How to create a New Zealand style CV for your Working Holiday

Your CV is perhaps one of the little details you wouldn’t put too much thought to before starting your Working Holiday in New Zealand – let’s face it, you’re probably thinking more about the best places to visit, what to pack and pretending to be a Hobbit, than about updating your resumé.

New Zealanders write their CVs slightly differently to how us Brits do. I touched on this topic a little in my post about travelling to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa but I wanted to go into more depth about CV writing. Whilst it isn’t essential to rewrite your resume in the kiwi format, it’s definitely worth at least checking your CV is up-to-date before you fly out here. Having a solid CV is something that can really affect your prospects when you begin your job-search in NZ. I don’t believe that you would be deemed completely unemployable if you did not write your CV in the New Zealand style, but I think it’s worthwhile. It shows that you have researched about the country’s employment methods beforehand and it will make it much easier for an employer to know exactly where to look on your CV for the information they are interested in.

So here is one of those boring but essential things to add to your list of things to do before you begin your working holiday – the same as printing off your bank statements as proof of funds and getting travel insurance. It shouldn’t take you too long, either!

New Zealand CV

Step 1: Think about the sort of work you want to do ahead of your arrival.

People choose to find work in New Zealand for many reasons, aside from just saving money. Some may want to broaden their skills, therefore choosing work they haven’t experienced before. Some may want to progress their career. Some may want the typical ‘backpacker’ hospitality jobs and others may want to try their hand at fruit picking.

If you are qualified in a certain skill or trade, it probably makes sense to try to find a position in that field, for example if you are a hairdresser, chef, carpenter or builder. If you have hospitality experience, good on you; there are loads of bars and restaurants in the bigger towns and cities. If – like me – you don’t really have a “skill” as such, but have varied work experiences using different competencies, you might be more open to a variety of roles.

Doing a little research before you begin your working holiday is always a good idea: think about whether or not you’ll be able to find a job within a particular chosen field. Research the best towns or cities for that work. Have a look on seek.co.nz and trademe.co.nz/jobs to search for positions in a particular city. If you’re unsure, post in one of the many ‘New Zealand Backpackers’ groups on Facebook and ask others. Be prepared and be realistic.

As a tip:
  • Christchurch has many opportunities in construction following the devastating earthquakes in 2011.
  • Auckland and Wellington have many administration and contact centre roles. The Government is based in Wellington so there are many positions open to temps in the various Ministry organisations, i.e. Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development.
  • Queenstown is incredibly busy year-round with backpackers looking for work in a variety of fields.
  • Places like Kaikoura, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, Te Anau, Nelson have tourism jobs.
  • You can find hospitality jobs in big cities as well as small towns.
  • Au-pairing and working in exchange for accommodation are something you can do across the country. We used Help X and really recommend it; similar websites include WWOOF, Workaway, – Au Pair Link but I haven’t personally used these.
  • Fruit-picking is popular in the summer months across the country, there are vineyards everywhere!

I found it difficult to know how to write my CV before coming to New Zealand. I didn’t know what type of role I would be looking for, or even what sort of jobs would be available to people on Working Holiday Visas. It wasn’t untilsomeone in our hostel recommended we try a recruitment agency that I realised that working holidaymakers were allowed to use them! In the end, I wrote two CVs – one more catered towards office and administration roles, the other towards customer service roles. You could also try to keep it broad – but not too broad or it may end up too long!

Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland is popular place for backpackers to find work

Step 2: Choose whether to write a Work-focused CV or a Skills-focused CV.

These are the two types of CVs that employers in New Zealand use, and whichever you choose will largely depend on your own circumstances and previous work experiences. The main difference between the two is which information is presented first: on the front of your CV. If you have worked in a variety of roles using various skills, you would choose the skills-focused CV. If you have want to show how your career has progressed, you would choose a work-focused CV.

This is therefore why most people travelling to New Zealand on a Working Holiday choose the skills-focused CV; they are normally young people at the start of their careers who might have had varied or limited work experiences.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to write a skills-focused CV. If you are looking to write a work-focused CV please visit this website.

Gibbston Valley, New Zealand
Perhaps you will find work fruit-picking on one of New Zealand’s many vineyards

Step 3: Writing the CV

It’s important to make sure you really sell yourself on your CV, as this is the document that employers will use to determine if they want to invite you for an interview. Set your CV out into the following sections:

Name and contact details: These should be displayed clearly at the top of your CV on the front page – so potential employers can contact you, of course! It is not mandatory to include a photo of yourself or any details about your ethnicity or gender.

