the best career opportunities.
Several career coaches recommend their clients to me so that they have the tools they need to position themselves for new career opportunities.
On this website I'll share with you what I look for when overhauling resumes. I'll also show you how you can make sure that your resume does the job you want it to and how it can lead you to the job you want. In addition, you find out how to prepare responses to Selection Criteria.
Once you are ready to engage me to help you advance your career, you can select and purchase the services I offer directly from this web site.
If you would like to discuss your needs and circumstances or to clarify any aspects of my services and approach, please contact me by email: email@example.com to arrange a time to talk.
"Thank you so much for your efficiency in completing my CV (resume). Ten minutes after emailing my CV and cover letter I had a call from the Agency and I have a meeting at 3pm today to discuss a Branch Manager position." - Bernard
"Armed with my new profile I applied for 5 jobs, got interviews for all of them, have been offered three, short-listed for the other two and have accepted the pick of the bunch. This would not have been possible with my old CV. I have also raved to my friends about my new profile." - Joanne
"I have to hand it to you. My previous resume seemed to hold no appeal to recruiters - they never called. Within 8 hours of sending in my new professional profile an agency called and invited me to attend an interview! Thanks Tom, I'm on my way!" - Dennis
"I have been giving your details to a number of people. What was really interesting about my resume is the type of agency which contacted me. Accenture, SMS, PWC, KPMG. The position with KPMG matched the criteria that I had set for my next career move. There is no doubt in my mind that my resume got me in the door ... Thank you for all your help (and patience). I will be return business to you in the future." - Diane
Is your resume consistently getting you interviews:
for jobs you really want?
in organisations in which you really want to work?
If you’ve answered, “Yes” to both questions, that’s great. But if you’ve answered, “No” to either, your resume is probably not good enough.
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential employer recruiting for a new member of staff - you’d be busier than normal from the extra work involved in dealing with recruitment consultants and candidates and reviewing a pile of resumes. This is why it’s essential that your resume is of the highest calibre to distinguish you from your competition.
A resume that just outlines your career history and experience is not enough to convince employers that they should interview you. To get your foot in the door, you must have a resume that provides them with what they are looking for.
To do this it must present your experience, achievements, contributions and expertise in the most compelling, succinct and appealing way so that you optimise your opportunities to secure highly sought after roles in the most desirable organisations.
Your resume must be professional, crisp, clean and elegant to enable your potential employer to fully and easily assess your capabilities and understand the value you can add to their organisation.
"I received many comments from recruiters on the calibre of my resume." - Mark
"Some time ago I asked you to write my CV. The comments that I (you) have received are great. Potential employers have said the CV is great. I have been offered management position that I am not qualified for but on the understanding that I will undertake a MBA all because I have a comprehensive CV." - Justin
"Please excuse my neglectfulness in returning to you. My time has been spent in interviews as I have had so many responses to the resume." - Carolanne
"I forwarded the application on Tuesday evening, I had a call from the consultant today and have an interview next week."
"What a wordsmith!! Even I would hire myself with a resume like that. A million thanks for the great profile, I really appreciate it."
When writing resumes for clients I use the following checklist to ensure they get the highest quality resume that gives them a competitive advantage and opens doors that would otherwise remain closed.
Go ahead, assess your current resume against my resume checklist and tips below to see how you could improve it. Even if you don’t have a resume, this checklist will help you prepare an effective one if you want to spend the time and effort writing it yourself.
If you adopt all the points in the checklist, you will have a resume that is worth reading and which could improve your career opportunities. Each point is important. Your resume must incorporate all of them. If you leave one or two out, you could see your efforts on the others go to waste.
1. Are your achievements expressed in terms of the benefits and value you have added to your employers? [more information]
Many people talk about their achievements from a personal perspective rather than from their employer's. For example, some people include in their achievements that they were promoted to a more senior role or selected for a special project or won a trip or that they developed their expertise in a new technique. While these are achievements (for the individual), what is missing is an indication of the value or benefit to the employer. Prospective employers want to know what contributions you have made to the organisations for which you have worked. They want to know what you did to earn those awards or rewards or what you did with what you learned. They want to know what you have done for others so they can decide whether you are likely to be able to do something of value for them.
Some people leave out the value or impact of their achievements. For example, I read many resumes where a candidate says something like: "Led a review of the company's sales function and recommended the centralisation of the order processing department." What is missing here is the impact or benefit. What happened as a result of the re-structure? Or, some people say: "Developed and implemented an effective induction program.". What was the benefit or value of the induction program? What improved as a result?
The claims you make in your resume about your accomplishments and contributions are strengthened and have more credibility if you can provide examples and evidence. For example, if you introduced a method that improved workforce productivity, what indicators demonstrate that productivity increased and what was the benefit of the increase in productivity? If you reduced error rates, by what percentage? If you improved your employer's reputation in the market, what evidence indicates that this occurred and what was the benefit to the organisation of this improved reputation?
If your achievements are quantifiable, don’t just provide dollars or other “raw” numerical data because these are not very meaningful until they are put into a context. For example, if you increased sales by $1m from last year, this might be impressive if the company was a $5m a year business. However, if the company was a $500 million a year enterprise, a $1m increase is not nearly as impressive. Therefore, express increases in sales, decreases in costs, increases in market share and other changes to an organisation’s key performance indicators as percentages or fractions.
If you improved customer satisfaction to 90%, or if you increased on time in full delivery to 95% or if you reduced machinery downtime to 1%, indicate the previous period’s figure. This provides the reader with an understanding of the magnitude or scale of the improvement. (For example: improved customer satisfaction ratings from 75% to 90% within 12 months.)
