Is your resume 2021 ready? Answer ten questions to find out!

Resume writing is a task that many people feel overwhelmed with because it is unclear what potential employers and recruiters are looking for in a CV. With so many conflicting pieces of information about how to write a resume, no wonder it’s all too easy to reach for that dust-covered resume from five years ago, add a few lines about your current role and email it off into cyberspace hoping for the best.


Fortunately, our job here at the Elite Collective is to ensure professional resumes are competitive and ready for the 2021 job market. And with more than 30 years of experience writing resumes between us, we’ve heard our fair share of conflicting resume rules, “I thought that a resume should…” or “I heard that resumes always…”.  Now more than ever, it is vital to make sure that your resume meets the expectations of today’s employers and not the resume rules your best friend’s, boyfriend’s, cousin’s aunty told you about.


We have come together to list ten common statements we hear about resumes and created a free checklist for you to assess if your resume is 2021 ready!


Download our 2021 Resume Readiness checklist and keep reading for tips and tricks for writing and improving your resume.

1. Any resume template will do!

Did you know that it only takes 7.4 seconds for a recruiter to review a resume and decide whether or not to look further? Just like choosing what to wear for a date, selecting a professional resume format can be the difference in whether you advance to the next stage.


What makes a professional, well-presented and competitive resume has been heavily researched over the years and focuses on a clean format that makes it easy to find relevant information quickly. As with any job application, if a company requests a particular template to be used or format the CV in a specific way, make sure the resume you submit follows the instructions! Otherwise, the following suggestions may just help get you that next interview offer.


Resume formatting tips

  • Headings are critical to create sections and make it easy to find key information quickly
  • Font type and size for headings and text should be consistent throughout the document
  • Essential skills and qualifications must be easily identifiable
  • White space helps to draw the recruiters eye to relevant information
  • Don’t make margins too small in an attempt to reduce the number of pages
  • Bullet points enable you to share information succinctly without needing paragraphs
  • Keep images and graphics to a minimum unless relevant to the position
  • A little bit of colour draws the eye – too much, and it can be overwhelming


Still not sure you can nail a clean resume format? We have a tried and true DIY Resume Template available, designed by recruitment professionals to get your resume formatting and information right.

2. One page resumes are better

One page (or even two page!) resumes are often quoted to us as hard and fast rules. But unless a job application requests an exact resume length, our experience is that there is no set number of pages your resume should be. Research from shows that 79% of employers prefer shorter resumes, but this should not be at the cost of removing valuable information that shows you are an ideal fit for the role.


Several factors will determine what length your resume should be to catch a recruiter’s eye effectively. Career length will reflect the number of pages in your resume to a point. Resumes of people new to the workforce are generally less than two pages, and those with 30 plus year careers will have longer resumes. However, the work experience listed should be relevant to the current role being applied for. A recruiter doesn’t care that you worked at McDonald’s as a teen if you apply for a Project Management role (unless the position is in the fast-food industry!)


In addition to career length and relevant past roles, the industry and position being applied for will dictate your resume length. Creative roles often use graphical, one page resumes backed with a portfolio to showcase their work. Trying this for a university role, however, will not land an interview offer! Instead, a longer resume with a list of published work is what’s needed. Make sure you have researched and are aware of any industry nuances for your resume.

3. Work experience older than ten years must be removed

Just like resume length, there are no hard and fast rules that determine what work experience should be included in your resume – unless the job advertisement requires specific information. For those who thrive on rules and structure, relevancy is key.


Do your previous positions have skills that are asked for in the position description? And how many past roles have examples of those abilities? It is important to demonstrate that you have a skill and apply it in different contexts in your resume, but there is no need for that skill across five roles. Use this space to differentiate your responsivities and achievements instead. There will be a natural line when the skills from previous jobs are replicating more recent roles. These roles can then either be removed from the resume or added as single lines, including the position title, company and dates at the bottom of the career history.


