Cover Up Awkward Employment Gaps

employment-gaps-work-history

How To Write A Resume For The Singapore Market…Article # 6


Typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, unprofessional e-mail addresses, tiny fonts and coffee stains – include any of these things on your resume and not only can you kiss your chance of receiving a job offer goodbye, but your resume won’t even make it through the first sift.  Another way to count yourself out of the running which isn’t perhaps so obvious though, is by leaving yawning employment gaps in your resume.

Despite the fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands of perfectly legitimate reasons why job seekers might have one or more gaps in their work histories, still nothing is more likely to act as a red flag to recruiters.  Gaps, after all, are just made to be filled, and if you leave recruiters to fill them on their own, they are quite likely to imagine that you were unemployed as a result of being fired, bumming around the world or serving time behind bars, when in fact you might have been raising a family, taking care of a sick relative or doing something else that was equally as commendable.

How you deal with gaps in your resume will depend to a great extent on how long you were out of the workforce, how long ago the break in your employment history was, how else you spent your time when you weren’t working and the reason for your career break.

Here though, are a few ways to handle some of the most common situations surrounding employment gaps.

  1. Short employment gaps –  If the periods that you were in employment lasted a year or more, only list the start and end dates by year rather than by month and year.  In this way, if you left one job in April for example, but didn’t start the next until October of the same year, the recruiter won’t be any the wiser.
  2. Employment gaps earlier in your career – Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to include every job you’ve ever done on your resume.  If the gap in your work history occurred more than 15 years ago, then simply leave your earlier work experience out, bunch them together, or give minimal details (and exclude dates), so as not to draw attention to it.  Where senior roles are concerned, recruiters wouldn’t normally expect to see details for more than the last 15 years of your work history anyway, and in the case of high-tech jobs, even the past 10 years’ experience is sufficient.
  3. Employment gaps containing other valuable experience – Think back to your time away from the workplace.  Were you engaged in any kind of voluntary, freelance or consulting work?  If so, then go ahead and include it in your resume just as you would your other paid employment.  If you took time out to study, meanwhile, then include your study dates in the Education section of your document.
  4. Longer employment gaps – Longer employment gaps resulting from raising a family, caring for sick or elderly relatives or even travelling the world to build your life experience, should be addressed and explained properly.  Remember, most recruiters don’t have a problem with legitimate gaps in candidates’ work histories.  What they do have a problem with though are unexplained gaps, so use your cover letter and/or resume, both to explain your absence from the workforce and to tell the recruiter about all the wonderful skills that you developed during that period.  Think, for example, about the organizational, time management, problem-solving and teaching skills that you needed to draw on while raising your family or the qualities that you needed when caring for others, such as patience. Also mention any activities you engaged in, which helped you stay in-tune with your field, such as short courses, seminars, research/reading, regular networking and so on.

If you can’t easily account for employment gaps in your work history using any of the above methods, then another completely different way (which is often not ideal and should be the last resort) to approach them is by using the functional rather than the chronological resume format.  Unlike the latter which puts your work history up front and includes your employment dates, the functional format focuses on your skills and achievements and gives relatively little attention to your work history.  If you want to disguise employment gaps or frequent changes of job, just list your past job titles and the names and addresses of your past employers in reverse chronological order, under the heading of Experience and leave out the dates of your employment.  The theory is that by the time the recruiter has read all about your great contributions to your past employers and your tremendous skills and achievements, he will be more inclined to give you the opportunity to account for the missing dates at an interview, at which time you are likely to be able to account for any gaps much more easily/effectively.

Recruiters nowadays are pretty switched on in terms of the various methods used by job seekers to disguise gaps in their work histories and it is well worth bearing in mind that many will ask about them outright.  Always be sure to prepare your explanation in advance and if you are asked, never feel tempted to lie.  Most employers simply want to be reassured that there is an acceptable reason for your career break / employment gap, so just stick to the truth and, if possible, turn the situation to your advantage by letting them know how they will benefit from what you learned during your absence.

