Career

3 Resume Writing Tips for Fresh Grads

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Joanne Poh

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So you’ve graduated from university. Now what? After the celebrations, grad trips and soul searching are over, it’s time to join the The Workforce. Whether you’re raring to secure your dream job or dreading the onset of adulthood, there’s no avoiding writing a resume and sending it out to potential employers—unless you’ve got a family business to take over or a trust fund to support you.

But anyone who’s had ever had the chance to leaf through a big stack of fresh grads’ resumes knows there a lot of duds out there—from the guy who attaches a photo of himself taken at a club to the girl whose 10 page resume includes a blow-by-blow account of every CCA she’s takem part in since kindergarten. Here are 3 questions from clueless resume writers answered.

 

How much do you write about your hobbies and extracurriculars?

Unless you’re one of those super kiasu students who did 10 internships by graduation, you’ve probably not got a lot go to on when you’re fresh out of uni. Your only achievements to date are being appointed secretary of your secondary school’s ping pong club and that voluntourism trip to Nepal. So will it benefit you to give a super detailed account of every single thing you’ve been doing in your spare time to show what a cool, well-rounded person you are?

When you’re a fresh grad and don’t have any relevant experience to speak of, your extracurriculars can give your employer some insight into the kind of person you are—but don’t go overboard. Most typical employers don’t care (that much) about how cool you are—they just want to know that you can do the job and fit into the company.

Generally, any leadership positions or achievements such as prizes should be highlighted, as they show you’re a person with leadership qualities and the tenacity to stick with something. But refrain from waxing lyrical about your hobbies—simply listing them with no further elaboration in a tiny “interests” section at the end is enough.

You might think your love of raising tarantulas or experimenting with piercings shows you have character, but remember that not all employers are as open-minded as you think they are—in fact, unless you’re joining a startup run by under-35s, you can expect your bosses to be conservative.

 

Is it true your resume should be only one page long?

While many career websites tell students that potential employers scan only the first page of your resume and then burn the rest, it’s not always wise to stick to the one-page rule. Some fresh grads go overboard by adjusting their font size to a miniscule 6.5 in order to cram information about their 25 internships onto one page.

To be perfectly honest, the number of physical pages on your resume isn’t that important. The one-page rule is just a guideline indicating that you should strive for brevity by leaving out information that won’t interest the employer—meaning you should not expound on irrelevant experience such as that waitressing gig you did in Year 1 of uni, or bombard them with information about your NUS hall experience.

Some fresh grads are obviously going to have more relevant experience than others—if you’ve taken on multiple internships, volunteered with organisations in your field and won numerous academic prizes, you’ll have more to put on your CV than the guy who spent 4 years of uni playing games on his Xbox.

But a resume that’s 2-3 pages long isn’t going to be sent straight to the recycle bin so long as it’s not full of fluff. By all means reduce the margins and the spacing between the lines if you want to give the impression of brevity, but go overboard with walls of tiny text and your one-page CV is just as likely to be condemned for causing headaches.

 

In what detail should I write about my grades?

While experienced job seekers make their work experience the centrepiece of their resumes, fresh grads are often assessed on their educational history. Does that mean you need to publish full details of your kindergarten report cards?

Here’s the hard and fast answer—you should only write about your grades if they’re good. And whether they’re good or not really depends on your industry and desired job, harsh as it might sound

If you’re applying to be a doctor or lawyer, you probably don’t want to mention any Bs or Cs you received on your A level report card, since you’ll be competing against candidates with perfect scores. On the other hand, if you are applying for a job with a more diverse range of candidates, such as one in marketing or sales, if you got more As than other grades you’ll want to highlight that on your resume.

When it comes to the class of honours you received on your degree, only mention it if you got a first class or second upper. Those with second lower or third class honours should just indicate that they possess an honours degree and nothing more. Your employer might ask you about it in the interview, but at least you’d have already gotten your foot through the door and wowed them with your winning personality.

What mistakes have you made on your resume? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.