Resume Writing: What Employers Want to See?

November 5, 2002

Contemporary advice on resume writing appears to fly in the face of what employers actually want to read in a candidate’s CV, according to a survey of employers.

Aussie Resumes, a professional CV writing service, surveyed 2,000 organisations specifically to ask employers what they wanted to see included in an applicant’s resume.

Senior writer Tara West said key areas included resume length, including a birth date and how referees should be presented.

The majority of employers rejected the accepted wisdom that CVs should be no longer than two pages. Ms West said 82 per cent of respondents regarded the two-page resume as an American format that did not provide Australian employers with the detail they required. She said that the preferred length was three to four pages and up to six pages for a top-level executive.

Birth date is another prickly issue. A growing number of job seekers are choosing not to include their date of birth on their resume, as is their right under privacy and anti-discrimination legislation.

However, only three per cent of the employers surveyed said they didn’t want to see a candidate’s birth date.*

The rest most certainly did. One employer said the reason was that “if applicants don’t supply their date of birth most employers assume they are hiding something negative.”

The Aussie Resumes survey also revealed that 75 per cent of the employers like to read an applicant’s “career objective” in their resume but only if it’s the “right” objective for the role on offer.

The inclusion of full referee details was another issue raised by the survey. Despite the fact that it has become commonplace for candidates to write “referees available upon request” to protect the privacy of those willing to provide them with references, this does not suit many employers.

Ms West said that of the 2,000 employers surveyed, only one found this practice acceptable. All the others wanted to see a list of referees spelt out clearly on the resume.

Finally, you should create a new version of your resume each time you apply for a job to ensure it’s tailored to the specific requirements of the role you are going after. “Employers have told us they don’t like to receive generic resumes,” says Ms West. “They do like an applicant to spend some time structuring their resume to suit the position being advertised. Of particular interest to employers are the applicant’s key competencies and career objectives,” she said. “These details should directly relate to the position being advertised.”

“Also, the cover letter needs to address the specific requirements in the actual advertisement but at the same time be brief and to the point with no waffle. “It is very important that candidates check the job ad carefully to see if a job description or selection criteria is available,” advises Ms West. If these documents are available Ms West urges all job seekers to take the time to get them and then carefully tailor both their cover letter and resume to the key points outlined.

By Kate Southam, editor of

* Editor’s note: HR managers know the law about including personal details such as your birth date. If you want to leave your birth date off your CV, then go for it. Sadly, it’s a fact of life that some employers do discriminate along age lines. Shame on them!

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