If an achievement is not easily quantifiable, you can still provide a meaningful indication of the value of the achievement. For example: "Reduced duplication and enhanced the re-usability of test suites by improving testing and planning through discussion forums to enable team members to share knowledge and identify areas for improvement."
One of the frustrations an employer or recruitment consultant faces when reading a resume is when the method, approach or strategy adopted to get the result is not clear. This is important because employers will want to know whether your approach or style would suit their culture and way of doing things and whether you adopt strategies that seem sound and logical.
For example, if you increased sales by 10%, how did you do it? There are many ways of increasing sales. The value of the achievement is obvious, but was it achieved by penetrating existing accounts further with the same services and products or by introducing new products to existing clients or through a marketing campaign that attracted new clients? Or was it achieved by increasing the number of sales people? The how can often be as important as the what.
A resume is like a brochure, where you are the product. This means that the benefits of inviting you to an interview must be obvious from the outset. An effective approach is to summarise your competencies, skills, areas of expertise - your "offer" - up front. The rest of the document should then corroborate and expand on your offer and provide examples to substantiate what you claim to be your key strengths.
This last point is important. I have seen an innumerable number of resumes where a person claims to be an excellent contributor to a team, only to find no evidence in the rest of the document to suggest that they had ever worked in one. I recommend the competencies or key strengths section of your resume (see point 5 below) be limited to those attributes, qualifications, areas of expertise and knowledge that really are your strong suits. This means that a list of 30 (and I have seen this) so called key strengths is unlikely to enhance your credibility.
For example, if you claim to be an effective leader, then your experience and achievements should verify this. In this case it would mean, at the very least, that you have had significant experience in being responsible for managing the performance of one or more teams during your recent past. At best, it would mean that you have improved the performance, morale, motivation and turnover rates of the teams you have led.
6. Does your resume encourage the reader to read the rest of it after they've read the first half page? [more information]
There is a corporate myth that your resume will only get 30 seconds attention. This is not true. Some resumes only last 15 seconds before they reach the circular filing cabinet. It takes most people about that long (some claim even less) to form an opinion about you based on your resume. If they like the first half page, what it says about you and how it depicts you, it will stimulate them to invest in reading the rest. It's a bit like a newspaper or magazine article. If the headline and the first few paragraphs interest us, we are more likely to put effort and time into the rest.
Therefore, ask yourself: "What is of interest to my reader in the first half page?" Most people ask the reader to read their home address, e-mail address, phone numbers, date of birth, marital status and all sorts of other detail before they get to the heart of the matter.
In addition, many people start with their qualifications and training. Unless you are applying for entry level graduate positions, this is of little interest to the reader at this point.
The first half page or so should be like a teaser. It should stimulate interest and arouse curiosity. You can achieve this by providing a brief career overview of your areas of expertise and setting out your offer up front.
One of the main weaknesses I see in resumes is when people provide the reader with a list of duties or tasks and think that is all the reader wants to know. In many cases the reader will already be familiar enough with the nature of the work you have done to know what your duties were. For example, if you are a Financial Accountant for a commercial enterprise, the reader, either a recruitment consultant specialising in finance roles or a manager in charge of the company's finance or accounting function, will have a reasonably good grasp of what a Financial Accountant does. In fact, if you were to examine position descriptions for the Financial Accountant of 50 different organisations, you will find an 85% overlap. Just look at the job advertisements for ten or so positions in your own field of expertise and note the similarity between the position requirements.
Therefore, you need to ask what you can tell the reader that they might not know and that will interest them. An effective resume will deliver more than your responsibilities or duties being concisely summarised. The reader will want to know what you were accountable for ensuring or achieving, what value your current and previous jobs were designed to add to the business of the organisation, the level, nature and scope of your accountabilities, your decision making authority and the impact the job has or had on the organisation.
This level of information helps potential employers and recruitment consultants understand what you were asked to achieve and the level at which you were or are working. This helps them decide whether you are capable of operating at the level of the positions for which you are applying.
Providing the reader with information at this level will also help differentiate you from your competition because most people don't go to this depth. It will provide employers with greater insight about your abilities and the level of responsibility you have had. It will help convince employers that you know what you are talking about and have thought through your value to the organisations with which you have worked.
There should be a logical flow and structure to the resume. You can read 11 books on writing resumes and find 12 opinions on the best way to structure and organise them. At the end of the day, the reader needs to know where you worked, when you worked there, the nature of the business of the organisations for which you worked (unless they are household names), what you were accountable for ensuring or achieving and what contributions you made or value you added. They need to know what you have to offer and how to contact you.
Many people agonise over whether to use a functional or chronological or hybrid format. The resume books will advise you what is most suitable for different situations. The main issue is whether the document has a structure that leads the reader from the general to the specific and whether it allows the reader to gain a quick overview and provides easy access to the details if they need them.
Some people go to extraordinary lengths by using sophisticated graphic design programs, charts, photographs, clip art and so on. Remember, you are probably going to send your resume by e-mail. Therefore, it should be created in Microsoft Word (saved as one version earlier than the current version in the market, since organisations might not upgrade their version as soon as it comes out), only use fonts that come as standard with Word and produce it in black and white, since most organisations will use a black and white laser printer and your efforts in selecting nice pastels, if you did, will look a bit washed out. Some people also use clip art. Clip art is cute, but cute is not usually what you want to sell.
Word has plenty of capacity to allow you to be a little creative in format and design. However, unless you are a graphics expert, I recommend that you keep things simple. Flamboyant attempts at "design" often fall flat unless you are trained. Some people try to create fancy cover pages. These are largely a wasted effort. They add no value. Remember, what’s important is substance, not form. Don't use fancy borders and other special "effects". They distract the reader from what is important and can unwittingly create suspicion in the reader's mind.
