Ultimate Guide to Resume / CV Writing – Singapore Edition
Here’s a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to write a resume for the Singapore market. With our ultimate guide, you will learn how to craft that killer resume that will get you ahead of the competition.
Our resume writing guide is composed of 6 parts that will explain each essential part of a resume extensively. To give you a quick overview (or if you want to jump between parts), here is the content of our guide:
- Part 1: The Resume Template
- Part 2: Writing The Executive Summary
- Part 3: Building Your Resume Content
- Part 4: Highlighting Your Achievements
- Part 5: Resume Words You Must Include
- Part 6: Resume Killers To Avoid
However, before we dive into each part, we’ll show you first an example of a before and after CV comparison with our comments on them.
The Before CV
The After CV
Part 1: The Resume Template
Design and presentation are really crucial. Compare the 2 resumes below, which would you pick up first?
Give yourself a chance to present a good impression to the recruiter. Use a nice resume template.
If you don’t have one, download our free resume templates that you can use in your resume writing.
Part 2: Writing The Executive Summary
What is an Executive Summary?
Think of the Executive Summary as an elevator pitch, where you have just a few seconds (or lines, in this case) to demonstrate that you have the skills, experience and achievements to flourish in the position you’re applying for.
- Accomplished Finance Controller with over 15 years’ experience in financial compliance at global MNCs such as Unilever, P&G and Kraft Foods.
- Good track record for supporting business growth through astute financial management and strategic management of risk exposure. Previously managed 7 business units across Asia with total combined revenues in excess of 450 million SGD
- Experienced in GST / VAT Reporting, Transfer Pricing, Supply Chain Finance as well as compliance and reporting procedures for Singapore companies.
- Skilled at working with senior management team to identify areas for business improvement and increment in profitability.
The above example works well, because from the first line alone, we already know two essential points: the applicant’s length of experience, and their main field and industry of expertise. From a recruiters’ perspective, this opening line provides a good sense of whether the applicant is suitable for the position they’re seeking to fill, or not.
The next few lines outline the applicants’ other skills, taking care to mention specific details such as knowledge of compliance and reporting procedures for Singaporean companies.
Click here for a complete guide on How to Write an Executive Summary.
Tips on Writing Your Executive Summary
Focus on your selling points. Perhaps you’re good at number-crunching, or you enjoy data entry.
Be sure to highlight these, while avoiding mention of weaknesses or tasks that you dislike. You don’t want to set yourself up for awkward questions during any interviews, or even during the job itself, if you get that far.
At the same time, seek to tailor your Executive Summary to the job you’re applying for.
Ideally, an Executive Summary would match closely with the job description of the position that the applicant is vying for—but don’t copy it, obviously!
Everything in moderation: keep it to about 4-6 lines. This will inform the reader of the depth and scope of your experience, but it will not be so long that they are bored.
At this point, they will want specifics, and thus prefer move on to the details of your work scopes and achievements.
Executive Summaries are usually presented as either a bulleted list or a paragraph, so that’s down to your discretion. A list might be easier to read, however.
We always emphasise including more metrics in the executive summary. It helps to make the summary so much more impactful.
Let me give you an example. Instead of saying:
- Highly capable and well rounded Project Manager with deep experience in delivering high-impact and strategically significant projects for bluechip clients globally
We should say
- Project Manager with 8 years of experience in leading projects worth up to 12 million USD and 50 staff. Successfully delivered banking IT projects for clients such as Standard Chartered Bank, ABN Amro, UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Customise, Customise, Customise
If you’re a fresh graduate, or an otherwise less experienced applicant, be sure to highlight transferable skills you may have gained from your education, internships, or other life experiences.
- Engineering undergraduate student with solid background in mechanical engineering from National University of Singapore
- Deep experience in wide range of industrial designs and fabrication solutions for oil and gas industry from previous internship at Shell
- Strong understanding of customer needs with keen eye for identifying opportunities for design optimisation. Previously saved 4% in material cost for submerged seawater pump through re-design.
- Track record for delivering exceptional work to high standards and meeting project milestones. Received letter of recommendation from superior for exceeding expectations.
Similarly, don’t forget to customise your Executive Summary to better reflect your chosen industry/profession.
For example, IT professionals should try to include their specific domains of expertise—such as software architecture or banking applications, as in the below example.
- Seasoned techno-functional IT manager with over 10 years’ experience in managing IT banking systems in the areas of Software Architecture and System Design.
- Solid experience in conceptualising and driving technical solutions for complex problems with specific domain expertise in banking applications including basel III system redesign.
- Adept at end-to-end full life cycle implementation projects with ability to bring together diverse teams to meet organisational goals. Previously completed regional project worth 50 million SGD with over 20 regionally based stakeholders and team members.
