How to craft the perfect resume for people living with a disability

A well written resume can help you capture an employer's attention and increase your chances of getting a job interview. It's usually your first chance to impress the hiring manager and show them why you're right for the job.

In this guide to resume writing for people with disability, you will find information about what to put in your resume, how to structure it and ways to make it stand out.

What is a resume?

A resume is a document that a job seeker creates, outlining their work history, skills and qualifications. Employers use the information on your resume to decide if they will call you in for an interview or hire you for a job.

A resume is sometimes called a curriculum vitae (CV).

Why is your resume important?

Your resume and cover letter are often the first encounter an employer has with you. It's your chance to sell yourself and show the employer why you'd be a great fit for the job.

If you can create a resume that stands out in a good way, you're more likely to get called in for a job interview.

What should you include in your resume?

Your resume should only include truthful information that is relevant to the job position you are applying for.

If you don't have any previous experience in a similar role, you can focus on transferable skills that you have gained in other jobs, volunteer positions or life experience.

Your resume should include information about:

Skills

List the top 5 skills relevant to the particular job you're applying for. To find relevant skills that the employer values, look at the job description.

Work experience

Include the most recent jobs in your work history, especially any positions that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You can also include non-standard work such as freelancing, contracting or part time jobs.

For each job, you should include:

  • Company name
  • Your position title
  • When you were employed there
  • Key duties and responsibilities
  • Key achievements

Education and qualifications

List your education and qualifications with the most recent ones first. If one of your qualifications is especially relevant to the job, you can place this first.

Include things like:

  • University degrees
  • TAFE qualifications
  • Online courses
  • Current licences
  • Blue Card
  • Languages you're fluent in
  • First Aid Certificate
  • Working With Children Check

Volunteer work

If you have done volunteer work that is relevant to the job you're applying for, you can include it on your resume. Volunteer work shows the employer that you are involved in your community and actively seeking new job skills.

Other relevant experience

If you have had life experiences that are relevant to the job, you can include them in this section. For example, if you are applying to be a disability support worker, you could talk about your own lived experience with disability and how that has prepared you for the work.

Contact information

Make sure your contact information is clear and easy to find. Leave multiple ways for the employer to contact you, including your email address and phone number. Make sure your email address is professional and appropriate.

References

Include the names and contact details of at least two people who can give a positive reference for you. Past employers, colleagues and supervisors are all good choices, but you can also ask your friends or family members.

Make sure you have their permission before sending your resume to an employer.

What should you leave out of your resume?

You should leave out any personal information, such as your age, height and marital status, unless they are relevant for the position.

In general, you shouldn't mention your disability on your resume, unless it is relevant to the position. For example, if you are applying for a position as a disability support worker, your lived experience with disability may be relevant.

How do you write a resume if you have a disability?

Whatever your work history and skills are, try to follow the following best practises for writing a resume for people with disability. The way you write your information can make a big difference in the recruitment process.

1. Use keywords from the job description

Nowadays many employers run the resumes they receive through software that looks for particular keywords. Using keywords and synonyms from the actual job description can signal to the employer that you're right for the role.

2. Use facts and figures

Backup your job performance statements with real statistics about your achievements. Use numbers where possible.

Instead of saying you 'planned events' for your previous company, detail how much revenue your events made, how many people attended or how many tickets were sold.

  • Raised $10,000 through ticket sales to charity events.
  • Served over x of people at [event name].
  • Greeted over x people on a daily basis as they entered [venue].
  • Increased customer satisfaction survey scores by 20%.

3. Talk about direct benefits

Instead of just listing your previous job duties, talk about how well you did them. In other words, list the direct benefits your work had for the organisation you worked for.

For example, instead of saying you created 20 client reports per month, try saying something like:

  • Created 20 client reports per month to improve client relations and communications.

4. Use a variety of action words

Start your statements with action words such as improved, reduced, planned, facilitated, collaborated with etc. These can help your resume sound more punchy and engaging.

Use a variety of words, rather than repeating the same words over again to maintain your reader's interest.

5. Avoid overused phrases

Stay away from overused sentences that don't give much information such as 'attention to detail' and 'strong communication skills'.

Instead, try to show how you demonstrated soft skills like communication, teamwork and reliability.

  • Performed administrative duties including phone calls, project reports and client relations.
  • Assisted with training new employees.
  • Collaborated with a team of 5 to reduce material waste by 10%.

6. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes

Use a spell checker to check your resume for spelling and grammar errors. Ask a friend to read over your resume for any mistakes you might have missed.

7. Get professional help

It's natural to feel overwhelmed when writing a resume, especially if you don't have anyone to give you helpful feedback. Don't be afraid to ask for professional help or take a resume writing workshop. Writing the perfect resume is a skill you have to learn over time.