If you are confident and competent in using Word, tables can be used to create plenty of white space to help the reader scan the document and reduce fatigue. If you use tables, I recommend making each line of text around two-thirds to three-quarters of the width of the page – shorter lines are easier to read and aid concentration. Use font sizes that are easy to read. I have seen people use 9 point Arial or even 9 point Arial Narrow in an effort to minimise the number of pages used. Doing this can make it hard for the reader. Remember, your objective is to make it as easy as possible for your potential employer to want to read your resume.
If you are not confident or at least competent to an intermediate level, don’t use tables. They can be tricky and Microsoft, after all these years, has still not cleaned out all of the irritating “bugs” contained in the tables function.
A four or five page well laid out document that is easy on the eye and leads the reader smoothly through the information is more effective than something crammed into two pages that makes it impossible to find anything and requires the reader to make more effort than necessary to deal with the information.
The most persuasive writing is typically the easiest to read and understand. If your resume is full of jargon with technical terms or phrases only commonly used by a handful of people, the reader will reach their tolerance level much sooner than you want them to. I appreciate that some jargon is necessary. However there are two issues to consider.
Firstly, not every recruitment consultant, senior manager or Human Resources Manager will be as intimately familiar with the terms and jargon associated with your profession or industry as someone who uses it all the time. Therefore, write for a broader audience than your colleagues or immediate manager. Someone once told me that they would not work for anyone who did not understand the technical side of the job as well as they did. They are still looking!
Secondly, an employer and recruitment consultant will want to know whether you understand the broader implications of what you do, not just the terminology and technical components. By talking to them in more general business terms you create an impression that you understand more than your particular field of specialisation. This gives an even better impression that you might be a candidate for promotion in the future.
Some people have MBAs and other post graduate business or commerce qualifications. If you know someone who does, you may find that something strange happens to their speech and writing. The word "strategic" appears in every other sentence and twice in others. Perfectly adequate, simple terms and phrases become tortured and vague so that the reader has to read three times before they think they know what is being said. People are impressed by resumes that express achievements and accountabilities in clear, concise, unambiguous, direct and active terms.
11. Is your resume likely to differentiate you significantly from the rest of the field? [more information]
A resume should reflect your individuality, your unique achievements, and your particular combination of skills, expertise, achievements and contributions. It should set you apart from the other applicants.
Remember that its likely that the reader is going to be dealing with dozens of resumes. You don’t know whether yours will be the first they read or whether it will be the last in a large pile at the end of a hectic day. Assume yours will be the last one in the pile. You must therefore be memorable.
Being memorable does not mean using what you think are creative methods to give your resume a unique appearance or by using quirky headings or phrases to attract attention. Unless you are an expert in graphic design or linguistics or have the writing style of a best selling author, keep it simple.
A rule of thumb is that the more effort and time you invest in attempting to make yourself distinctive, the more irritating your resume will be.
What differentiates you from the rest of the field are your unique achievements, contributions and the value you have added. No-one can replicate that.
The most effective way to distinguish yourself from almost everyone else is to:
Express your achievements in terms of the benefits and value you have added to your employers.
Clearly corroborate your achievements with evidence and examples.
Indicate how you achieved what you did.
Make your key strengths and abilities obvious and demonstrable.
Link your strengths to your achievements and accountabilities.
Give the reader a reason to read the rest of it after they've read the first half page.
Explain what you do beyond your job description.
Structure and organise your resume logically.
Ensure your resume is visually appealing and distinctive.
Use simple and straightforward language.
because most people don’t.
So, how does your resume measure up? When I overhaul resumes I make sure they do and, in the process, save clients a lot of time and effort.
If you write your own resume, make sure you understand the Resume Checklist and Tips. Cover all of those points and you will be on your way to a resume that could increase the chances of securing interviews for jobs you want.
Further down this page, you will find some resume examples to help clarify what this means in practice. These resumes were prepared for clients with specific needs and circumstances and are not intended to be copied.
Or, make it much easier on yourself: get some professional help. As a professional resume writer, I can help you write your resume. Many people only have their resumes professionally written after they have missed out on several opportunities that might not be available again. Don’t let that happen to you.
Unless you are a qualified mechanic, you probably rely on someone who is qualified to make sure that your car works well. In some ways your resume is like maintaining your car: if it isn't done properly, your career could stall.
"Within 3 hours of sending the application I received a call offering me an interview. I had previously sent so many resumes without any success." - Lorraine
"I recently secured a position that will provide me with a fantastic career opportunity. The remuneration package is great and the potential for career advancement equally attractive. Since receiving the profile you completed so quickly for me, I have had an amazing response from potential employers and recruitment firms. In most instances I was contacted within hours and asked to an interview! The profile you created for me gave me the confidence to apply for positions I did not previously consider within my reach. I would recommend your service to any jobseeker seeking a superior result" - Andrew
"You are a legend!!! The moment I started using the resume and cover letter you prepared, I got interviews. I have already been for two ....it was well worth the money. I wish I knew about you sooner." - Betty
Developing a resume to significantly improve your chances of opening the right doors demands highly developed specialised expertise, senior level experience and insight into the needs of hiring managers and recruitment consultants. It also requires advanced writing skills, the ability to understand the value of your achievements and the judgement needed to interpret your contributions so employers will conclude that you are a highly valuable asset.
Many people find this a challenge and stress themselves over it.