- Strong in identifying opportunities for process improvement and operational efficiencies that lead to significant cost savings and continuous improvement.
Check out an IT Project Manager resume sample we recently produced.
Watch The Fluff
Lastly, I want to talk about the worst thing you can do on your CV.
Everyone does it and surprisingly, feel really proud of it. But recruiters absolutely hate it.
I’m talking about fluffy statements in your CV. Statements like these:
- Highly accomplished strategic thinker with stellar communication skills
- Consistent performer with track record for meeting expectations
At first glance, to the untrained eye, they seem really clever. Several punchy words in there.
They sound like good statements to include in a CV. Most recruiters and hiring managers however, hate statements like that.
Let’s cut aside the B.S. and really look at what those statements are saying.
- Highly accomplished strategic thinker with stellar communication skills
Is really saying
- I’m smart and I’m good at talking / writing
Let’s try another one
- Consistent performer with track record for meeting expectations
Is really saying
- I often finish the work my boss gives me
When you take away those bombastic words, these statements don’t actually mean anything, anyone could say them!
And yet jobseekers use them again and again, expecting to catch the recruiter’s attention.
Keep your resume content real and grounded. It’ll get you far more respect (and interview calls) from the reader.
Don’t give that recruiter a reason to chuck your CV and move on! By making sure you have an informative Executive Summary to catch their eye right on top of the résumé, you can instead leave a good impression—and with any luck, appear as suitable and qualified for the position as you most probably are.
If you’d like a little more guidance, do check out our extensive pool of résumé samples here for many more examples of great Executive Summaries.
Part 3: Building Your Resume Content
Perhaps you’ve spent hours or even days polishing up your résumé, but the truth is, recruiters and hiring managers aren’t going to dedicate more than a few minutes to reading it.
So you have to get the most out of your resume in those precious few minutes – both in terms of its visual appeal, and its content.
We’ll talk about design and looks another time, but here are four simple ways to add some punch to the words in your resume.
Let’s take a look at a before and after resume sample. Refer to the graphic below:
Which of these résumés above look better?
Obviously, it’s the one on the bottom. But why?
Let’s break it down, step by step.
- First lines
As with novels, the opening line of a résumé is the most important.
Make sure any recruiter or HR manager reading your resume knows, based on that one line, exactly who you are and what you do, and why they should keep reading. This applies to both your executive summary, and the individual work scopes for each employment.
Manage marketing for company
Lead team of 20 with annual budget of 500’000 SGD to drive marketing campaigns for leading company dealing in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)
The second example above lists everything pertinent in one succinct line: what you do (your responsibilities) and where you do it (the industry/company).
Details such as “team of 20” and “budget of 500’000 SGD” draw a clearer picture of the scale of your work, and provide readers with the confidence to continue reading your CV.
- No Pronouns, Please
Talk about yourself all you want in your cover letter, but if you want your résumé to sound crisp and professional, avoid the “I”s.
Consider the following examples:
I drive the accounting function for a furniture manufacturing company
Drive accounting function for regional furniture manufacturing company
Which sounds more authoritative, concise, and factual?
Using pronouns is also repetitive and unnecessary — after all, it’s your name on the top of the résumé, so it’s understood that you also have done the things described within it.
- Get rid of those articles
Words like “a” and “the” are known as articles, and they have no place in your CV. Consider:
Lead a team of 12 to drive the accounting function
Lead team of 12 to drive accounting function
Which sounds sharper?
In the first example, neither “a” nor “the” add any meaning to the sentence. Instead, they make it longer and more crowded.
Remember: clarity is the name of the résumé game.
- Power Verbs
Achieved. Executed. Improved. Increased.
These are résumé power words, and it’s not just because they are vivid, positive descriptors! They’re also highly specific, and cast the spotlight on your achievements.
Project Manager for ABC.
Designed, developed and executed Project ABC.
The second example conveys more strength, and better articulates exactly what was done.
Here is a great list of other words you can use to better highlight your accomplishments.
If you can include other specific details like numbers, even better:
Member of sales team
Drove business development function and successfully increased annual sales by US$1 million, exceeding targets by 20%
Who would you rather hire?
Still need help sprucing up your accomplishments? Check out our article, How To Write Great Accomplishments For Your Resume, for more tips along those lines.
- The four-letter words of résumés
Just as there are words and phrases that will invigorate your resume, there are others that can be as damaging as swear words or vulgarities in turning off any HR professional skimming through it.
As a general rule, avoid using blanket buzzwords or phrases that don’t communicate anything tangible or useful. These include “dynamic”, “results-driven”, or any of the following examples:
Took initiative to overhaul departmental processes for greater cost and time savings
Part of a regional, multi-functional team that oversaw development and marketing of Brand X across Asia
Oversaw full spectrum of accounts and portfolios for Asia-Pacific region, totalling >US$5 million
Recruiters and hiring managers go through hundreds of CVs every day, so it’s in your best interest to make yours an easy read.
