Career advisers and employers everywhere in the world always emphasise the importance of a resume when they describe it as a vital document that can make or mar a candidate’s chances of landing a job position or work role. A resume is the first impression a candidate presents to a potential employer before physical contact. It displays skills, abilities and suitability for specific job roles and responsibilities. It pitches and sells the candidate’s experience and profile, which is why it is often described as a firsthand marketing tool. Accordingly, knowing how to craft a quality resume is a skill every prospective job seeker should master.
Singaporean employers characteristically conflate the terms “curriculum vitae” and “resume”, often using them interchangeably. Nevertheless, Singaporean resumes design generally conform with universal styles and standards, with alterations and tweaks depending on the organisation, company or institution offering job positions and opportunities.
Singaporean Resume Format
The acceptable resume categories in Singapore are similar to the obtainable ones globally. Just like the rest of the world, conventional formats such as chronological, functional and combination resumes are accepted and recognised.
Chronological resumes, which are commonly used, offer a simple, easy design that provides an overview of the candidate’s relevant skills and experience. This resume style, also known as the reverse chronological resume, follows a straightforward structure: as an ordering principle, recent or current experience is presented first Chronological resumes are structured into sections that cover personal details, contact information, introductory statements about oneself, employment history (work experience) and educational history presented and arranged in chronological order, skills and interests. This mode of resume is suggested for job seekers who boast of already garnered experience in a particular sector. This resume style facilitates a comprehensive presentation of skills and competencies. Chronological resumes typically are one-page documents. A number of problems characterise this pattern of resume design. Apart from being ill-suited for candidates switching and changing career paths and tracks, it offers no way of concealing gaps in employment history and work experience. Nevertheless, it is the most preferred mode of resume design for employers and organisations in Singapore.
Functional resumes (also termed skills-based) is distinguished by their emphasis on skills, qualifications, qualities and personality with a little fixation on job experience. This style ideally suits applicants with significant gaps in employment history, an oversaturated job experience and work history. It is equally useful for job seekers and applicants switching from one career path to another. Functional resumes structurally have sections for personal details and contact information, a concise summary of qualifications, employment history (job or work experience), skills and abilities and academic qualifications. This method of resume writing style requires effective usage of keywords to highlight relevant, skilful, required skills, qualities and abilities that a job may require. Functional resume style, as already mentioned, allows for the unlocking of creativity in terms of design. However, it is flawed in at least two ways. First, it may encounter problems when put through the applicant tracking system (ats) used by most organisations to administer resumes. Furthermore, it has been criticised for concealing experiences.
Combination resumes amalgamate chronological and functional resumes, retaining key attributes of both styles. As expected, combination-styled resumes are much more comprehensive and flexible. They showcase skills, abilities, qualities, and relevant work history and experience held by the candidate. However, the insertion of work history is to highlight skills and knowledge acquired and developed from and in the course of jobs so listed. The merits of the combination resume style are that it highlights skills and experiences and compensates for gaps in employment history or work experience. At the same time, it must be noted that it is often hard to structure and organise.
Typically, a combination-styled resume may contain information on personal details, contact information, summaries of skills, qualities, work experience and educational background. This form of resume lacks a definite, fixed design format.
Beyond these three forms, another form accepted and in use is the targeted resume. This style acquires its name from the fact that it offers the candidate the opportunity to customise the information presented in line with desired job position and sector applied for. The targeted resume style is flexible and without a fixed, definite format like its combination resume style counterpart. It typically contains information on personal details and contact information, qualifications, professional experience, education and training.
Typical structure of a Singaporean Resume
A typical Singaporean resume, as is already obvious from the above discussed and contains the following sections:
Personal details/contact information
This section, usually at the top of the resume, contains details relating to name, address, telephone number, email address, gender, date of birth, nationality, interests, and language proficiency (if required).
This section introduces the candidate’s ambitions, goals, and plans in relation to the chosen career path/track and industry. This optional section also outlines what the candidate will bring to the job in terms of skills, experience and abilities. A statement of career objectives should also capture the candidate’s motivation for applying for the job.
Candidates present in this section comprehensive details about their educational history. Such details include institution(s) attended, results, and certificates attained. Information on special courses, training programmes, and internships is also included here.
Work experience (employment history)
This section offers a cogent, clear picture of a candidate’s suitability for job positions advertised for application. It offers detailed information on facts pertaining to employment history: job position(s) held, organisations worked for and job responsibilities. Furthermore, this section equally highlights achievements recorded on the job as well as internship experience.
This section projects skills held by candidates. In this section, the information provided highlights skills that may be of interest to the recruiting organisation or employer in addition to abilities relevant to specified job roles advertised. These skills are but not limited to communication skills, computer skills and leadership skills.
Resumes also contain sections for references. These references may be drawn from academic and professional backgrounds. The recruiting organisation or employer may demand these references offer insights into a candidate’s character and endorsements of the candidate’s suitability for a job position.
Tips for writing and designing a resume in Singapore
Writing and designing a top-notch resume is not an easy task. The task can be made less difficult by adhering to the following tips:
Keep it short: The recommended length for resumes in Singapore is under three pages. Resumes, however, do not usually exceed one page. As such, care must be taken to include only relevant, significant details and information.
Pay attention to formatting: This recommendation considers the structuring and design of resumes. It is advisable to use sub-headings for ease of reference, consistent formatting styles, layouts and easily readable fonts. Also, grammar and punctuation must be of standard.
Comply with the requirements of the recruiting organisation or employer: Recruiting organisations and employers may have their own requirements for a resume. Flouting these requirements is harmful and must be avoided at all costs.
Use dominant, action words: When describing work experience, it is required to make use of action words (verbs, adjectives and adverbs). Some of such words include ‘oversaw’, ‘spearheaded, etc.
Quantify achievements: Achievements should be discussed in not just qualitative terms. Quantifying through the use of numbers helps establish the scale and impact of achieved results and the input made to achieve those results. Furthermore, it makes it more practical and convincing.
Customise to match job specifications and requirements: Resumes should be tailored according to the job and role applied for. Using one resume for multiple applications is more harmful than a helpful practice.
Remember the S.T.A.R technique: The S.T.A. R technique spelt out in full is “Situation, Task, Action, Result”. It is recommended for crafting an effective work experience/employment history/professional experience. This technique can help make decisions on what to include in the section on professional experience and the manner of presentation. Situation considers the background of the job position held, task highlights challenges faced on the job and required skills, action describes experiences in responding to and resolving challenges encountered in the course of the job, the result highlights the outcomes of actions that were taken in resolving those challenges.