As a working adult, you know the whole drill—when you decide you’ve had it with your abusive boss, you update your resume, type up a gushing, fulsome cover letter and then blitz every company that has an email address.
Eunice, the CEO of local recruitment firm Career Shine, looks at resumes for a living and can tell you that 90% of the resumes she sees are, well, just not great. Most of the time, she ends up rewriting candidates’ resumes to submit to employers. To compound the problem, many people make their resumes look even worse than they have to be.
Sure, you might have spent the last five years of your career fiddling with your smartphone and taking smoke breaks, but at least don’t put that on your resume, you know? Here are five other mistakes a ton of Singaporeans make on theirs.
1. Spitting out every single thing they’ve done without summarising their experience
Many Singaporean candidates who are very well-qualified are just clueless about bringing that fact across to potential employers. If you’re an experienced hire with varied experience, it’s best to include a one-paragraph summary at the top of your resume. And obviously, you’ll need to do the same when you introduce yourself in your cover letter.
Not providing a quick summary can be fatal when you’ve had a career change or have just done several different things at once. Your resume is going to look fractured to potential employers, so it’s up to you to pull all the pieces together.
Eunice says, “It’s important to find an underlying theme in your career, even if you have had many different types of jobs. For example, many engineers join the banking field after a few years. These people should highlight that their education and past work experience has required them to be very numerate and analytical, qualities that they would like use in the banking industry.”
2. Being too lazy to include a cover letter
The truth is, many employers merely skim through cover letters once and then forget they existed. When you show up for an interview, more often than not the interviewer will have with him a copy of your cover letter, but not your resume.
Still, if you’re applying for a job on your own and not through a headhunter, it is crucial that you stick a cover letter on top of your application, no matter what.
Eunice says, “First of all, employers expect a cover letter, regardless of whether they ask for one. If you don’t include a cover letter, you’re going to look sloppy.”
More importantly, however, your cover letter tells them why you’re writing to them—ie. what position you’re applying for. If an employer skims your cover letter and has no idea what you want, chances are slim that they will bother to decipher the point of your resume.
Cover letters usually turn out to be nonsensical compositions in which job applicants wax lyrical about how wonderful the company is. Don’t bother.
You need to state why you’re applying, give a summary of your experience in a manner that will encourage the hiring manner not to hit “delete”, and leave your contact details. That’s it.
3. Not being clear about what job they’re applying for
This is one of those points that sound like a no brainer. But according to Eunice, an overwhelming number of applicants are totally vague about what job they’re applying for.
Many write airy fairy statements like “I am searching for a job that will fulfill me and allow me to use my skills,” which screams “I preferred going back to my Korean drama to spending 2 minutes editing my resume for this application”.
Many employers post job ads on a variety of platforms. Just because you saw the job ad on jobsdb.com doesn’t mean the employer is going to be sitting by the phone forlornly waiting for you to call. In fact, he might already have forgotten the job ad was even there.
So in your cover letter and introductory email, be sure to state very clearly what job ad you’re answering and what post you’re applying for. For instance, you might state that you’re “writing to apply for the post of administrative assistant advertised in the Straits Times classifieds section dated x-x-2015”.
Also be cognisant of the fact that the company might have posted an ad calling for a range of people (eg. associates AND senior associates), or even be running multiple ads for slightly different positions.
To avoid misunderstanding, summarise your experience so there’s no question which post you’re applying for.
For instance, if you’re interviewing for the post of senior associate, you’re going to want to emphasise that you have more than five years of experience.
4. Making grammatical errors
Eunice estimates that about 95% of the resumes she receives contain grammatical errors. While a minor error lost in a forest of text might be overlooked, some candidates have such sloppily written resumes that she has to call them up to ask what they are trying to say.
Even a couple of minor mistakes can be fatal for candidates looking to apply for jobs that require a strong command of English such as those in law or communications. Before sending out your resume, get someone to look it over and correct grammatical and spelling errors if you’re unsure as to whether you can do it yourself.
5. Using positive adjectives to describe themselves rather than providing figures
Most people understand that you should try to make yourself sound as good as possible on your resume. But just like that guy who keeps bragging about his “high flying” job, many people try too hard. If words such as “excellent”, “intelligent” or “driven” appear on your resume, you’re doing it all wrong.
In general, using positive adjectives to describe yourself sounds as lame on your resume as it does in real life.
The way to impress employers is to use figures. So don’t just say you led a team—mention that it was a team of 50. Reveal how much money each of the deals you worked on was worth. Tell them how much money you saved the company through the project you worked on.
Eunice recalls a candidate who described himself as “highly intelligent” on his resume. “His entire resume was full of really boastful adjectives but without concrete details about his achievements. I had to really work with him to change it,” she says.
Have you been guilty of committing any of these mistakes? Let us know in the comments!