The above examples provide simple ways to ensure your CV is punchy and lively, and might just make the difference between a recruiter who is bored by your document, or one who is intrigued enough to give you that call back.
Part 4: Highlighting Your Achievements
You’re sending your resume to jobs you’re more than qualified for. Unfortunately, you’re not getting any callbacks.
WHATS GOING ON?
The truth is, 90% of applicants do meet all the criteria listed in the job ad – just like you!
You’re just another one of a few dozen resumes in the pile that while were impressive, weren’t impressive enough to warrant a callback.
Here’s a little secret from Google’s SVP of HR, Laszlo Bock.
Let’s assume you’ve read that post and scrubbed your resume so it’s concise, error-free, legible, and honest. You’re already better off than at least half the applicants out there. Whats the last piece of the jigsaw? Your accomplishments.
– Google SVP of HR, Laszlo Bock
But how do you make your accomplishments stand out? There’s a simple formula. Every one of your accomplishments should be presented as:
Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]
Its really simple. Let me give you some examples based on each industry.
Which of the 2 below do you think sounds better?
Original Client Accomplishment:
Studied financial performance of companies and made investment recommendations
Our Version of the same Accomplishment:
Significantly improved investment portfolio returns by 18% ($1.8M) over one year period by including clear benchmarks on expected returns and cost of capital for centralized Return-On-Capital calculations.
No points for guessing – the second version definitely sounds WAY better.
Why does it sound so much more impressive?
It’s really easy. Explaining how you did it adds credibility and gives insight into your strengths. Using numbers help to quantify your achievements and add substance to your claim.
But then you ask, “I’m not a banker. How can I write similar achievements for myself”
I’m in a really good mood so I’ve made a dozen or so examples specific to each industry.
Participated in Leadership Training Program
Selected as one of 30 students for month long leadership training program for high-achieving diverse talent based on leadership potential, ability to contribute to this MLT cohort, and academic success
Finance Executives & Consultants
Responsible for negotiating service contracts with ABC Company
Successfully negotiated 30% ($500k) reduction in costs with ABC company for IT server maintenance. Achieved savings by issuing public tender with well defined scope of work resulting in multiple competitive bids.
Customer Service Exec
Delivered positive customer service to clients
Delivered excellent customer service skills resulting in client satisfaction scores in top 99% percentile of cohort and several employee of the month awards.
Supply Chain Executive
Reduced procurement costs for rubber raw materials
Instrumental in reducing rubber raw material procurement costs by 20% (3 million SGD). Consolidated annual orders for regional subsidiaries and signed highly competitive long term purchase agreement with manufacturer.
Drove increase in sales
Led cross-functional 10-member team to develop and implement global online advertising strategy for $X million XYZ brand resulting in 25-point increase in share of voice, and contributing to 18% year-over-year sales improvement ($XM) for client.
Those were plenty of examples. I think you get the gist of it 😉
Don’t feel intimidated. I’m sure you’re more than capable of finding some way of measuring your contributions.
And even if your accomplishments don’t seem that impressive to you, recruiters will nevertheless love the attention to detail.
This analytical approach is highly valued at any business, in any role. It’ll likely be the difference between getting an interview callback or being lost in the pile of applicants.
Part 5: Resume Words You Must Include
You find yourself in an elevator with the recruiter for your dream job, but you have less than a minute to make a good first impression before they have to get off.
So what do you do?
Most probably, you’re not going to waste that precious minute with vague, non-descriptive chatter like “I am a results-driven go-getter”.
Instead, you’ll probably go straight to the point to make your case for why you should be hired, using relevant key words to boost your existing qualities, and not because you think they make you sound sophisticated.
It’s the same with résumés—why use up precious page space on terms like “great team player”? “Great” doesn’t tell the reader anything, and most prospective employees are expected to work well in a team setting.
But being boring won’t get you anywhere, either.
For example, “I did Project A” doesn’t inspire much confidence because it sounds like a regular, run-of-the-mill activity.
Contrast it to “I conceived, designed, and implemented Project A…”, which both gives us the exact details of what you did and makes the scope of the work sound significant, while also adding a sense of energy that is more likely to get the reader sitting up straight in their seat so they can pay closer attention to the rest of your CV.
Try to use words that allow you to hone in on your achievements, and which specifically describe everything you undertook and accomplished.