For roles that were a long time ago but are still relevant, add a summary line to your CV profile. This statement would explain why the role is relevant to the job you are applying for and provides a good topic for interview discussions. A great example is a recent client who worked in project management and applied for a similar role in a completely different industry. However, they had completed an internship in that industry 20 years ago. Introducing their skills and knowledge of that industry in their resume summary increased the likelihood of a hiring manager wanting to know more and asking them to interview.

4. References must be listed on a resume

References on resumes is something we get asked about every week! When a job application asks for referees to be listed, you should always include your references are on your resume. But what about when they aren’t asked for? One question you should ask about every piece of information on your resume, including references, is, “Will this information help me to get an interview?” The following benefits and disadvantages of including references in your resume below will help you decide what is best for your unique situation.

Benefits and disadvantages of including references in your resume below will help you decide what is best for your unique situation.

If references won’t be included on your resume, a heading or line saying “References available at interview on request” is a quick way to address the topic and indicate you have referees available if required.  And don’t forget to always ask your referees for their current contact details and permission before sharing their information!

5. Achievements should only be used for selection criteria

This is a common statement we hear from clients when we ask them about their achievements to include in their resume. Yet achievements are often the critical piece of information in a resume that will progress someone to interview!

When a recruiter looks at applications for an advertised role, they will often have 20 resumes on their desk with the same qualifications, skills, and work history. Achievements are your way of standing out from the crowd to show not just what you did in a role but also how you added value to a company.


For example, who would you hire: a call centre operator responsible for taking inbound calls and making sales, or someone in the same position who consistently exceeded their monthly KPI’s for product sales and customer service? Or what about choosing between one application that managed projects, and another that saved $10,000 in costs through effective project management? Altering your resume to become achievements focused will not only differentiate your application but give you more room to expand on your examples in your selection criteria or pitch.

6. Plain text and PDF resumes are best

This confusion comes from the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) during recruitment. ATS software is used to assist companies to manage the multi-step process during recruiting campaigns, such as scheduling interviews, collecting information and checking references.


ATS is also used to scan resumes to see how well they match the job advertisement. This is a popular method with large companies that receive a LOT of applications per job advertisement. It means resumes that don’t match the job specs are filtered out of progressing further before a human reads them – IF the recruiter uses that functionality and tool. Other companies have different processes and use the ATS scanning feature to highlight which resumes to prioritise reviewing, based on how well they match with keywords.


Like any software, ATS has limitations on the types and formats of information it can scan. Graphics, tables, columns, and even PDF’s can cause resumes to be read incorrectly. As a result, many people defaulted to plain, often boring looking text Word documents to ensure resumes were readable by ATS programs.


So how can you ensure your resume is readable by ATS systems? There are a few things to check:

  • Always submit resumes in Word formats or .txt format unless the application specifically asks for a PDF document to ensure the ATS software can read your entire resume. (However – some ATS can read .pdf document – this is where it gets convoluted and the myths creep in. I get it. )
  • Remove tables from your resume, and use a maximum of two or three columns so that the scanning software knows which text is related.
  • Don’t go too wild with super heavy graphic design details and imagery, as this can throw the scanning software for a loop and cause difficulty converting text.


And finally, make sure that your resume format is readable and eye-catching for humans too. There is no point in making it through an ATS program to have a recruiter discard your resume because the font was too hard to read!

7. I must include my photo on my resume

Unless you are applying for acting or modelling roles, photos on resumes are not recommended for Australian job applications for four good reasons. Firstly, images are not ATS friendly. Including a photo on your resume can confuse the scanning of the ATS and may omit important information on your resume.


Secondly, photos take up space! Resumes should be concise with good formatting. The room a headshot takes up is valuable writing lines that could be an extra achievement or expansion of your resume profile. These images also distract from the information you are trying to get across in your CV. Humans naturally look at pictures first, and looking at a headshot takes up several of the 7.4 seconds of the initial impression a recruiter has of your application.


And finally, many companies and recruiters are aware of discrimination and unconscious bias that can occur during the recruitment process and have processes to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, this is not all companies. To avoid unintentional bias or discrimination of your application, we recommend that you avoid including a personal headshot.

