Top 10 Do’s and Dont’s to writing a winning resume

Some of you reading this will know this scenario well, particularly if you’re part of the hiring process. A candidate for a position on your team comes in for an interview because he or she presented a great resume, the kind of resume that makes you keen to meet this possible new recruit. But on meeting them in person, you realise that their perfect resume was only that – a perfect resume, but their interview and their demeanour were less that desirable.

So you return to your pile of resumes this time, and as Leaders in Heels Women’s Editor Sally Miles once did in the same situation: “I delved a little deeper, beyond the cover letter typos and the poorly typeset resumes”, only to find the perfect candidate hidden, frustratingly, behind a poorly written CV that not only fails to sell their most hireable assets, but instead emphasises a position they may have taken in high school. Nobody takes your CV seriously if you’re applying for a management role with your McDonalds job front and centre on it!

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So what can we do to make our resumes stand out from the crowd? Rebecca Walkey, Senior Consultant of Project and Change Management at global professional services recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley, shares her top 10 Do’s and Don’ts to writing a winning resume.


  1. Ensure your CORRECT contact details are on your CV
    It’s surprising how many people forget to put telephone numbers or up-to-date email address(es) on their CV.
  2. Chronology
    Ensure your most recent role is at the top of your resume, and keep it relevant. If you had a holiday job in retail 10 years ago this does not need to go on your resume.
  3. Write a brief skills profile/synopsis and put it at the top
    Outline your unique proposition to this employer.
  4. Bullet point!
    Both in responsibilities and your achievements – the easier you make it for someone to read your CV, the better.
  5. Achievements
    Ensure you dedicate space to what you have achieved, and, where possible, make these quantifiable (eg. We saved x amount of $ or it reduced the time of x by x)
  6. Qualifications/Professional Development
    Again, keep them relevant to the role! A RSA certificate when you were 18 is not relevant to a Marketing/Finance Manager 15 years later.
  7. Tailor your CV to the role you’re applying for
    If the role involves managing a large number of staff, highlight previous achievements from your past where you also managed people, and focus the CV on that.
  8. Be truthful
    NEVER lie on your CV. Not only is it unprofessional but it will cause all sorts of problems if you profess to skills you don’t have.
  9. Check the spelling, formatting and grammar
    This is a housekeeping tip but ensure that your CV has no typos or grammatical errors. Make sure the font and format remain the same right the way through.
  10. Take advice of a third party
    Use people you know and trust to review your resume and provide honest feedback. A CV should be written so that someone outside your field of expertise understands what your role is and would be impressed by your achievements. Recruiters can also be very helpful with this.


  1. Obsess
    Your CV is the door opener but it is only part of process of you finding a new role. As long as the CV is clear, concise and relevant to the role you’re after, that should be enough. A good CV is important, but keep it in perspective.
  2. Believe people who tell you your CV can only be 2 pages
    While this is common in Europe and the USA, as long as your resume is not a 10 page novel then it is fine for it to be longer. Realistically, if you have a 10 + year career with professional qualifications and development to be outlined squeezing it in to 2 pages can be hard.
  3. Talk generically
    A bullet point saying “utilised my management skills to improve team culture” really tells us nothing about you or what you did. Talk in terms of staff retention, reduction in team turnover, improvement on NPS etc instead.
  4. Feel you have to put on personal details
    You can if you want, but date of birth, marital status etc. is no longer mandatory information. If you list your hobbies and interests on the CV you need to be prepared to talk about them so it is important they are genuine interests.
  5. Get carried away with boxes and tables
    Your CV is a sales document – we want to know what you have done in your career and what you have achieved, not how good you are embedding tables and graphs in MS Word documents!
  6. Use collective terms
    This is true of interviewing as well! Your CV is about you, and you need to talk about what YOU did rather than the team. Be mindful of using words like “assisted” and “supported”- they are ambiguous terms and could up or down skill you depending on who is reading the resume.
  7. Assume people will understand the acronyms you use
    Remember that often, your resume will be assessed by someone who is not necessarily a subject matter expert in your area. For example, if you use the term “CBA” when referring to cost benefit analysis, someone else may think you’re referring to the bank!
  8. Downplay
    You should be proud of your achievements and it is important to outline them on your CV. Putting awards and promotions won is expected – you are not being boastful!
  9. Attach an inappropriate/unprofessional photo
    You only have to look at LinkedIn to see that people will do this. If you attach a picture then it should be a professional head shot!
  10. Pay someone to write your CV for you! This is something that, with a bit of research and feedback, you should be able to do yourself.

Thanks to Rebecca Walkey, Senior Consultant at Morgan McKinley for your insight and advice.

Featured photo credit: TempusVolat

EricaEnriquezPhotoErica Enriquez
Erica is a Sydney-based writer and digital marketer, and can often be found pounding away on a keyboard, writing about everything from travel, lifestyle, well-being and anything in between. When she is not writing, she is STILL writing, developing copy and content for websites and marketing collateral. Erica is passionate about film, literature and culture (high brow and low brow), as well as pro-social causes supporting cultural engagement (counting travelling as one of them). In her spare time, she loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book, go for a nice dinner with friends or spend time with her partner.