Thursday, September 2, 2010

Job hunting 101: Resume writing basics. From a recruitment specialist. Make your resume noticeable to HR people.

There's something that's been bothering us for quite some time now, well, ever since the periodicals have started to publish news on renewed optimism in the Singapore job market. The hype seems to be evading the paths of our followers. There. Skeptics and their views on our lack of objectivity aside, every time we write for the blog, making an impact is what runs on our minds -- getting inspired to write about job hunting on this blog is largely inevitable in our part (we publish one at least two times a week) and yet where's the influence? Plus the fact that the job market's back on the positive scale again as far as the news is concerned. We're following the domino logic here -- people, regardless of patronage, belief in career, or whatever, are supposed to start seeing glints of light from their pursuits. We're asking because our mailbox is still as gloomy as ever. Though we've received mails from some that they've finally gotten invites for interviews, the majority is the point. Makes us wonder -- why?

Granted, our jobs portal caters to millions of job seekers and well, competition is never out of the picture as far as Singapore jobs are concerned. But when faced with such a picture, one can't help but question, right? Its human nature to seek for an answer when something's wrong -- although we like playing unearthly figures sometimes, we're no exception to this rule. One reason behind us devoting this week for job hunting is this.

Why aren't you getting invites for interview? Everything starts with the resume part, so we're throwing you a question re that as a response: how have you written your resume? It's what resumes are supposed to do: people use their resumes to get employers to bite their talent -- it's no different than handing out pamphlets to sell a new product. Your goal is to sell yourself to employers. How will you be able to do some selling with an uninteresting piece of paper?

No employer will buy your talent if your resume doesn't look good. What approach did you use to write your resume? Standard? Yes? There's nothing wrong with having a standard resume; in fact, as far as resumes and employers are concerned, a standard one is a hundred times preferable than an overly creative one, but does yours embody your personal directives well? We're referring to your goals. There are many things which go into making a resume that works but the most important among these is a well-phrased objective. A resume is not just a listing of everything you've done for your career. "It tells me what you've done in your past that will make you successful in the future in this position you've applied to. Don't make me guess why you might be good, tell me directly, make it obvious." That's what Jonathan Kwan, Principal at Kwantum Leap has told us when we've interviewed him for another Career Advice feature.

"How" isn't really an issue. You have tons of resources to use as guide. You can find tips on resume writing all over the internet. Mind you, we're not playing oblivious to the fact that picking can be tricky. The hardest thing when it comes to resume writing (career building in general, actually) is deciding which tips to follow and which not to, we also believe. What's the proper way to go about this challenge? We say, to play it safe and narrow your article preference to experts and only experts. Of course, career experts too have different views. Just lean onto this idea to avoid getting yourself more confused: at the end of the day, pick the expert who have the same ideals as you.

We're not implying a battle of experts in here. Try browsing Career Advice for resume articles and you'll understand your preferences. If you've no time to spare, Jonathan's views can pretty much fill you in -- we'll say this to Jonathan's tips: they're universal. No matter what you believe in when it comes to the intricate task of resume writing, you'll find his pieces of knowledge on the topic as excellent. As they say, the experience speaks for itself: he's got years of experience on assessing candidate resumes after all. There's nothing to be skeptic about.

How should you structure your resume? Is it okay to write in bullet points? How many pages are acceptable? Should you include references? How much personal information should you include? Jonathan has discussed with us all these issues. Let's begin with the do's. He's shared with us five:

  1. Lead with your strengths. If there's any one golden rule, it's that you should lead with your strengths. Your most important information should be as high up on the page and as far left as possible (since people read top to bottom, left to right).
  2. Focus on achievements and accomplishments, not responsibilities and tasks. What we're looking for are transferable skills, but more importantly, we're looking for your accomplishments and achievements. What was the impact you made in your previous roles?
  3. Read the job description, re-read the job description, then read it one more time. By carefully reading the job description, you can come close to predicting the phrases and words a recruiter will use in the search.
  4. Pimp up your resume. Don't explicitly remind the recruiter of the fact that you're not a perfect fit by giving them information that isn't relevant.
  5. Use the whole page. Try to use as much of the page as possible. Expand your margins out, all the way around the page, reduce them to ½ inch.

Here are the don'ts Jonathan has shared with us, on the other hand:
  1. Don't bold keywords. Don't give us an excuse to spend less than the 15 seconds and throw your resume quickly into the no pile.
  2. Write in bullet-point format, not in full sentences. If anything, focus more on describing your achievements and the impact you made in your previous roles.
  3. Save your money, don't use fancy paper. Stick to plain white paper and something in the 10 lb weight range (a measure of paper thickness).
  4. References? We don't need no stinkin' references! What you can do is to prepare a separate sheet with the names, titles and contact information, 2 to 3 different ones, just in case.
  5. Don't forget to add some glee. You would be surprised at the number of times people can get interviews simply because of something interesting they do outside of work.

Try revising your resume with these. Although we're sure doing so will reward you with more invites, don't forget to give us feedback. The comment's section is open. You can read our complete interview with Jonathan at

You might want to read these resume writing articles too:

10 Steps in Creating an Outstanding Online Resume

Cultural Competent Resume for the Global Market

Resume Errors Can Damage Your Employment Prospects

Should You Use A Career Objective On Your Resume Singapore
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