How to write a cover letter for a job

cover-letter

If, as a job seeker, you have ever sent out a cover letter which says nothing more than, “Dear Sir, Please find enclosed my resume” or, worse still, sent out a resume without a cover letter, then you could quite rightly be accused of making one of the very worst job search blunders in the book.  Why?  Because for several reasons cover letters could be considered to be the single most important document in your job search tool-kit.

The first thing to understand about how to write a cover letter for a job, is its basic purpose, which, in a nutshell, is to get your resume read, and if you thought that getting your resume read was a given, then you would be very much mistaken.  Recruiters often receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications for their advertised vacancies and many people are shocked to learn that each of these typically only receives a few seconds of the reader’s attention during the first sift.  The first document that they look at isn’t your resume but your cover letter, and if the latter doesn’t instantly hit the mark, then your entire application risks being consigned to the trash can and all the hard work that you have put into your resume will have been in vain.  Clearly then, a cover letter which says nothing more than “Please find enclosed my resume” just isn’t going to cut it, but what can you do to really make yours grab the recruiter by the shirt collar and convince him that your resume is worth reading?

The first paragraph of a cover letter needs to contain certain essential information, namely which job you are applying for and how you learned about the vacancy.  Remember that employers often advertise numerous vacancies simultaneously and if they can’t see at a glance which one you are interested in, guess where your application is going to end up?  Sharing how you learned of the vacancy, meanwhile, helps employers to ascertain which forms of advertising are most effective and, if you have been referred for the job by someone who is known to and respected by the employer, mentioning this will automatically give you a head start.

The first paragraph

Your first paragraph, however, isn’t just an opportunity to provide essential information.  It can also be used to really make the reader sit up and take notice from the get-go and a great way to achieve this is to begin with an observation which flatters the company that you are applying to and demonstrates that you have done your research.  If the organization recently won a new contract or an award, for example, you could compliment the achievement, something which will instantly give the reader a nice warm, fuzzy feeling and encourage him or her to read on. Another possibility is to start with a catchy question or a snippet about yourself, which will be a refreshing/interesting change for the employer.

The body

Moving on to the body of your cover letter, here you need to make a direct link between the employer’s needs and the most significant and relevant skills, abilities and achievements that you have to offer.  Rather than just telling the reader how great you are, you need to show that you properly understand the recruiter’s pain points and priorities and what the job entails, as well as how your past experience and skills can address the employer’s issues and concerns.  In addition, you should hint at all the other wonderful things that you have to offer and that the employer can read about in your resume.  When talking about your most significant and relevant achievements, try to use quantitative information such as the exact percentage by which you increased sales or the precise number of man hours that you saved your previous employer and, where possible, demonstrate your ability to either make or save the recruiter money.

The closing paragraph

The closing paragraph of your cover letter needs to do two things.  First of all it needs to thank the reader for taking the time to consider your application, and secondly it needs to call the recruiter to action.  You can do the latter quite simply by advising the reader how you can be contacted or when you are available for interviews.

Far from being a document which merely introduces your resume, your cover letter should literally have the recruiter reaching for the telephone before he or she has even got as far as reading your resume.  Do remember to keep the letter concise though, otherwise employers might not be inclined to wade through it.  You should be able to fit the opening and closing paragraphs into one or two sentences apiece and the body into four or five, so that the whole thing doesn’t exceed a single page.

How to write a resume: Showcase Your Tasks And Achievements

resume-job-responsibilities-achievements

Describing what you did in your previous roles is without doubt, a very important part of resume writing. Recruiters and hiring managers will read this information carefully, to see if you have what they are looking for.

Your job descriptions should include information on your:

  • Responsibilities i.e. The day-to-day and one-off tasks you performed
  • Achievements i.e. How well you executed your key job responsibilities

How to write a resume: Best practices for describing your job responsibilities

You need to find a balance between being concise and providing enough detail to the reader, so that they have a good understanding of the context, scale and scope of your responsibilities. These details help them know how relevant/similar your experience is, compared to what you will need to do in their organisation.

