Now we all know this – the job market in Singapore is extremely competitive. But even if you think you’re an utterly amazing worker, can you stand out from the crowd right from the outset to score an interview?
Before you try to swing an interview in your favour, your resume is the first impression hirers have of you. The impression you want to project of your brilliance, skillsets and value is going take a hit if your resume is brimming with errors. Ensure you get one foot through the office door and create a lasting impression by avoiding these common mistakes:
1. Poor design choices
Sure, content seems a lot more important than form, doesn’t it? Who cares about fancy typography (no, don’t overdo it though) and formatting if your skills are obviously lacking?
But let’s face it. If 30 other candidates are vying for the same spot as you, you want to be able to catch a hirer’s attention right away. Many CVs rely on the same old B&W templates of chronological sectioning and bullet-pointing. While it looks professional, it also looks like every other resume drowning in the ‘In’ tray on a recruiter’s desk. Giving a little more care to design isn’t superficial, especially when you view a resume as a marketing tool. It actually means you care both about the small details and conveying a stronger impression to catch a recruiter’s eye. None of these are bad.
Okay so maybe you’re a design dud but at the very least, you can change up your typeface a little. The classic Times New Roman may have been the default for jobseekers for sometime now, but going the way of Calibri, Cambria, Arial, Arial Narrow, Georgia, and Gill Sans is fine too. In fact, a 2015 Bloomberg article took note to declare, “using Times New Roman is the typeface equivalent to wearing sweatpants to an interview”. The winner of typefaces, reported Bloomberg and typography aficionados they asked, was Helvetica.
Depending on the nature of the job you’re seeking, other possible font choices for a professional and contemporary look include Didot for the fashionable to use as headings, and Garamond for the artistically-inclined. At this point, we shouldn’t need to mention that Comic Sans MS and Courier will not do you any favours.
In addition, colours are not banned from the professional world. It’s not a cardinal sin to use icons and sensibly-coloured text boxes to distinguish specific professional achievements and make them more visually distinct on the page.
2. A boring cover letter
Both cover letter and resume should show that you possess the skills for the job, but as complementary as they are, these documents should also be unique to each other. Yes, your cover letter should highlight explicitly the career experiences you have had that push you to the top of the hiring ranks, but there’s something that most job seekers forget in a rush to send their documents out: the body of text in cover letters provides a critical opportunity to showcase your personality and passions, too.
A cover letter should not be your resume repeated in paragraph forms. Instead, personalise that body of text available to you to strengthen your position as one of the many jobseekers out there. This doesn’t mean going off tangent. The story about yourself that you’re telling in a cover letter should always be in relation to the role. So you can tell your potential employer relevant details about why you got into this industry in the first place, why you’re interested in them and perhaps include a funny story about a job experience that matters to this position you’re applying for and so on.
Many people fear coming off looking like a frivolous fool. But for the HR manager who has to get through stacks of CVs and cover letters, bringing a story about yourself to their desks via a cover letter will make an indelible impression. Assuming everyone has equally impressive stats on their resume, your cover letter can serve to intrigue employers. Get them interested paves the way to that phone call inviting you for an interview to learn more about you and what you can bring to the table.
3. Using non-standard English
It’s perhaps a no-brainer, but with the widespread use of Singlish in conversations, it’s easy for some non-standard English terms to slip into your documents. Sure, office meetings and conversations in your new job is probably going to be peppered with Singlish, but it may come across as unprofessional if your cover letter is riddled with non-standard English phrases.
According to the Speak Good English Movement, the most common gaffes made by Singaporeans include using “upgrade” in place of “improve” and “revert” as a replacement for “reply” – all of which happen to be words you’re likely to use in your cover letter. There’s really no excuse to send in a blunder-ridden cover letter when you can copy and paste text into free apps like Grammarly. The app isn’t perfect and foolproof, so do get a friend or two to proofread for you as well.
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