Seeking out your dream career can be a tricky challenge, especially if you’re new to the job market. Fortunately, knowing what hiring managers are looking for can help you craft eye-catching applications that land you interviews – and eventually, the role you want.
Below, we break down the elements of a successful application in 2022; including what not to add on your resume, recommended references, and whether cover letters are still a necessary addition.
What should I avoid putting on my resume?
Unnecessary “filler” details
With recruiters sifting through hundreds of resumes per day, it pays to be as clear, concise, and attention-grabbing in your application as possible. Avoid cluttering your resume with irrelevant employment experiences or a thorough breakdown of your entire job history – instead, focus on the skills and accomplishments most relevant to your role, placing them high up and easily visible on your application.
Hobbies, interests, and transferrable
skills can add to your experiential background if they further demonstrate your capability for the role. Keep these to a minimum, however; you’ll want to maintain attention towards your primary key strengths and abilities.
A wall of text
In a similar vein, avoid crafting a resume with walls of unformatted text. Recruiters often skim through applications in search of the necessary skills and experience they’re after – in fact, over 80%
of Australian employers now use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automatically scan a candidate’s resume for relevant keywords and pre-determined criteria. The system then scores their application, determining whether it warrants the attention of an actual recruiter or HR manager.
Ensure your application is both readable and ATS- friendly by structuring your information in organised sections and bullet lists where necessary. Generic, overused buzzwords are also often advised against – but buzzwords
specific to your industry (and match the key words used in the job listing) may help your resume score higher among ATS scans.
Vague job descriptions
When detailing your accomplishments, strive for specificity. For instance, if you’re an excellent problem-solver,
avoid simply listing this as a key skill – rather, explain how your problem-solving abilities benefited the projects or business outcomes of your previous company. Additionally, be wary of flowery, exaggerated descriptions; instead of claiming how you achieved “outstanding” or “exceptional” results in your past roles, break down your achievements in measurable terms.
This quantifies your accomplishments for potential employers, offering them better evidence of your abilities.
Spelling and grammatical errors
Resumes aren’t just proof of your past skills and experience – they’re also evidence of your writing abilities. Proofreading your application is the simplest yet often overlooked step of the resume-writing process, and can likely make or break your chance of landing that potential role.
When tailoring and sending out your application to several job roles and employers, it can get easy to miss typos or grammatical errors in the process. Spelling and grammar-checking software, apps, or browser extensions are recommended to help automate the proofreading process, though asking other people (such as a family member, friend, or colleague) to read through your resume is also an easy way to catch any mistakes you may have overlooked.
Finally, avoid delving into your salary expectations. This can detract from your resume’s ultimate goal: to highlight your professional history and what you can offer as a candidate. Including your expected salary may cause recruiters to question your motives, which may lead to you getting filtered out of the hiring process earlier or minimise your opportunities to negotiate later down the track.
Applications are meant to focus on spotlighting your skills, experience, and past achievements – any expectations you have for your role can be discussed in the interview process.
How many references should I have in my application?
Most job applications typically request at least 2-3 professional references. However, if you’re a recent graduate, have been mostly self-employed, or have just moved to a new country – you may find yourself with no relevant job references to offer. In these cases, it’s often recommended to turn to academic references such as previous teachers, professors, or academic advisors; or other professional references such as mentors or job coaches. Character references, such as community leaders, volunteers, or extra-curricular instructors you may have worked with are also highly valuable.
Who should you pick as job references?
When picking out your references from previous jobs, be sure to approach those who have a solid knowledge of your professional background and experience. These include:
- Previous employers
- Previous supervisors or team leaders
- Previous colleagues
- Previous mentors
For courtesy, it’s also a good idea to prepare your chosen references before adding them into your application. After gaining their permission, be sure to give them a breakdown of the details of your desired role and how you’ve presented yourself to your potential employer. This gives your references time to prepare a solid, detailed review of who you are professionally – and involves any unwanted surprises when they’re contacted by the hiring manager.
Are cover letters still a necessity?
If the job listing you’re applying for specifically requests for a cover letter, it’s critical that you include one. However, crafting an individual cover letter for every application (regardless of whether it’s asked for), can further help you stand out from the competition.
According to ResumeLab, cover letters still form a core part of the decision-making process among 83%
of recruiters and hiring managers. Here are a few reasons why cover letters can add that extra “oomph” to your application.
- It allows you to further explain your resume. If you’ve got an extensive professional background summarised in your CV, a cover letter gives you the chance of further breaking this down into relevant details. You’ll get to dig a little deeper into your past achievements, helping prove why you’re the ideal candidate.
- It personalises your application. Whereas resumes offer the cold, factual evidence for previous skills and experiences, cover letters grant you the opportunity of giving your application that personal touch. You’ll get a chance to tell your professional story in more engaging detail, express what motivates you career-wise, and why you were drawn to their company in the first place – allowing recruiters to get a taste of who you are as a person.
- It allows you to demonstrate your passion for the role. A cover letter offers the space of expressing how and why you’re a good fit for the position, and allows you to demonstrate any research you may have done on the company beforehand. Employers are likely to appreciate this extra effort, as it shows a genuine desire to work for them – rather than simply providing them with a templated application.
Ready to build skills and embark on your dream career?
A well-written application can grant you an edge as a job candidate – but so will a competitive skillset. Upskilled offers numerous courses (from bootcamps to fully-fledged degrees) across Australia’s most in-demand industries, helping you build both the knowledge and experience required to sharpen your resume and stand out in the job market. Boost your skills for your dream career today, and enquire with us on a course.
Ana Isabel Alonsagay
Ana Isabel Alonsagay freelance writer and founder of anaisabel.org, a blog on lifestyle, culture, and entertainment. When she isn't pinned to her keyboard, you can find her at your local cinema, blasting Broadway soundtracks or attending cosplay conventions.