What Australia-China Companies Really Want on Your Resume
Resume writing can be a tricky road for new graduates to navigate. With so many conflicting opinions it’s hard to know what recruiters are looking for. Last Sunday at the Australia-China Careers Fair in Shanghai, we interviewed several recruiters, career advisors and various company employees to get their advice on how to write a killer resume.
Please note the polls and interviews we conducted were purely out of self-interest and have no relation to the university.
The number one question we all wanted an answer to was ‘Should the length of a resume be one or two pages?’ There were a lot of different answers and justifications, however, the overall poll results showed 67% preferred one-paged resumes. Although, not everyone polled was from HR, the winner was clear. Interestingly, most participants were able to answer immediately, and there were few who didn’t have a clear choice.
So, what’s so good about a one-pager?
One-page resumes are short, simple, and efficient. We were told recruiters can scan from a hundred to a thousand resumes per day spending less than one minute on each. They don’t have time to read unnecessary details. Furthermore, a recurring comment was being able to concise your experience into one page shows that you’re able to summarise and identify key information.
It was commonly said that if someone with five years’ experience can fit everything on one page, then there’s no reason a new graduate can’t. It was recommended that the one-page rule should be kept until up you have up to three, five or even ten years of experience. Additionally, it was said there’s a chance a second page could get lost.
‘It’d be a shame to miss out on a position because you couldn’t market yourself right.’
Many recruiters who preferred two-page resumes felt it difficult to sell yourself and capture your personality in just one page. ‘One page often leaves me wanting more, whereas two pages gives me the whole story.’ A career advisor commented that although most first pages look similar, it’s the second page that differentiates you.
However, it was advised to only use two pages if you had the relevant experience to fill it out; more doesn’t always mean better. Also, if you are to go down the two-page route and are handing out physical resumes, it was recommended to print it double-sided.
A suggested format by a recruiter to get the benefits of both options is to summarise everything on the first page and then list details on the second page. Another recruiter also recommended to use a one-page resume initially which leaves a strong impression and then after your application progresses to send more details through. Regardless, of what format you choose, it was strongly advised by everyone to never go over 2 pages.
On a side note, during the poll a noticeable pattern was that often when Chinese-Australian companies recommended 2-page resumes they meant for the first page to be a Chinese version and the second page to be an English version. This shows competency in both languages. Also, feedback showed that although China and Australia both accept two-page resumes, the US is always one page.
In terms of layout, keep it simple and concise. Bullet points are logical and visible, and useful for summarising large chunks of text. When asked about whether it was better to have a compact 1 pager or a nicely spaced 2 pager, one worker in the Finance industry preferred the former. However, the importance of having nice spacing was mentioned by numerous other recruiters and career advisors.
One recruiter also provided us with a template for a concise one-page resume. The recommended sections in order are: name, contact details, education including year of graduation and major, internships/ experience, and activities including personal interests and technical skills.
Skills & Experience
Feedback showed its important to add value when listing skills. Consider adding a single statement describing how you demonstrated the skill and what value it has to the company. One recruiter advised to even detail a relevant project including role, background, purpose and any certificates or awards.
When describing experience try to show connections to the company/ role to give your application a strong advantage. Also, be sure to include your relevant experience as one recruiter mentioned not completing an internship could be a warning flag. Just make sure the experience you highlight is relevant to the role as some recruiter said they didn’t care if you ‘worked in a coffee shop 3 years ago’.
A careers advisor also recommended that a way to give your application an edge is by participating in relevant extracurricular activities that don’t contribute towards academic credit. ‘This shows initiative, commitment, emotional intelligence, and that you’re willing to go the extra mile.’
We all know how important tailoring each application to the job is. To highlight in seconds to the recruiter why you’re a suitable match, consider placing a sentence or two in your introduction which succinctly details your fit with the role/ company.
A careers advisor from an Australian university said, ‘it’s vital to understand what the company wants and how you can fit into that’. For example, she once saw an applicant who only emphasised their impressive leadership experience, however, leadership wasn’t a focus in the job description. By forgetting to address the desired skills, it implied that they didn’t understand the position’s requirements.
Furthermore, when unsure about application specifics, be sure to get in touch with the contact person on the job listing. They often have close relations with the panel or are even on it yet are only contacted by 5% of applicants. It can give you an advantage as it lays the foundations for building rapport with the recruiter and can make interviewing that little bit more comfortable.
To add or not to add? What to do with references, hobbies and photo.
Although personal interests were considered the least important part of your resume, the general consensus was if you have the room then add it. You never know if that’ll be what differentiates you from other applicants as hobbies such as sport show positive qualities like commitment, dedication and a hard-working attitude. It can also potentially form a connection with interviewers. Just be sure not to go overboard.
With regards to including a photo, there were conflicting answers with no clear preference. For references, it was suggested by one advisor that referees aren’t usually contacted. Therefore, it’s alright to have ‘references available upon request’ unless specifically asked for in the job description.
There are a lot of different opinions out there on what makes the perfect resume. The key points to take away from this are:
· 67% preferred one-page resumes, however, there were strong opinions for both sides, so when unsure get in touch with the recruiter for application specifics
· Market yourself and differentiate yourself from the rest but don’t go overboard
· Be succinct and only include relevant content and experience
· Back-up your skills with examples to show how you can add value to the company
· Understand the job description and tailor your resume accordingly