Studies have shown that recruiters spend as little as six seconds reviewing a resume, before sorting it into the “yes” or “no” piles and moving on. (Doyle, 2018) Whether or not your resume is well written might just be the key to your success in job hunting. Here are seven tips on writing an outstanding resume.
1. The essentials
First and foremost, your resume needs to have your basic information such as your full name, contact number, birth date, email address and nationality. Your nationality or citizenship may be important, as companies have a certain maximum and minimum quota to meet for both locals and foreign employees. Although it sounds obvious, many applicants miss out their contact details and this causes more hassle for the employer when arranging interviews.
If you’re applying for a position outside Singapore or your current country-of-residence, however, consider leaving your location out! While the remote workspace may become the new norm due to Covid-19, making geographical distances less of an obstacle, employers might reject your application prematurely in favour of local candidates.
2. Highlight your best
If you have a variety of work experience, it is good to arrange them in a way that best showcases your strengths and related experiences. Employers usually look for three main things in a resume: most recent experience, most relevant experience and the skills you have.
The two most common types of resume formats are chronological and functional. The chronological format lists your work experiences in a timeline format. Placing your most recent experiences at the top gives convenient access to the employer to what you have last worked as. Although most preferred by employees, the chronological format is less favourable for applicants who have minimal work experience, or long periods of unemployment.
The functional format, on the other hand, is a better choice for some applicants. This format focuses on the related experiences, categorized by skill sets. Any form of relevant experience, including non-work-related kinds such as volunteer work or school-based achievements, may be included. This adds more content to your resume and is beneficial for those who are fresh graduates with rich school participation, or applicants who are looking to do a complete career switch but with minimal relevant work experience.
3. Focus on achievements
Besides simply listing the job scope, share your achievements at each job. For example, instead of merely mentioning “Required to meet monthly sales target”, add some colour and pride to it with facts and figures, “Successfully and consistently achieved $10,000 of sales target monthly”. Basically, use an active and not a passive voice.
4. Tell the truth
While the general perception is that lies may easily go unnoticed, the truth is most employers’ human resource teams will run background checks with your past companies to verify if the information mentioned is accurate. (Do make sure that any information and profiles publicly accessible online are also clean.) Original copies of certificates will also need to be brought along with and verified prior to commencing your new job.
5. Avoid telling too much
No employer needs to know your political stand, sexual preferences or life habits. In fact, it might even jeopardize your hiring chances. Hobbies and activities you enjoy doing should not be a conversation topic unless specifically asked about.
If asked, do share hobbies that are generally better accepted and leave a good impression of you. For example, having a hobby of doing volunteer work shows that you are generous with your time and efforts to others, something that might carry forward in your work attitude.
6. Be concise
While having more content looks more impressive than a resume with less content, too much information may be overwhelming for the employee doing the reviewing. An ideal resume is between one to two pages in length. Short yet detailed point forms are preferred over lengthy sentences.
Some companies, especially more established ones, process your resume through a word tracker (also known as an applicant tracking system) to locate relevant keywords pertinent to their required job scope. Do ensure you use the right terms and jargon relating to your desired industry. You can refer to the job posting for a better idea of what a particular company’s applicant tracking system looks out for, or run your resume through a resume keyword tool.
To help your resume gain more eyeballs, try incorporating both the long-form and acronym version of keywords! Mention ‘MBA’ when bringing up your Master of Business Administration, for example, and don’t forget to type out your years or months in full.
7. Format your resume well
Your font choice, size and colour should be legible and consistent throughout your resume. Avoid fancy colours, fonts, designs and pictures. Recruiters recommend using easy-to-read fonts like Arial and Georgia.
Run a spell check to prevent any grammatical errors, as even one tiny typo can imply a lack of conscientiousness. Write professionally and avoid any form of slang. If you are not tech-savvy, feel free to use recommended resume templates online or built-in software templates like Microsoft Word.
Optimise your content with a good format, too! What this means is to be aware of the default scanning patterns people employ when going through textual information. The most well-known one would be the ‘F-pattern’. Others include the spotted pattern, the layer-cake scanning pattern, and the commitment pattern.
I always believe that the level of effort and eye for detail in a simple task such as a job resume measures one’s conscientiousness and passion for the applied job. Place a little more effort in your resume and it will certainly go a long way in clinching your dream job.
If you need some extra help, don’t hesitate to make use of the resources that your school’s career office provides for you and sign up for the workshops and consultations on offer. Otherwise, when you graduate, you will find that you’ll be charged handsomely for what you had ready access to back then!