On the other hand, investing in having your resume written by a seasoned professional like me can:
save you thousands of dollars by significantly reducing the amount of time needed to secure the right job
help you secure jobs with higher salaries
significantly improve your job satisfaction by positioning you for opportunities aligned with your career objectives and aspirations
give you peace of mind by delegating the process to a professional resume writer
reduce stress during what is often an anxious period
save you the time, energy and effort needed to improve your resume
I've helped thousands of people advance their careers. Many clients refer their colleagues, friends and relatives to me because I have helped make a significant difference to their careers. I can do the same for you.
"Many thanks for your prompt professional help. I would be happy to refer you to others. I will use the profile to explore non-executive director role." - Brian
"I am referring a woman called Jane to you. I was telling her about what a help you had been to me and she asked for your number. I have a new role at ... ... and I wonder if you would update my resume. I turned down the job at …… You were right. It wasn’t for me. I’ve sent the resume to six executive recruiters and so far three have asked for a meeting. Not bad for a week’s work and I certainly wasn’t able to achieve that last year before I came to you. I even got an interview with …….. Prior to this I had been monumentally unsuccessful in all my approaches to them! Thanks again for your time and support."
"Excellent work, I think you have exceed my expectations. I will recommend you to a few more people who are currently in the process of re-making their resumes." - Vinit
I have 10 years experience in the public sector in recruitment, selection and training roles during which I trained hundreds of managers in several agencies in assessing candidates against selection criteria. Subsequently, as a consultant engaged by the Public Service Commission, I played a key role in articulating and documenting the core competencies for the Senior Executive Service and the SES feeder group which formed the basis for the SES and executive selection criteria adopted throughout the public sector.
Every job in the federal, state and local public sectors, which includes all government departments, authorities and agencies, government owned business enterprises, police services, emergency service organisations, universities, TAFE institutes, local and shire councils and publicly funded schools has a set of selection criteria which a person in that job must meet to be considered suitable for that job.
Can you simply use your resume to complete these? The answer to that is, "Definitely not".
Many people find it challenging and difficult to respond to selection criteria. I make it easy and provide people with confidence that their applications will address the selection criteria to fully reflect their capabilities.
When you apply for a position in the public sector you will need to submit a response to the selection criteria for that position. Your response to the criteria must provide evidence of your experience, skills, expertise, qualifications and achievements which demonstrates that you meet the criteria for the position to the extent necessary to do the job to the standard expected by the organisation. Responses to selection criteria provide the information against which you will be assessed by the selection panel for the vacant position.
Responses to selection criteria require more detail about your experience and achievements than you would typically provide in a resume. In many cases you will need 3 – 5 paragraphs (half to one page) for each criterion to provide sufficient detail. Responses to selection criteria therefore provide information at a much more detailed level than you would normally provide in your resume. Your resume is a supporting document which provides the reader with a summary of your career and less important than your responses to the selection criteria when applying for positions in government organisations.
Many organisations impose word, character or page limits to restrict the length of the documents submitted by applicants. This is probably because many candidates used to submit 15 or 20 page documents which were too detailed and time-consuming for the selection panel. You need to determine whether the organisation has imposed such limits before you start preparing your responses to the criteria.
Composing your Response
An effective response to selection criteria should:
Explain the nature and extent of your experience
Outline your responsibilities relevant to each of the criteria
Show your accomplishments relevant to each of the criteria
Provide concrete examples which demonstrate that you meet each of the criteria
Specific examples enable you to demonstrate that you meet the requirements of the position. If a job requires a person to have the ability to negotiate, provide the reader with two or more specific examples of successful negotiations in which you have played a significant role. Describe the context, your goal or intention, your strategy or approach, the reason or rationale for the strategy and the outcome of the negotiation. Draw particular attention to noteworthy achievements.
Levels of Criteria
You will find several commonly used phrases or expressions in selection criteria which indicate the type or level of skill or ability or experience required for the role.
Awareness of involves the least amount of familiarity with a subject and can mean little more than having a perception or realisation of something.
Knowledge of refers to familiarity gained from actual experience or from learning, suggesting you need more than a passing familiarity with these subjects.
Understanding is more than knowledge. It requires having comprehension and perception of the significance of it. For example, to say you understand certain regulations or legislation means you grasp why the regulations were established, why they are important and how they relate to the role.
Ability means having the skills, knowledge or competencies to undertake a task or role.
Aptitude suggests suitability to carry out a task or role. That is, you have a leaning towards a particular skill or quality, such as, aptitude for policy formulation.
Capacity can mean that you are able to or qualified to perform a task. It suggests that you have the necessary skill or quality but may not have demonstrated it to any major extent.
Background in is often used to refer to educational or professional or technical qualifications or areas of specialisation.
Experience in means you must have done the work.
A proven record means that you must be able to substantiate any claims to the experience or skill, preferably with outcomes that have been documented. For example: 'a proven record in achieving sales targets’, means that you must document what you have done and achieved in these areas.
The following expressions indicate to you that claims must be supported with concrete examples which demonstrate depth of experience and/or capability:
Well developed - as in ‘well developed understanding of immigration policy', ‘well developed interpersonal skills'.
Demonstrated - as in 'demonstrated ability to use a word processor', ‘demonstrated qualifications and experience in marketing’.
Extensive - as in 'extensive experience in journalism and leadership programs'.
High level of - as in 'high level of appreciation of OH&S practices', 'high level experience in the preparation of speeches'.
Support claims with relevant, concrete examples. Don’t make claims based on personal opinion with no supporting evidence. Provide evidence that shows achievement and examples of experience. Instead of saying: "I possess superior liaison skills." , expand this with: "My liaison skills are demonstrated by ..." and follow with examples to illustrate the demands and complexity of the tasks.
