It’s one of those documents that we know we need to have, even if it can induce stress in even the most accomplished professional, and despite a fair amount of well-intentioned yet conflicting advice going on.
Here’s what I’ve seen work, especially for someone applying for their first media job:
Pick a theme that works well for you, and for the type of job you hope to get
If you’re wanting to work for The Edge or Junkee, pick something a bit bright and edgy. Don’t shy away from graphic elements.
If you want to write for the Australian, or produce at 2GB, stick with a more classic colour palette and fonts. (Think navy and some brighter blues. Or black with a splash of red.)
How does your theme work with your WordPress site and other digital assets?
Can you use similar colours or styles to make everything look cohesive?
If you’re applying for media jobs and hospitality jobs at the same time, no worries – but have two versions of your resume.
Make the important stuff easy to find
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might hire you.
What do they want? Put that front and centre. Make it easy for them to understand where your skills and at, and what you can bring to their organisation.
Use headings effectively.
eg Education. Experience. Expertise.
Under these, use reverse chronological order (ie the most recent thing at the top) UNLESS you have significant gaps in your work and study history. If that’s you, consider a functional resume format instead.
Don’t overwhelm the reader with text.
Short bullet points are much easier to read than a paragraph of text. Use lists.
Keep it short, but not too short
Studies suggest that hiring managers will look at your resume for about six seconds before they make a judgement call. You need to have the relevant information easy to find, and quickly.
I’ve noticed that people starting out in the media industry will often not include enough information, or not enough of the right information.
- Any relevant media experience.
This can be paid work, volunteer work, work experience, a YouTube channel you’ve run in your spare time.
- All of your relevant skills, especially software and online platforms.
Through your TAFE course you’ve learnt a lot of software and hardware. Make sure you list these. Include social media platforms that you’re across. Include software packages that you’ve learnt – even if you’re not the best in the class at it.
- Your relevant subjects at TAFE.
This is a great way to get any keywords into your resume that aren’t already there. Under the course, make a heading like “Subjects included:” and list things that you’ve learnt as relevant to your future job.
- Detail on things that you’ve done that’s not relevant to media.
For example, you’ve worked at the local cafe for X years. Great. Keep that in, it shows that you’re reliable and hard working. But… get rid of the excess details, such as the fact that you opened and closed the cafe, or that you were trained in Safe Food Handling. Save the valuable resume real estate for something else.
- Your age and/or date of birth.
My theory is that you’ll pretty much always too young or too old for the job. Get rid of anything that definitively dates you.
- Anything too old and too irrelevant.
Rule of thumb is nothing (or very, very little) before the year 2000.
(I have exactly one thing on my resume that’s before 2000 – it’s my undergrad degree. I’ve been debating for a while whether to keep it in or take it out, despite being a significant part of my education history. True story.)
- Contact details of your referees.
If you’re doing the right thing by your referee, you’re letting them know every time you’re sending in an application with their name on it… before you know if you’re seriously in the running for the job. Much easier to put “Referees available on request” on your resume.
Added bonus: you can word your referees up after the interview for the sorts of things you want them to emphasise in the reference check.
- Old email addresses that you made when you were 14 and are somewhat less than profesh.
Design hot tips
- Use clear sub-headings that make sense
- Keep fonts consistent – 2 font families maximum
- Keep any design elements consistent – eg. if you’re using bullet points, always use the same ones, and the same size indent and spacing
- Use Canva or similar if you’re not a designer but want something that looks a bit schmick. Some of the templates in Word are also quite decent.
- Consider your digital identity (eg WordPress site, any socials accounts), and keep the look as consistent as possible.
- Keep it 1-2 pages long if you’re starting out in a career.
Maximum 4 pages ever for any reason at all.
Pay particular attention to spelling; your contact details and WordPress site; the names of software.
Take out anything unnecessary.
This might be an individual word, or a whole paragraph. Space on your resume is valuable. Make every single word work for you.
Re-read your resume before you send it in.
Every. Single. Time.