8. My skills make up for poor spelling and grammar on my resume

You may be the most skilled applicant a hiring manager has looked at for the day, but a resume full of poor spelling and grammar could result in your job application being binned. Whether you work at a fast-food store and write a note to the manager to order new stock or a data analytics firm that provides security reports, clear and understandable written communication is essential.

Good spelling and grammar on a resume demonstrates your communication abilities and other soft skills such as attention to detail and pride in presentation. This is particularly important when spelling the names of companies or people, and having good spelling and grammar actively showcases these skills, which many employers assess when recruiting.

Don’t fret if you’re not a spelling expert! Most document programs such as Word now provide comprehensive spelling and grammar checks, and online programs such as Grammarly can be used even on your emails and social media to scan and correct grammatical errors. If you notice a spelling mistake after submitting there is no need to panic. So long as the rest of your resume is correct, chances are a single mistake will remain unnoticed or have less influence.

9. Don't include gaps, such as parental leave or illness, in your work history

If you’ve taken time off work to have kids, care for a family member, recover from an illness or even taken a sabbatical year, potential employers prefer honesty over omitting the facts. A simple statement explaining what the gap was for and that you are interested in returning to the workforce can be included in your profile. You don’t need to discuss the details or the why of a gap in your work history. But an employer will want to know that you are ready to work and that you still have the relevant skills and knowledge for the position you are applying for.


We have written about parents looking to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to raise their families, and the principles for addressing any gap in your career are similar. Did you learn any new skills or stay up to date with your industry and profession? Perhaps you took an online course one night from LinkedIn or attended an annual industry event to connect. Make sure you include these courses and activities in your education section on your resume.


Another way to showcase skills and relevancy between formal work history is to consider other activities or volunteer work you participated in. Perhaps you helped out a friend with a bit of accounting, wrote a newsletter for a school or coached a sports team. These examples also have relevant experience and skills that you can include in your resume and discuss at the interview.

10. No one will find out if I exaggerate my role

Speaking of employers preferring the truth, it’s pretty likely you will be found out if you exaggerate or lie on your resume. Reference and qualification checks, assessments, social media and police clearances are all steps that occur during the hiring process to ensure that the person represented in the resume is who they really are.


Plus, integrity is a value that many employers look for in applicants. Exaggerations or white lies are not only embarrassing but also hurt your reputation. They could even result in the withdrawal of an interview or job offer if the information shared is about a critical qualification or skill. Many companies keep notes on previous applications, so a dishonest application could permanently prevent you from ever being employed there.


What can you do if you don’t have the exact skills or experiences listed in the job advertisement? It is best to be honest and upfront. Honesty may even work to your advantage if you explain that you are eager to be upskilled or have demonstrated skills in a similar role in the past. Employers write job advertisements like a wish list of the perfect person for a position but understand that this ideal applicant doesn’t always exist, and training may be needed to fill in gaps. And remember, you don’t know who else has applied for the role and what their skills are – you could meet only two-thirds of the requirements but be the most qualified applicant and get the job with your honesty!

Think your resume may be out of date?

How did your current resume go against our 10 point checklist for resume readiness? We hope you scored a 10 out of 10! But if you didn’t and would like assistance rewriting your resume to be competitive and compelling, you can make a free enquiry and receive feedback on your resume.


If you’re interested in rewriting your resume in full, you can also purchase our DIY resume kit, which includes a template with helpful prompts and an explanatory video. Alternatively, check out our Facebook page, where we regularly post tips and tricks to help you with resume writing. 


We’ve been writing resumes and supporting clients Australia-wide since 2016, and we have a reputation for digging deep to distil a powerful value proposition for every client. Whether you are an executive in Brisbane, a public servant in Canberra,  a Melbourne graduate seeking their first role, or an Australian Defence Partner based in Townsville, we’ve got you covered. We will unpack your professional story and help you approach your job search with CONFIDENCE


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