Personal statement (or profile): This section comes next and should give a brief outline about yourself. Advise that you are visiting New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa and the date your visa it expires. Give a brief outline of the work you are looking for and your skills.

Skills: I would adapt this section depending on the type of role you are applying for. For instance, if you are looking for a hospitality job, it probably wouldn’t help much to advise that you are skilled in using a forklift! Tailor the content to suit the job description of the role you are applying for, or keep it open enough to apply to a variety of roles. Skills you might include could be:

  • Customer Services – you can apply this to almost any job!
  • Communication/ interpersonal skills – if you can speak and write clearly and are a friendly, approachable person, include this; especially if you are fluent in English.
  • Computer literacy – if you can type, use emails and the internet, then say so! If you’ve used specialist IT software at all be sure to mention it.
  • Reliability: this could include good time management, being dependable, having a flexible work approach.

Work history: In this section you should list your positions in previous employment and main responsibilities in those roles. Tailor the wording to reflect the responsibilities that a new job could offer. You don’t need to list every single job you’ve had!

Achievements: This section is optional – I do not include it in my CV but rather link it in with my skills and hobbies. For example, I love hiking and have been awarded a Duke of Edinburgh award. Only include information that will actually help you get a job, so don’t bother writing that you

Education: Your qualifications gained in education, starting with the most recent/ highest level of education received. You don’t need to list every single GSCE grade you got, but you may want to go into some detail around the topics covered in your university degree. I studied French & Italian, so have written that topics covered included French & Italian language (translation, essay writing and oral), literature, history, politics, sociology and cinema.

Interests and hobbies: Anything you do outside of work that makes you an interesting person! Keep it realistic and try not to choose generic responses like ‘socialising’ or ‘watching films’…

Referees: People tend to write ‘references available on request’ but most places will require a reference before they decide to employ you. From my personal experience, recruitment agencies require two to three referees. These are normally your two most recent managers in work experiences – but obviously you should only provide the names of people you think will give you a positive reference! If you have a limited employment history, you could include a family friend, a tutor from college or university, or a sports coach.

Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is hugely popular with backpackers

Step 4: Formatting

Potential employers take under 30 seconds to glance over your CV at first, so you need to make a good first impression on paper! If they like what they see, they will read it in more detail and hopefully contact you for an interview. Here are some pointers towards making your CV “look good”:

  • Keep it organised into clear sections
  • Use bullet points instead of huge blocks of text
  • Choose a professional font such as Times New Roman or Arial
  • Use professional language – keep clear of slag and abbreviations
  • Check your spelling – and get someone to proofread it for you!
  • If you are applying for a particular role that you have seen listed online (for example on trademe.co.nz/jobs or seek.co.nz), tailor the wording of your CV to reflect the qualities listed in the job description of the advert.
  • Most importantly, don’t lie!
Christchurch, New Zealand
Perhaps you’ll work in construction and will contribute to the rebuild of Christchurch

Step 5: Don’t forget to write a cover letter!

An equally important accompaniment to a CV is a cover letter. This might be an actual letter that you will write up in Word to submit alongside your resume, or perhaps it will be the covering email to send to an employer with your CV attached.

Your cover letter should be similar to the ‘personal statement/profile’ section of your CV: you will give details about the type of work you are looking for and/or why you are particularly suitable for the role. Use specific wording about the company or job description – you should really tailor your cover letter to each and every different position you apply for.

Extra tips & resources

  • Bring an up to date copy of your CV with you on a USB stick if you don’t plan on bringing a laptop. Many hostels have computers available for use or you can visit an internet cafe (they are still strangely popular over here!)
  • If you get an interview, well done! Dress smartly, be punctual and don’t forget to smile!
  • Look for jobs on websites such as seek.co.nz, trademe.co.nz/jobs and backpackerboard.co.nz
  • Recruitment agencies I have worked with include Madison and Hudson. James has also been employed through Kinetic.
  • careers.govt.nz is a website that was hugely helpful for me when writing my CV for New Zealand.
  • Stay positive; finding a job is hard work, but just because you are on a working holiday doesn’t mean you stand any less of a chance than anyone else!
Civic Square, Wellington, New Zealand
The view of Civic Square from my workplace at Wellington City Council

I hope this post is useful to anyone looking for work in New Zealand whilst on a Working Holiday Visa. In my experience it hasn’t been that much different to the process back home in the UK, but I think it always helps to know what to expect. Good luck with finding a job in New Zealand!

Have you worked in New Zealand before? Did you rewrite your CV in the New Zealand style?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Abbi X

Note: All of the photos in this post are my own.

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