Start by providing the overall objective your role, with details of the scale and scope of your responsibilities.

  • What were you accountable for?
  • How many people did you manage, directly and indirectly?
  • What was the size of your department?
  • What was the budget that you managed?
  • What was the geographic scope of your responsibilities?
  • How many projects did you manage and what was the typical size?
  • And so on

Here is an example:

Spearhead Finance function for South East Asia, leading a team of 15 direct reports, supporting divisions with revenue of over $ 300 million.

Then move on to describe some of the main tasks you perform, in order to deliver your overall objective. Provide enough context for each responsibility you list, by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What….the task was
  • How….you went about it
  • How much/big….was the magnitude of the task
  • Why….did you perform the task i.e. what goals you were trying to achieve

Checking if you have included these details, where possible, will ensure that you avoid being too vague.

As an example, a typical task description might be – Reviewed and finalised commercial aspects of business/investment deals. Now let’s check if it includes all necessary detail:

  • What….the task was (Included): Reviewed and finalised commercial aspects of business/investment deals
  • How….you went about it (Missing): Comprehensive analysis (of the commercial terms and conditions) and negotiating with high profile clients and suppliers
  • How much/big….was the magnitude of the task (Missing): Size of deals was up to $50 million
  • Why….did you perform the task (Missing): To arrive at the most financially viable terms for your company
So the improved version would read something like this – Performed comprehensive reviews of the commercial aspects of business/investment deals with a size of up to $50 million, to optimise financial viability. Effectively negotiated with clients and suppliers to finalise favourable terms.

How to write a resume: Best practices for what’s most important – your achievements

Most people tend to have way too much information about job responsibilities in their resumes and do not pay enough attention to achievements. It is crucial to spend time thinking about your achievements during the resume writing process. There will be many people who have job responsibilities which are similar to yours, so you need to show recruiters what results you achieved for your employers, in order to separate yourself from the pack.

Communicate how well you performed the responsibilities you mentioned, as compared to your peers, the average, what was done previously, or some other benchmark. A good way to do this is through Action-Benefit statements. This consists of:

  • Action: Specific action that you took when faced with a situation, problem or opportunity that enabled you to achieve a positive result
  • Benefit: The positive result or benefit to the organization, such as an increase in revenue, a reduction in costs, streamlined processes or systems, or improved morale

To provide an example – Identified unfavourable terms in 5 major projects, each worth around $30 million. Negotiated with high profile suppliers to improve the terms, thereby reducing total cost of all projects by $2 million annually.

How to write a resume: Best practices for the amount of detail – More for recent jobs and less for older roles

A mistake which many people make when it comes to Singapore resume writing, is to include all details of what they did, in their previous jobs. This leads to an unfocussed resume, with tons of redundant information. When deciding what to include for your job responsibilities and achievements, it is useful to keep a list of the requirements of your job target in front of you, so that you can stay focussed on including only things which are relevant.

For jobs which you have held in the last 10 years or so –   As a general guideline,  you could use 3-5 bullet points to write about all your job responsibilities. Each of these bullets can be 1-2 lines long. The same goes for your achievements.

For jobs before that: Depending on how relevant the job is, keep the size of the description to around half or a third of what you have for your recent roles. You could even limit it to just one paragraph, with 4-5 lines.

How to write a resume – Remember to use action verbs at the start of your responsibilities and achievements

Start all your bullet points with action verbs, such as Managed, Delivered, Boosted, Revitalised, Revamped and so on. For your current role use the present tense (Manage) and for previous roles use past tense (Managed). Try to avoid the use of personal pronouns, like I, Me, My, and so on.

I hope you found this information on how to write a resume useful, especially when it comes to your job responsibilities and achievements.

Video Resumes – All Sizzle And No Steak?

When video resumes were first introduced in the West, there was a lot discussion about their pros and cons. Some people hated them and others thought they would revolutionise the recruitment processs. A few years down the line, it became clear that in general, they weren’t of much use for recruiters or candidates.

The concept failed to catch-on and I didn’t hear too much about video resumes for a while.