Watch your verbs. Use direct, active verbs, rather than passive verbs and use verbs that indicate exactly what your contribution was. For example, to say - 'I assisted with the project' could mean you drafted a document, negotiated a deal, operated a photocopier or swept the floor! While such expressions can imply more than what your contribution was, they can also undersell your worth! Be specific and select a verb that properly describes your role.
Use plain English. Write clearly and concisely and make sure that what you write is direct, to the point and that there are no spelling mistooks!
Address all of the selection criteria individually. Do not attempt to address the selection criteria in a broad sweep, hoping to encompass each criterion. Address each element of each criterion clearly and precisely.
Be results oriented. Focus on what impact you have, what difference you make and what results you achieve.
The STAR Framework for Responding to Criteria
The letters STAR stand for Situation, Task, Action and Results.
I strongly recommend that you use the STAR framework to provide the structure to your responses to each criterion because this is the framework which almost every public sector organisation in Australia requires or expects people to use. People who use the STAR framework tend to get interviews, provided they actually meet the criteria to the extent needed in the job. People who don’t use the STAR framework tend not to get interviews. Although using this framework does not guarantee you an interview, not using it almost certainly guarantees that you won’t.
There is no need to retain the words Situation, Task, Action and Result in your response. These ‘sections’ or elements of your response are designed to guide your thinking and provide you with a structure.
Situation: Briefly describe a situation or set of circumstances or issue or problem you encountered which is relevant to the criterion.
Task: Indicate what you thought needed to be done to address the issue or problem or situation, why it was important to address the issue or problem or situation and what your role was.
Action: Describe what you actually did, how you did it and the level or extent of your involvement in resolving the issue or problem or dealing with the situation.
Result: Indicate the outcome or impact or result or benefit of what you did.
Example Response using the STAR Framework
Position: Branch Manager of a Bank (some banks are similar to public sector organisations and have selection criteria for certain positions).
Criterion: Experience in managing threatening or hostile situations where there is a significant probability of harm to customers and/or staff. (Be aware that selection criteria are often written in loose language which makes them subject to broad interpretation).
Response: (Note: you would not keep the words Situation, Task, Action and Result in the document you submit. They are included in this example to show you what is meant by each.)
When I was Assistant Manager of the Coolum Beach branch of the ANZ bank, two people wearing balaclavas and brandishing what appeared to be shotguns entered the branch about five minutes before closing. One of them shouted that it was a hold up, ordered everyone to lie face down on the floor and to do exactly as they said.
As the most senior member of staff in the branch at the time, my responsibility was to ensure the safety of the customers and branch staff and to endeavour to alert the police and the bank’s central security service as soon as possible.
Although I had wet my trousers, I managed to instruct all staff and customers in a clear and calm voice to immediately lie face down on the floor, to remain quiet and to follow all instructions given to them by the armed people. When one of the robbers was distracted by the sobbing of one of the customers and walked over to him to politely request his silence, I activated the alarm which alerted the police and the bank’s central security service that a robbery was in progress. One of the robbers instructed two of the tellers to put all the cash into the fake Louis Vuitton overnight bags the robbers had thoughtfully provided.
The police arrived within a few minutes and apprehended the robbers outside the bank as they were exiting. No-one was physically injured and all the money was recovered. The bank’s trauma counsellors arrived and did their psychobabble thing. My dry cleaning bill was reimbursed by the bank.
Although the example above is not based on a real situation, it provides an example of how to use the STAR framework. The reader can understand that the applicant has been exposed to a dangerous situation, that they understood what needed to be done, that they took appropriate action and that the action they took contributed to a positive outcome.
Dos and Don'ts
Provide clear evidence of how you meet each of the criteria by outlining relevant and specific examples which illustrate your experience and achievements.
Be specific and clear.
Use everyday business language: keep it simple and direct. Using fluffy, convoluted, verbose or unnecessarily complex language makes it difficult for the selection panel (they have to read many applications). This reduces your chances of being invited to an interview.
Use the active voice where possible by explaining what you did using strong action words.
Provide relevant examples to the selection criteria, and indicate that you have the types and levels of abilities, skills, experience that are in, and at the level required of the job.
Provide the reader with a summary of your beliefs, philosophy or knowledge (unless this is actually requested).
Rely on the sheer amount of experience you have in undertaking a task or doing a job. We all know people who have been doing a job for many years, but who are ineffective and inefficient.
Write a thesis on leadership, teamwork, communication, negotiation, change management or any other subject. Telling the reader what you know about a subject is not evidence that you have the skill or ability on the job.
Tell the reader things they already know. Informing the reader about what you think is effective communication or leadership or teamwork and so forth does not provide the reader with the information they need about your experience, skills and abilities.
Assert that you are committed to something. No matter how many times you say you are committed to the principles of EEO, equity, ethical practice and so forth, you can’t convince anyone of this unless you provide examples of experience or achievements which demonstrate you are. Being a member of a minority group does not mean you are committed to EEO.
There is no point in being invited to interviews if what you say and how you say it don't match the expectations your resume has set.
Many clients tell me they will be fine once they get to the interview only to find they don’t always get as far as their experience, achievements and fit with the job suggest they should. [read more about interview coaching]
After a couple of hours and a relatively modest investment, you will have learned invaluable techniques and approaches that will give you the competitive edge you need. It’s a matter of covering all bases and properly managing your risks.
We identify where you really need to focus and concentrate on the few essential elements that contribute most to success.
I won't provide you with a set of standard responses and phrases - there are countless books and articles which will provide you with those. At an interview, you need to present yourself in the best possible way. Most of us do not have the acting skills or confidence needed to consistently pass ourselves off as something we are not…not to a skilled interviewer. Nor should we. We’ll regret it.