If you are having trouble finding work or keeping a job, you could be eligible for Disability Employment Services. As a Disability Employment Services provider, we can help you with every step of the job seeking process, including writing your resume.

8. Customise your resume for every job

Every time you apply for a new job, you should customise your resume to the particular role and company. Doing so shows the employer that you have an eye for detail and are serious about the opportunity.

You should save a copy of your 'base' resume so that you can easily make changes for each new job opportunity. Also, make sure that all your information is up to date.

How to structure a resume

Structuring your resume well can help guide the reader through the information in an engaging way.

Use these tips on how to structure a resume:

1. Put your best information at the top

Potential employers will skim the top third of your resume first, so make sure your most relevant and important information is up there. This will help grab their attention and keep them reading.

2. Keep it concise

Resumes should typically be one page long. Keep your information concise and to the point. Include what is relevant to the specific job and leave out unnecessary details.

3. Use reverse chronological order

In most cases, the best way to order your experience is to place your most recent work experience first and work backwards. The same goes for your education and qualifications.

What does a good resume look like?

The appearance of your resume is important. It can help capture an employer's attention or put them off immediately.

Follow these tips for an eye catching resume:

1. Simple format

Your resume should be easy to read. Keep the format simple, with plenty of white space between the different elements. Using a resume template can help keep things neat and presentable.

2. Eye-catching design

Employers usually have to sift through a large pile of resumes, so making your design stand out is a good move.

You could use the brand colours of the company you're applying for or choose an attractive resume template. Just make sure you keep your resume professional and appropriate for the specific job.

3. Readable fonts

Choose a font that is easy to read and stands out from the background clearly. The best fonts are sans serif fonts (fonts without the tails).

Good font options include:

  • Arial
  • Calibri
  • Helvetica

Use size 10-12 to ensure your text is easy to read at a glance.

4. Consistent layout

Keep your design choices consistent throughout the resume document. For example, if you decide to write your 'Work history' title in bold size 14 font, make sure you do so for all the main headings.

5. Use PDF

To avoid any layout issues once your document is downloaded, it's recommended that you save your resume as a PDF.

How do you explain gaps in employment due to disability?

If you have employment gaps, the employer may be wanting to know why. You should prepare to give your reasons.

Here are some tips for explaining employment gaps on resumes for people with disability:

  • Focus on what you did during your gaps. Include any study, volunteering or skills building you undertook.
  • If the gap is months rather than years, consider listing your employment dates in years (e.g. 2019 - 2021). You may still have to explain gaps during the interview and it's important to be honest.
  • Show that you're ready to work. Be enthusiastic and positive about the job opportunity in your cover letter and resume. You may not have been able to work for periods in the past, but now you are ready and eager to.
  • Be honest, but keep it simple. You can tell the employer you took time off for health reasons, but you don't have to go into any personal details.

Should you mention your disability in your resume?

You do not have to disclose your disability in your resume. In general, it’s recommended that you don’t mention your disability in your resume unless it’s relevant to the job.

For example, if you are applying to work in a job where your experience living with disability is relevant, such as a disability centre or charity, mentioning it in your resume might be a good idea.

In some cases, you may need to mention your disability and any accommodations you might need to a potential employer. Doing so during a job interview can help you and your employer start your relationship on the right foot.

Australian employers are required to provide reasonable adjustments so you can do your job well and safely. They may be eligible for funding for some workplace adjustments.

Deciding if and how to disclose your disability can be a difficult decision. Talking to a professional, or your employment consultant can help you weigh up your options when choosing what’s right for you.

How do you tell the hiring manager you have a disability?

You do not have to mention your disability unless it affects your ability to perform the essential tasks of the job.

Some people decide not to disclose their disability to the hiring manager, preferring to focus on what they can offer to the role.

Employers are not legally allowed to discriminate based on disability, however many people with disability experience discrimination and unfair treatment during the job application process.

Others decide to disclose so that they can be upfront and transparent with their employer from the beginning.

This may give them an opportunity to request accommodations and ask questions about the company’s attitudes towards disability.

If you feel that you have been unfairly treated during the recruitment process due to your disability, you can appeal to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Is it harder to get a job if you have a disability?

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 48% of working-age people with disability are employed, compared with 80% without disability.

People with disability may face a range of barriers when looking for work. If you are finding it difficult to get a job or stay employed, support is available.

More and more employers are realising the benefits of diversity in the workplace. There are employers out there who want to hire you for the unique skills and experience you have.

At APM, we help thousands of job seekers every week who are living with injury, illness and disability to find work and thrive in their workplace.

Contact us today to speak with one of our employment consultants about how we can help you reach your goals.

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