However, few people recently asked me whether they should spend time preparing one, after seeing advertisements for a new website with video resumes in Singapore/Asia. The website is called Prevview.

My thoughts on the topic are as follows:

  • Unless you are in a profession where you can actually showcase talents required for the job, in the video resume, I don’t think they are of much use. So if you are a musician, dancer, creative director or perhaps even a sales person, it can be of use. However, for most jobs it doesn’t really provide the recruiter any relevant information, which is not in your resume or cover letter already.
  • The recruitment/selection process is subject to many biases and prejudices. Hiring managers and recruiters can (and often do) make judgements based on factors which are not relevant for doing the job well. Some examples include attractiveness, age, gender, nationality, race, accent and mannerisms. This is why in places like the USA, it can cause legal issues, if prospective employers ask for a picture of you, or information like your nationality/race in your resume. Sure, once you reach the interview stage, biases can still occur. However, with video resumes, I think you are volunteering yourself for such biases, very early in the selection process.
  • We all know that recruiters and hiring managers spend very little time reviewing a resume. During this time, with a written resume, they are able to quickly scan through your profile and view information they think is most relevant. With a video resume, they can’t do this and will have to spend time going through the entire video to know what’s in there. Painful and not very efficient for them.

To sum it up -> Unless you are in a creative field, spending time on video resumes is not worth the time and effort.

Make good use of Singapore Resume Real Estate

We all make judgements and decisions which based on first impressions. This fact applies to resumes as well and quite often the decision to continue reading your resume or call you for an interview is made based on initial impressions and a quick glance through you resume.

Keeping this in mind it is only logical that the start of your Singapore resume, which is what people see first, should be very impactful and entice recruiters/hiring managers to read further. One way to do this, is by making sure the first page of your resume, is a resume in itself. Even if recruiters don’t read any further, they should be able to decide whether or not to call you for an interview, based on the content on the first page.

So how do you do this? What could you include on the first page, which is prime ‘Singapore Resume Real Estate’ and should not be wasted?

Headline statement: Here you can write a few words describing your area of expertise, along with something which shows that you are a good performer.

Sub-headline statement: Just below the headline in your Singapore resume, you could include more 1-2 lines which give more information to prove that you have done good work in your previous jobs.

Career Overview: Providing a high level overview of the functions/industries you have worked in and possibly a few of your most significant achievements.

Key Strengths/Competencies: A listing of your most relevant technical and soft/other skills. This could be just a list, or a list with 1-2 lines for each point which illustrates how you have used the skill to achieve positive results and/or shows the level of your expertise in the area.

Commendations: If possible, you can add a few extracts of positive testimonials that you have received from supervisors, peers and clients. This could be from emails, performance reviews, LinkedIn recommendations and so on. This adds third-part credibility to your Singapore resume.

Education & Experience: A summary of your education and work experience, without any details

You can include some of this information (experience, education, commendations) when you start writing your resume and for other sections (headline, sub-headline, overview, competencies), it is often easier/better to wait till you finish the rest of the resume first.

To help illustrate these Singapore resume writing best-practices, here is an example of a good first page – Download.

 

Name

Address, Phone, email

>>Award-Winning Wealth/Relationship Management Professional<<

Consistently rated in top 5% and received several fast-track promotions. Able to achieve significant growth in AUM & regularly beat targets by up to 200%

Career Overview

High performing professional with over 11 years of Wealth & Relationship Management experience, in the banking industry. Able to achieve significant growth in AUM and regularly beat targets, through understanding the requirements of individual/corporate clients and providing solutions to meet their financial needs. Oversee business development and client management at a regional level and provide excellent supervision/leadership to senior relationship managers, in order to meet objectives. Consistently deliver outstanding results, leading to ever increasing responsibilities, fast-track promotions and numerous honours/awards.