I won’t give you a script. A script only works when you know what the other person will say and do. (There are other web sites advertising clairvoyants.)
You won’t get a list of the "do’s" and "don'ts" of interviews or interview "tips" - you can read books and articles on that. In any event, It's almost impossible to remember tips in the heat of the moment and they make you seem artificial and awkward.
The most effective approach is to be the best that you can be because that's what the employer will be buying and because that’s all you’ve got to offer. An integrated and authentic presentation of you at your best will achieve the best possible outcome.
My interview coaching session will help ensure that you are able to deliver your best possible performance. There are no second chances. No second takes. It’s a live performance every time.
As they say in the classics, the tough get going. More and more frequently over the past several months I have been working with people who have been retrenched. I don’t know of an industry which hasn’t been affected by recent and ongoing economic events. There’s a lot of anger, frustration and blame out there. People who were in what they thought were secure careers with a bright future are suddenly without security and the future seems bleak. Retrenchment packages offered by many employers are only enough to keep people afloat for a few months or, in many cases, a few weeks. And because of this, competition for the jobs that are available is getting more and more intense and the need to get back into work quickly is paramount in people’s thoughts.
To continue reading click here. (Will start downloading a pdf file)
When you engage me to develop your resume or your responses to selection criteria, we’ll follow a process which makes it as easy as possible for you. You won’t need to make appointments for personal visits or have extended phone consultations either during or outside business hours. Instead, you decide when you want to allocate the time to provide the input I will need.
The time frames below are indicative only and may vary according to my workload at the time. Where possible, time frames may be negotiated around your job application deadlines.
If you already have a resume
1. Your existing resume will be overhauled to produce a first draft: the information contained in your resume is re-worked, re-organised and re-formatted to ensure that its current contents are organised, expressed and presented in the best possible way. It becomes a professional, appealing, crisp and easily read document.
2. Questions will be incorporated throughout the draft to obtain additional information from you about your experience, expertise, achievements and the challenges and issues you have faced. The perspective of a potential employer or an executive recruitment consultant is adopted to ensure that your new resume will give them the type, level and depth of information and the insight they will need to develop the appropriate perception of your capacity to contribute in the roles in which you are interested.
3. The draft containing the questions is emailed to you as a Word document.
4. You respond to the questions contained in the draft and return it via email.
5. Your responses are re-worked, synthesised, edited and integrated to finalise the document and the final draft is sent to you for approval.
6. Necessary additional adjustments and fine tuning are then made.
If you do not have a resume
A template to enable you to provide information about your career will be sent to you via email in Word format. You can then provide the information requested in the template and send it back by email.
This document then becomes your ‘existing’ resume and the above process is then followed.
I recommend allowing 6 - 8 business days for the entire process. If you need to submit an application more urgently, I can often accommodate urgent assignments.
Resume Overhaul - A re-write, re-format and re-design of your resume to ensure that it provides employers and recruitment consultants with the information they need in the way they need it so you can confidently compete for the best jobs in the best organisations where the competition is toughest.
Selection Criteria - Your responses to selection criteria will be composed in a compelling and persuasive way to maximise your chances of convincing selection panels that you have what it takes to contribute at the next level.
Interview Coaching - You will rapidly learn a unique framework to ensure you are fully prepared for interviews and techniques that enable you to manage the interview process to your best advantage, founded on the approaches adopted by highly successful candidates.
Resume Update (updating a resume that I have prepared for you during the past three or four years) - Updating your resume ensures you will always be prepared for career opportunities if you want to leave your current employer, if your job becomes redundant, if your employer goes belly up or if your employer merges with another organisation and you no longer feel that you fit with the new culture or with your new boss (or both).
LinkedIn Profile Overhaul - A LinkedIn Profile is virtually a must have. It should be designed to optimise your chances of being 'seen' by the people you want to see it. While it should be tightly aligned with the content of your resume, there are some subtle and not so subtle differences in the way your experience and accomplishments should be expressed, the tone and the level of detail.
* A Resume Update inolves updating a resume I have already developed for you within the past three or four years. Otherwise, the appropriate service is a Resume Overhaul.
All resume development services include a cover letter template accompanied by detailed guidelines to enable you to prepare cover letters for any opportunity. Many clients tell me that this template is invaluable.
If you would like to move ahead now, there are two options: Secure Online Payment or Direct Deposit.
1. Secure Online Payment
First select your Occupational Level (see the Fee Table above). Then select the service or services you want within that Occupation Level and click the Add to Cart button. You will then be taken to a secure online shopping cart where you can complete the payment process.
2. Direct Deposit
You can deposit directly into our bank account and send me a completed Payment Confirmation Form (link below).
Once you have engaged me, you have agreed to pay the full fee. No refunds are made after you have authorised or made payment, unless I am unable to deliver the service.
"I forwarded the application on Tuesday evening, I had a call from the consultant today and have an interview next week." - Erica
"I found your service invaluable. I was able to secure a role on my first interview."
"Thank you for making me look a thousand times better on paper. I was really impressed with the style of the CV and your attention to detail with the selection criteria" - Leonie
"Let me tell you I fell off my seat, and now that I'm back on it I can tell you how impressed I am with your work. I actually am a different person on paper. Thank you!!!"
"Late last year you wrote a selection criteria for me for a position with ...I just thought I'd let you know that I was successful in getting an interview and also getting the job. There were 29 applications and 8 people were interviewed. The panel advised me that my written application scored the highest points."
