your resume is, in most instances, the first impression you will make on a potential employer.

Top resumes that attract the most attention (and ultimately land you the most interviews) are those that outline your achievements and value to the company in a short, sharp and effective way.

Take into consideration the fact that often hiring managers are swamped by hundreds of resumes for any one job, and they may only have a couple of minutes to scan each one.

This is why it is imperative that the information you list on your resume is concise, easy to read, accurate, and follows a reverse-chronological order, i.e. listing your most recent job history and education first.

In particular, employers will be looking for the following essential information about you:

  • contact details
  • personal/career objectives
  • key strengths
  • employment history/work experience
  • education & training
  • referees
Woman standing behind a cash register.
Woman standing behind a cash register.

your contact details

Your name, address, phone number and email address should be displayed prominently at the top of your resume.

It is best practice to use your full name (not a nickname), and if you have also spent time cultivating your brand on social networks, it is here that you can provide links to your social profiles (e.g. LinkedIn).

personal/career objective

This is a chance for you to detail in a few concise sentences your career aspirations and how they relate to your current qualifications.

Please explain why you are looking for the next opportunity (example: you want a new challenge, you want to upskill etc.), exactly what you are looking for in your next job (list the actual job titles) and why it is that you are qualified to apply for these roles.

A common mistake is to forget to include 'what's in it' for the hiring manager - this is your chance to sell yourself and outline what is unique about you and how your potential employer will benefit if they hire you.

for example:

Having worked within the (sector) industry for (x) amount of years, I have extensive experience working as (job title). I am currently seeking a new challenge and exciting work environment where I can utilise my skills (list your skills here) and knowledge (in the areas of x, y z) to drive (x,y,z business objectives).

key strengths

This should be a bullet-point section (up to 10 bullets), which outlines your critical skills and abilities, and can be made up of tangible and intangible skills.

For tangible skills:

  • Think about any computer applications or software packages you may have experience in - PowerPoint/Keynote skills, experience using excel spreadsheets etc.

For your intangible skills:

  • Consider your abilities, such as 'quick learner', 'personable', 'reliable' etc.

top tip

If you are struggling to come up with ideas for the type of skills you have, search on the Randstad jobs board for a job title that matches the ones you are looking for - usually, job descriptions for new roles include a 'candidate attributes' or 'role responsibilities' section.

If you can match your specific skills to those required for the job, this section will be much more compelling to your prospective employer.

for example:

I have advanced skills in Microsoft products, including Excel, Word and Powerpoint.

I have excellent communication skills and experience in face-to-face and phone-based customer service.

work experience

This area is usually the most compelling to a prospective employer and should include a list of all your current and previous employment, including paid and unpaid work. Use strong, precise wording and always be prepared to back up what is written on the resume in your interview.

an excellent format to follow is:

  • Job Title
  • Name of Employer (and the  location and URL)
  • Dates of employment
  • List of key responsibilities and achievements (NB: put yourself in the mind of your potential employer - what type of keywords and critical responsibilities would they be looking for as they scan each resume?
  • Make sure you not only list your day-to-day duties in your current/past roles but also how the business you worked for benefited from your work.

For example, if you were an IT software developer, and one of your critical tasks was to develop a mobile app for the business, you would list 'development of a mobile application which increased sales revenue by x amount' etc.) Also, list awards/recognition you may have received at this company.

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education and training

Don't underestimate the value of outlining your education and qualifications - particularly for those with limited job experience.

Your education and training section can cover anything from university degrees, diploma and certificate courses, industry-specific courses, in-house courses, and any other professional training you may have completed during your career.

  • List your highest qualification first (e.g. BA in communications).
  • Below, list your other qualifications regarding their relevance to the job you are applying for.

For instance, even though your latest qualification might be a fork lift operator certificate, if you are going for a job in marketing, you should list all courses relevant to that role instead.

an excellent format to follow is:

  • Name of degree/diploma/certificate etc.
  • Name of the education institution
  • Location of the education institution
  • Graduation date
  • Any course credits or key achievements about this course (e.g. Finished in the top 5% of class with high distinctions)

professional memberships

Do you belong to any industry associations or hold memberships relevant to the role you are applying for? If so, you can list these here. If you are an accountant and a chartered accountants association member, list them here.

an excellent format to follow is:

  • Name of association
  • Your role/title within the organisation
  • Years/months active within the organisation
  • Any honours received

hobbies and interests (optional)

Many hiring managers now look not just at your skills and experience but also at how you would fare in terms of cultural fit within their organisation.

For this reason, it is sometimes worth including a short list of your hobbies and interests to give them a sense of who you are and what you enjoy doing outside work hours.

You never know - perhaps the hiring manager is an avid fan of salsa dancing, and the fact that you listed this as one of your hobbies and paired with your other skills and experience, perhaps this is something a potential employer sees as a valuable attribute to have.

Whatever your hobbies, if you do decide to include this section, be careful in terms of what you want to divulge - there is always a chance that this section could work against you if the reader dislikes or is threatened by the activities you list.

A woman in her living room writing her blog
A woman in her living room writing her blog


References and referees are usually listed at the end of your resume. This can be a list of around 2 to 3 people you have worked with in the past or present - usually your managers or ex-colleagues.

It’s always essential to include a referee who was your direct manager and a reference of someone who can vouch for you as a colleague or someone you know personally. Always ask for permission before listing someone as a reference.

an excellent format to follow is:

  • Full name of the referee
  • Job Title of referee
  • Company name of the referee
  • Location of company
  • Phone number of referee
  • Email address of a referee

Securing good references (both written and verbal) is an integral part of your job search - the people you list will be called and asked to provide some information on your relationship with them and give an indication of how you performed in your role when they knew you. 

Usually, contact details for referees are not required until the end stages of the recruitment process. So you can provide their reference details on your resume or include a line in this section saying ‘References available upon request’.

Either way, it is customary for prospective employers or recruitment agents to ask your permission first before proceeding to contact the people you list here.

additional hints and tips

Your resume should be considered your shop window, proudly displaying your skills and experience to prospective employers, highlighting your crucial career and educational achievements and compelling the recruiter or hiring manager to request an interview.

It is your number one personal marketing tool. Its purpose is to help you stand out amongst the competition and catch a potential employer’s interest, with the primary objective of being invited for an interview. 

One of the most challenging things about writing a resume is figuring out what makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd and why you would be a good fit for the job.

If you can’t answer these questions yourself, you will have difficulty convincing a prospective employer that you are the one they should hire. So, before you start writing your resume, sit down and make a list of your skills, strengths, interests and experience.

Figure out what makes you unique and how to define your brand.

The most important thing when writing your resume is to make sure that it is relevant and customised to the job you are applying for. It showcases your skills and experience in a way that makes the hiring manager reading it jump out of their chair and call you for an interview.

proofreading and layout are essential.

Before sending out your resume to apply for roles, check that you have no spelling errors and that it is well formatted and easy to read.

  • Search online for ideas on different layout formats and use one which will ensure all of your information is presented in an efficient and eye-catching way using the least amount of pages.
  • Ideally, 2-3 pages are best, but if there is a need to utilise 4-5 pages, that can still be acceptable.
  • You can ask friends, family or even a trusted recruitment consultant for feedback on your resume so you can make continuous improvements.
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No one gets a job based on their resume alone - always remember the primary purpose of the resume is to get you that interview, so do your best to make that happen every time.

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