Key Competencies


·Knowledge of Financial Securities

·Portfolio Management & Wealth Creation

·Business Development & Sales

·Client Relationship Management

·Analytical Thinking

·Interpersonal Skills

·Leadership & Team Management

·Verbal & Written Communication

·Planning & Organisation

·Attention to Detail

·Handling Multiple Tasks Simultaneously

·Ability to Work Under Pressure


Commendations

“I’ve worked with XYZ in a supervisory and peer position. At all times he has exhibited strong technical knowledge, exceptional dedication, and great ability to work and communicate with clients, executive management, peers, and subordinates”

“XYZ is amongst our best performers and has excelled in all areas, including client relationships, sales growth, financial/investment expertise and team management”

Education

UniversitySingapore

MBA (Finance)2008

UniversityUK

Bachelor of Commerce2003

Experience

Company NameSingapore

Senior Relationship Manager2008 to Present

Company NameSingapore

Vice President – Wealth Management2007 to 2008

Company NameLondon

Relationship Manager2005 to 2007

Company NameLondon

Associate Vice President – Wealth Management 2003 to 2005

Company NameLondon

Wealth Management Associate/Senior 1998 to 2003

There Are No Rules For Resume Length in Singapore

At one time, for some odd reason, there was a widespread belief that resumes must be one page long. Anything longer than that and your resume would be thrown in the trash immediately.

Thankfully you don’t hear of that any more (for the most part). People are now moving towards the opinion that the resume length in Singapore depends on the amount of space you need, in order to communicate your candidacy effectively. So there are no hard-and-fast rules and the ideal length for your resume depends on your specific situation.

But some general guidelines are still useful, to avoid a situation where you end-up with a 20 page resume (which I have seen!). From my experience, when it comes to the resume length in Singapore:

  • For most people 1 to 4 pages is usually enough.
  • Fresh graduates and entry level professionals will naturally have shorter resumes (typical resume length is 1-2 pages).
  • Mid-career and senior professional will need more space (typical resume length 2-4 pages).
  • In terms of space utilisation, it is useful to keep in mind how people read a resume. The first instinct is to quickly scan the resume and if it looks promising, then the person will want to see the details. So you need to make quick impact and provide enough information about yourself right at the start, to entice people to read further. One way to  do this is by thinking of the first page as a resume in itself. Other than that, throughout your resume, you should make your key selling points stand-out and be visible at first glance.
  • It is good to provide enough context/background/detail in your resume, so that the reader gets a good idea of what you did and how that matches the requirements of the job. Just writing a few lines to describe each job is not enough and keeps things too vague.

Many people find it hard to keep their resume length manageable. This is often because of:

  • Not focussing enough on their job target: Every job requires a person to have a particular set of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) in order to perform well. When writing your resume, you really need to make an effort to include content which displays these KSAs and remove/downplay other content. I know this can be hard, since you want to write down all great things you’ve done. However, keeping it relevant is very important and you don’t need to include each and every detail of your career history.
  • Not being clear on the objective of a resume: Your resume is not supposed to get you the job. It is meant to get you an interview. So you don’t need to explain, clarify and add caveats for everything. You can talk about all of this during the interview and as you advance through the selection process. So constantly ask yourself – “Will including this information increase my chances of getting the interview call.”

I hope you found these tips for resume length in Singapore helpful.

Singapore Resume Format: Theory vs. Practice

We all know the theory. There are three Singapore resume formats – Chronological, Functional and Combined. When writing a resume, you need to decide on the format which is best for you, depending on your work history, education and job targets.

However – “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” — Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut or Yogi Berra.

So keeping that in mind, let’s start with a round-up of the theory explaining each Singapore resume format, along with their pros and cons.

Chronological Resume Format

This format focuses on the chronology of your work history by highlighting dates of employment, places of employment, and job titles. This format directly ties responsibilities and accomplishments to companies and time frames.

Use this Singapore resume format if you:

  • Want to highlight stability, consistency, growth, and development in your career.
  • Are looking for a similar or more senior position within the same industry.
  • Have job titles that are impressive stepping stones and your most recent position is the one most likely to impress prospective employers.