"Once again, I sincerely thank you for your assistance and please accept my praise for your professionalism, skill and people skills. In the short association we have had I have become very impressed."
"Tom, I forwarded the application on Tuesday evening, I had a call from the consultant today and have an interview next week...After the interview with the recruitment consultant I will talk to you about interview coaching, I can handle a consultant but have never had to front a board." - Ritchie
Here you can see the original resume and the overhauled version. The comparison between the two can provide insight and principles you can apply to your resume.
1. Senior Manager – Financial Services
Case study background
Stewart Tucker has worked in several senior management roles in a top tier Australia financial services institution. While he enjoys and excels in his current role, a re-structure which may impede his progress is underway. After five years with this organisation, Stewart decided it was time to discreetly see what other opportunities might be available. [continue reading]
Here's a senior manager who has a superb track record of outstanding achievements in everything he's touched, but it's not evident from his resume. Most people take their achievements somewhat for granted. But your resume is no place to be modest. There is a fine line between bragging about your accomplishments and presenting them for what they are really worth, which in Stewart's case is quite something. This resume needed to capture his real value to the organisations for which he's worked. The Stewart I spoke with and the Stewart in the original resume are two different people.
Conclusion following overhaul It was important to reflect the candidate's personality and basic approach to business in the resume. Stewart is no nonsense, crisp and all business in the best possible way. He is an achiever and gets to the point quickly.
Although Stewart has been a senior manager for over 13 years, everything important about him is contained in just over three pages. I collapsed the three government roles he held over a five year period into a couple of succinct paragraphs, enough to appreciate that he made a real difference. The new resume presents an air of quiet confidence, efficiency, control and economy of words. It positions him as someone focused on what's important. His achievements are of such stature that they need little explanation. Any employer or recruiter will recognise someone of substance, purpose and competence.
What Stewart said: "I drafted my original resume with an eye to brevity, focusing on key skills and activities. I think it was a reasonable effort, but not a very exciting document.
"I was impressed with the visual impact of the new layout and the structure of the document. Putting the Career Overview and Capabilities, and then Key Achievements up front made my resume more impressive at a glance, rather than having to wade through less compelling content.
"I found the content in Career Overview and Achievements very good. I've always tended to under-sell my achievements, but Tom had no such problem! He also effectively structured the Achievements to coincide with the key elements of my capabilities.
"I'll use this resume from now on. It's a marketing document that highlights key competencies with brief but accurate information. It's eye catching, and tells the reader in one glance what's on offer."
2. Senior Marketing Executive - FMCG and Pharmaceutical
Case study background
After building a successful marketing career in the UK and Thailand, Winnie Nguyen moved to Australia. Her brand building experience meant she was soon creating a profitable "own brand" for a major Australian grocery organisation. Winnie has subsequently worked as a management consultant in best practice, advising major FMCG and pharmaceutical companies as to how they could improve their sales and marketing processes. [continue reading]
Positioning is everything. Winnie's original resume did not position her properly. The description of her role as general manager for a consulting firm only discussed the consulting assignments in which she was involved. It did not properly capture her role in building and developing the business - otherwise her role would have been more aptly described as senior consultant. Another problem was that Winnie did not highlight her achievements in the role, which, as the overhaul shows, were considerable. The rest of her resume took more space, words and therefore time to get through than was necessary. Her achievements were not fully reflected and the value and impact of those achievements would be lost on many readers.
Conclusion following overhaul Winnie's new resume is a shorter, tighter, crisper document revealing the value she's added to organisations, the stature of the roles she has held and eliminating the superfluous information. It also highlights all of her achievements under two clear headings. Winnie's key areas of expertise are listed and backed up by evidence of solid achievement. I also took the emphasis off her most recent role because Winnie felt it did not reflect her true capabilities. Her previous roles were much more representative of her ability. Re-packaging the same information in a different format and using a punchier style can make a substantial difference.
What Winnie said: "I'm very happy with my new resume, and with Tom's comments. The resume he has created clearly communicates the strength and depth of my strategic and brand building skills developed in high profile companies.
"It also positions me as a senior manager with a high degree of creativity, who can manage and create profitable change opportunities for my employer."
3. Account Manager - Publishing
Case study background
Melissa Bleeker is an Account Manager with experience developing and managing the day-to-day relationships with clients in her region. Melissa and I worked on a resume which highlights her range of work experience as well as detailing achievements and responsibilities, rather than just tasks. Take a look at the before and after files to get the complete picture. [continue reading]
It is not necessary to include High School education unless you are a recent graduate. Even then, the value is doubtful. After all, if you have a degree, where you went to high school is not really important.
Melissa’s original resume provided a list of duties. Most employers and recruitment consultants will have a fair grasp of the kind of tasks involved in the jobs for which they are recruiting. The duties for each type of job are usually quite generic and would apply to most jobs of that type. To make yourself distinctive, provide an indication of what you are accountable for achieving or ensuring - that is, the value added by the job to the business of the employer.
The original resume did not provide any indication of what Melissa achieved in each job, what value she added to the organisations for which she worked or what contributions she made to those organisations. Employers are interested in what you can do for them. A good indicator of this is what you have done for others. Achievements don't have to be quantitative, but they should be tangible in some way and the benefits of the achievements to the organisation should be clear.
In addition, Melissa worked in a number of short term contract roles for several organisations over a 15 month period. However, there was no indication in the resume as to what she did or what her job title was. Employers and recruitment consultants will want to know what you did in this type of job as well as what you did in longer term roles. There is no need to go into detail. A job title will often suffice.