Advantages

  • Enables an employer to determine, at a glance, where and when you’ve worked and what you accomplished at each job.
  • Is the most common and widely accepted format.
  • Provides the employer with a clear sense of your career progress.

Disadvantages

  • Limited work experience and employment gaps are obvious.
  • Could reveal a history of changing jobs frequently.
  • Could reveal if you were in the same job too long or have held the same type of job too long.
  • Does not highlight skills and accomplishments as much as it highlights work history.

Functional Resume Format

The functional resume format emphasizes your skills, capabilities, and accomplishments, and de-emphasizes your job titles, employers, and dates of employment. The functional format allows you to prioritise your experience and accomplishments according to their impact and significance, rather than chronology.

Use this Singapore resume format if you:

  • Have changed jobs frequently in the past few years.
  • Have gaps in your employment history.
  • Have limited work experience in your job target.
  • Are changing careers.
  • Gained significant experience outside your career path.

Advantages

  • Highlights accomplishments, skills, and experience most relevant to your career objective.
  • Takes focus off gaps or inconsistencies in your work history.
  • Draws from a range of paid and non-paid experiences.

Disadvantages

  • Experience is not directly tied to specific job titles and dates of employment which can lead employers to suspect you’re trying to hide something.
  • Does not emphasize promotions and career growth.
  • Makes it difficult for hiring managers to tell exactly what the candidate did in each job.

Combined Resume Format

The combined format includes the traditional Experience section of a chronological resume as well as the skills and accomplishments sections of a functional resume.

Use this Singapore resume format if you:

  • Are a senior-level professional or executive and have significant accomplishments.
  • Want to highlight your relevant abilities during a career transition.
  • Want to emphasise skills and abilities you have not used in recent jobs.
  • Have been freelancing, consulting, or performing temporary work.

Advantages

  • Highlights your primary skills and accomplishments at the top of your resume.
  • Format can be arranged to emphasise either skills and abilities or work history, whichever is most appropriate for your career objective.

Disadvantages

  • Resume could become longer than necessary and may lose the employer’s interest.
  • Resume may contain redundant information or lack focus.

You can see examples (courtesy QuintCareers) of the 3 resume formats here [CV formats].

Now, based on my experience with resumes, job seekers and recruiters, here’s what I suggest you do in practice, for picking a Singapore resume format:

  • For most people the Combined resume format (with detailed descriptions of previous job responsibilities/achievements and not just a list of jobs held), works quite well. It’s probably what you should use as well.
  • In case you really can’t get a Combined Singapore resume format to work for you, then use the Chronological format.
  • As far as possible, don’t use the Functional resume format. It’s confusing and irritating to read. Recruiters & hiring managers are not stupid and will still be able to figure out any gaps in your work history, or other things you might be trying to hide.

Unbelievable Phrases Found in Resumes

My recent article on spelling mistakes in a job advertisement made me think of the countless times I’ve been reviewing other peoples’ résumés, and found some of the most ridiculous mistakes. Obviously, some were simply typos, but just getting one letter wrong, transforms the word into something unintelligible or unprintable.

I’m sure you understand what I mean. For instance, in the word “shot,” if you change the “o” it can become a “bathroom” word that no one wants in their résumé.

I thought we could all use a good laugh, so the following are actual phrases, sentences, and words, etc. that have been used in résumés and cover letters [according to the website “Things People Said”].

  • “I have a bachelorette degree in computers.”
  • “I can play well with others.”
  • “Special skills: I’ve got a Ph.D. in human feelings.”
  • “My contributions on product launches were based on dreams that I had.”
  • “Experience: Watered, groomed, and fed the family dog for years.”
  • “Reason for leaving last job: Pushed aside so the vice president’s girlfriend could steal my job.”
  • “Work history: Bum. Abandoned belongings and led nomadic lifestyle.”
  • “I am quick at typing, about 25 words per minute.”
  • “Typing speed: 756 wpm.”
  • “Objectives: 10-year goal: Total obliteration of sales and federal income taxes and tax laws.”
  • “Extensive background in accounting. I can also stand on my head!”
  • “Excellent memory, strong math aptitude; excellent memory; effective management skills; and very good at math.”
  • “I saw your ad on the information highway, and came to a screeching halt.”
  • “Please disregard the attached resume — it is terribly out of date.”
  • “If this resume doesn’t blow your hat off, then please return it in the enclosed envelope.”
  • “I need just enough money to have pizza every night.”
  • “My compensation should be at least equal to my age.”
  • “I’ll starve without a job but don’t feel you have to give me one.”
  • “It’s best for employers that I not work with people.”
  • “My ruthlessness terrorized the competition and can sometimes offend.”

These are the just a few of the better ones I found and you must admit, most of them are pretty funny 🙂 .

Singapore Resume Writing Best Practices: Let’s Start By Clarifying A Few Things

You will find endless amounts of information on effective Singapore resume writing. Some of it works, some of it’s plain nonsense and often it’s hard to differentiate between the two. Over time the best practices for writing a resume change as well.

Therefore I thought it would be useful to write a series of articles/videos, which will provide practical tips on how to write a resume  for Singapore and answer questions that I hear most frequently from job seekers.

The series will follow a logical and step-by-step approach, going through the entire process of writing a great resume, which will get you noticed by recruiters and employers in Singapore.

To get started I want to make sure we’re all on the same page, by clarifying a few basic things.

First: In terms of definitions, in most parts of the world the terms CV and Resume are used interchangeable and mean the same thing.

However, in the USA they mean very different things, as shown below:

This often causes confusion. For the purpose of this series, I will be using the term resume most of the time but in case I use CV, it still means resume :).

Second: I will be discussing best practices for how to write a resume, which are applicable in most places in the world. However, my focus will be on the Singapore market and will cover location specific best-practices.

Ok. That’s all for now. Stay tuned for lots more information on Singapore resume writing best practices.

Singapore resume writing: What’s Illegal in USA, is Legal in Singapore

That’s right. There is something which is legal in Singapore and illegal in another part of the world.

(I’ve been waiting to write that sentence, from the moment I thought about this article 🙂 .With that out of the way, let’s move on to the topic at hand).

If you are looking for a job in a foreign/new country, like many people, you might use your existing resume without much modification. This could hamper your job search, since often there are country-specific resume writing practices that you need to take into account.

For the most part, the main information included in a resume/CV is the same around the world i.e. a description of your previous education and experience. However, there are some things that could be different. For Singapore resume writing for example, people like to see enough detail in resumes – for your previous jobs and also for your personal particulars. So resumes are longer here and could include personal information such as nationality, religion, age, marital status, gender and reasons for leaving previous employment. It is not uncommon for recruiters/employers to ask for a photograph also.

Similar resume writing practices exist in some parts of Europe as well but not in others. In the UK personal information and a photograph is typically not provided. In Australia and the USA, the norms are very different. A recent email I received from a resume writing professional in the USA, best illustrates this point:

“I’m contacting you, hoping you wouldn’t mind answering a question or two. As stated above, I am a resume writer, and recently acquired a new client, a young man, living in Singapore. I asked if he could send me a copy of his current resume, which he did.

This is when the uncertainty and questions started to arise. On his present resume, he includes a picture of himself and a section of personal data, with information such as race, religion, age, date of birth, marital status, etc.

In the US, pictures are never included and not only is the personal information indicated above not added to a resume, but things like age, marital status, religion, etc. are actually illegal for an employer to ask a prospective employee. In other words, including information like this goes against every guideline and rule of resume writing, in this country.

I’ve tried finding examples of good Singapore resume writing and what I’ve found confuses me even further. Most are written much like ours are in the US, but then I found some with personal information and pictures included.

This is something I never imagined would become an issue. Naturally I don’t want to offend anyone by making a huge cultural error., but could you please help me here and advise me on which style is best, more appropriate or proper?”

Key take-away: Always check and double-check to get a good understanding of local resume writing (and job search) practices and be very clear on what information to include/exclude. It could make a difference in the number of interviews you get.