It is only necessary to include voluntary positions, honorary roles or school achievements if you have little work experience or if these roles relate to the positions for which you are applying. Some people believe that including them indicates something about the person and their values. However, they can be mis-interpreted and there is no evidence that being captain of a sports team in Year 12 (16 years ago) has any impact on your ability to manage a national sales force today.
Conclusion following overhaul The new resume provides information about the employer for which Melissa is currently working. This is important if the organisation is not well known. However, if you worked for an organisation that is a household name or would be highly recognisable in its industry, there is no need to include it. It is useful to an employer or recruitment consultant so that they obtain an understanding of the environments or contexts in which you have worked. This is also beneficial when you have worked internationally or plan to submit your resume overseas.
The overhaul also indicates what Melissa achieved that added value to her employer. Achievements should be expressed in unambiguous terms with which an employer or recruitment consultant can readily identify. It will also ensure that the benefit or impact of the achievement is clear to the reader.
I have seen numerous resumes where people say that one of their achievements was that they conducted a review of an organisation's operations. This is not an achievement in itself. It is a task which formed part of the person's responsibilities. The achievement is what happened as a result of the review.
Rather than just listing the tasks the person does, the overhaul specifies what they were/are accountable for. In this case, two things Melissa is accountable for in her current role are:
1. optimising new business opportunities, customer satisfaction and loyalty within a specified market; and
2. expanding the company's client base using referrals and proactive approaches.
This says to a prospective employer that they can rely on this person to win new business, keep customers happy and retain their business because that is what they were held to account for and that is how their performance was measured. This is much more powerful and persuasive than saying, "Business to business sales".
It further says to an employer that they can rely on this person to expand the client base, not just through referrals, but also that they are prepared to get out into the market place to win the business from the competition.
Accountabilities are a reflection of how important your job is to the employer. Make it sound as important as it really is. They are also an indication of how your performance is measured. In this case, new business won, customer loyalty and satisfaction, referrals converted and number of cold calls would be measures used to assess Melissa's performance. It gives an employer an idea of the level of her performance when they connect the accountabilities with her achievements. "They are accountable for winning new business and here is the new business they have won. I want to see this person!"
"I have to say this resume far exceeds my expectations and I am absolutely stoked with the quality of the service provided. I have hardly any time on my hands these days and it was all taken care of. Fab investment... You can be guaranteed I will be recommending your service to friends and colleagues." - Nick
"Many thanks for your sterling effort on my behalf. Your work certainly exceeded my expectations. I was delighted with it. You managed with admirable style and chutzpah to transform my dreary dossier into a pithy pertinent and readable Professional Profile. It’s a pleasure to do business with you!" - Jean
"You have successfully assisted me through revamping my cv on several occasions over the past 2-3 years. Recently, a number of people have sought details of someone who can sort out their respective CV’s – I have provided them with your details." - Craig
"I did get the job. You did a terrific job with my resume and I will warmly recommend your services. Thank you very much."
"It takes a lot for someone to impress me, and you have definitely done that. I can completely justify the money for having this work done. I can assure you that when anyone I know needs the same service, I will be giving your details to them with the highest recommendation." - Tristan
"After the first day using the new CV, I am getting phone calls … The money is certainly worth it. Let me just thank you for bringing me up that long list of candidates. I will definitely spread the word." - Peter
The primary function of a resume is to secure an invitation to an interview. But that's not all it can do. It can also provide you with a competitive edge at the interview.
Because your worst enemy in an interview is time, optimising that limited time is critical. Many interviews devote 50% or more of the precious, never to be repeated time to clarifying your experience and achievements rather than being a discussion about your ability to contribute to the organisation.
Hiring managers and recruitment consultants are interested in finding out the purpose or value or contribution of what you did, not just the tasks you undertook or the duties of your jobs. They often already know the types of duties and tasks that comprise the jobs you have done because they are relatively standard between organisations. They want to know what makes you special.
Many people think that a powerful, well written resume is enough to give them the edge needed to secure a interview. While an outstanding resume is absolutely necessary, it may not always be sufficient. Consider which of the following factors apply to you in determining whether you will be amongst the chosen few.
Career Direction - Why External Diagonal Moves are Rare
An external diagonal move occurs when someone moves into a more senior or broader role in a different organisation in either the same or a different industry. For example, if a Marketing Manager in an organisation moves to become a General Manager or Chief Operating Officer or CEO in a different organisation, I call this a diagonal move. They are rare. Most of the time people move either vertically or horizontally.
"...sorry about the delay in getting back to you. The upshot is - I'm absolutely delighted with what you did on my CV and have already used it with positive results (most recently with Morgan and Banks). If you ever want to refer a client to me for comment, I'd be more than happy to provide very positive feedback on the value of your work."
"Thanks for your wonderful resume. I’ve had more interviews with your help in the past two weeks than I’ve ever had."
"Firstly, let me say you wrote an impressive letter for my application which scored me an interview. As it turned out, the job was not for me. However, with your guidance I am now more focused and I would like your help again in applying for roles more in line with my aspirations."
"This is excellent, money well spent. Everything looks good." - Renee
"All I have to say is absolutely outstanding. There is no way I could have done anything like that myself. This I think is money well spent, and I assure you I shall be passing on your name and contact number to friends. I can not thank you enough." - Angela
"Great work! Really pleased with the final result. Worth every cent." - Daksh
"Thank you for a job well done, I am inspired by your cover letter which I think was absolutely superb."
"I find your services very good value for money and will recommend you to anyone who seeks guidance."
"Many thanks for your sterling effort on my behalf. Your work certainly exceeded my expectations. I was delighted with it. You managed with admirable style and chutzpah to transform my dreary dossier into a pithy pertinent and readable Professional Profile. It’s a pleasure to do business with you!"