We have a number of articles on our website with Singapore resume writing tips and specifics. Do have a look at those to get a good idea of what works here.

When writing a resume for Singapore, Don’t forget activities & interests

When going about the process of writing a resume for Singapore (or even when talking about themselves in job interviews), people often dismiss their ‘non-work’ activities and interests.

The reasoning is that they are typically not relevant from the career point of view. When writing a resume, while it is important to keep the content as relevant to your job target as possible, I think an exception can be made for your activities/interests.

Why activities and interests should be considered writing a resume for Singapore

My thoughts are as follows:

  • Adding an Activities & Interest section will not take-up much space in the resume
  • Providing information on your various pursuits outside of work, shows that you are a well rounded individual
  • Accomplishments in this area (such as being captain of your university football team, or winning a music competition) are often seen as a reflection of competence in other (work related) areas as well. This is backed by research conducted by Amy Cuddly at the Harvard Business School, who says that “Many acts can indicate competence: scoring well on a College Board exam (SAT), for example, or knowing how to handle a sailboat, or deftly navigating through a software application. Demonstrating a single positive-competent behavior tends to broaden into a wider aura of competence: someone with a high SAT score, for example, will be viewed as generally competent. In contrast, a single negative-competent behavior—not knowing how to sail, for example—does not generalize into a perception of overall incompetence: it will simply be dismissed as, say, an unlearned skill. “Positive competence is weighted more heavily than negative competence”

Do keep these points in mind when writing a resume for your job search in Singapore.

JobsDB Career Fair – Singapore resume samples/formats and best practices

The resume critique booth operated by Sandbox Advisors during the recent JobsDB Career Fair, was a huge success. Over the three days we reviewed more than 300 resumes and helped job seekers improve the quality of their resumes and cover letters.

Participants were given a detailed critique of their existing resumes and were also given Singapore resume samples/formats, to help get them started with the process.

As is often the case, most of the resumes we came across had similar and very basic mistakes. For the benefit of those who were not able to attend the career fair, below is a summary of the most common mistakes we observed and some quick tips on how to overcome them. You can also download some of the Singapore resume samples/formats we provided at the event.

  1. Poor design and layout: Having a resume which looks good at first glance and is well structured/formatted can make a big difference. We shared a few examples of well designed resumes during the event, which can be downloaded here [Singapore resume samples/formats 1, Resume samples/formats 2]
  2. Too much content: Many resumes we reviewed were extremely long, sometimes over 15 pages! While there is no hard and fast rule, for majority of people I would suggest a 2-3 page resume. This keeps things brief, while allowing for enough room to communicate sufficient details about your background. Remember that this is just a guideline and your case might warrant some deviation. For example, as a fresh graduate you might have enough material for only 1 page and if you are a senior executive then you might need 4-5 pages.
  3. Wasting ‘prime resume real-estate’: The initial portion of your resume is very important, since that is what the recruiter sees first. Therefore you need to make quick impact in that section. Some ways to do this are by using sections such as a headline, career summary, key skills, achievements. Do not waste this space by letting your personal particulars (name, address, date of birth, contact information, etc.) cover majority of the first page of your resume.
  4. Too much focus on job responsibilities: When describing past work experience, there is a tendency to give details only for job duties/responsibilities. This is not the right approach, since many people would have similar jobs/responsibilities and that makes it hard for a recruiter to decide who to pick for the interview. You need to write a lot more about your achievements i.e. how well you performed your responsibilities. Tell recruiters about the great things you did at work and how significant they were.
  5. Use of generic resumes: Different jobs require different knowledge, skills and abilities to perform well. Therefore when applying to jobs which are very different in nature, you need to use different resumes as well. The respective resume must showcase only those skills, etc. which are needed for the job you are applying to. You don’t need a different resume for every job you apply to but can use 2-3 resumes for groups of jobs which are similar in nature

jobs-in-singaporeIf you are serious about getting a job in Singapore, then you should download our job search books [click here]. They have everything you need to find jobs quickly, including many Singapore resume samples/formats and best practices