Power Verbs For The Win
So when you’re next updating your CV, instead of “did”, why not consider:
e.g. “Executed design and construction of new hospital wing under time and budget constraints.”
e.g. “Spearheaded acquisition of high-profile housing development projects Hill Oak and River Dell.”
e.g. “Delivered more than SGD 100 million in sales over 10 year period.”
e.g. “Launched requirements gathering and process reviews to implement new solutions for project business worldwide.”
e.g. “Achieved unprecedented sales growth of 50%.”
e.g. “Implemented clinical projects, including system analysis, design, development, deployment and training.”
e.g. “Pioneered entry into Japan by securing first project in premium development market and guaranteeing forward revenue stream of up to $US200 million.”
e.g. “Developed design concepts for residential, commercial and academic buildings.”
Or if one of your work achievements was to make something better for the company, try one of these words:
e.g. “Resolved underperforming functional modules and production tickets to enable greater cost and manpower savings.”
e.g. “Streamlined reporting requirements for hedge funds.”
e.g. “Improved profits forecast of Brand A to an unprecedented US$15 million.”
e.g. “Enhanced existing credit applications to incorporate new business functionalities.”
e.g. “Expedited batch automation project under tight budget and time constraints.”
And here are some other words that can be useful for various scenarios:
e.g. “Secured National Hospital tender valued at US$20 million.”
e.g. “Integrated file storage system to enable more efficient extractions for business users and auditors under regulatory requirements.”
e.g. “Analysed systems and applications to conceptualise and roll out process and system improvement strategies.”
e.g. “Identified core consumer barriers to conceptualised new branding and marketing strategy.”
e.g. “Certified ISO Internal auditor.”
e.g. “Trained teams in Kaizen methodology.”
e.g. “Negotiated new business agreements for guaranteed revenue stream upwards of US$10 million.”
If you can support your use of power verbs by quantifying your achievements, go for it. Take for example:
“I conceived, designed, and implemented Project A, which generated US$5million in profits for the company”.
“I did Project A.”
Who wouldn’t want to hire the first person?
These key words might help you get past those tricky resume screeners that most recruiters use, because they imply a variety of positive skills—time, people, or project management (“executed”, “oversaw”), reliability and proactivity towards producing good results, (“enhanced”, “secured”), or an ability to troubleshoot and problem-solve as needed (“negotiated”, “resolved”).
On the flip side, don’t get too carried away with these power verbs.
It’s still important to accurately describe your work experiences and achievements.
These words aren’t a panacea to padding out an empty CV—they’re just a way to make it more exciting and eye-catching for the reader.
Part 6: Resume Killers To Avoid
The best and biggest weapon in your job hunt arsenal is your résumé. But all it takes is one “killer” red-flag for it to get thrown into the reject pile.
To heighten your chances of a call-back, check out these top 4 killers and how to avoid them.
- Unprofessional Details
Your résumé is a marketing tool to present yourself in the most positive light to potential employers. As such, treat it with the respect and professionalism it deserves.
Remember: It’s all about setting up a good first impression and showing that you are conscientious of even doing small tasks properly.
Leave the drunk, blurry or poor resolution photographs for Facebook.
If you’re going to use a photo, try to get a high-quality, high-resolution one of yourself dressed formally (or at least formal enough for a day at an office job) as taken at a professional studio.
It may seem like a minor detail, but many a naïve applicant has been dismissed without a second thought for this transgression alone. Gmail is free, easy to use, and comes with a lot of space, so there’s no reason you can’t set up an email address (e.g. email@example.com) that is as professional as the business you’ll conduct through it.
And as fun playing around with fonts can be, there is a reason Comic Sans MT and Curlz MT are commonly used in mocking internet memes: because they’re not much use for anything else, and certainly not in résumés.
If you find good old Arial too boring, here are other common fonts you can try out in your CV: Cambria, Georgia, Lucida Sans, Century Gothic.
“Organised company retreat.”
“Contributed to department newsletter.”
“Took photographs at Christmas party.”
Cool story, bro. But who cares? Certainly not the recruiter or HR manager looking at your CV, who just wants to know if you’re qualified, experienced and equipped for the specific position they’re trying to fill.
Mentioning fluff like “Won best dressed at D&D” might even imply that you didn’t do anything else worthwhile, or worth mentioning, at that particular organisation.
There are other ways to bring your personality to the table—a key one being the interview(s) you’ll have to go through with prospective employers.
Let your résumé be a representation of your best self, and leave the fluff for your personal blog or Twitter updates.
- Old and/or Irrelevant Information
Older work-scopes don’t need to be written in detail, particularly in the following two situations:
- If they are for similar roles to your more recent ones. Don’t waste the reader’s time on redundant points.
- If they are not relevant to your current or future career goal. It’s highly unlikely that your part-time job during college washing dishes is relevant to the position you’re applying to now.
These will vary from CV to CV, but most likely anything older than your last three jobs, or done more than 15 years ago, can be condensed.
Just keep the opening line and focus on your achievements, and how they are relevant to your ability to do good work. Don’t make it a slog to get through your CV.
Your résumé should be a positive, but factual, representation of yourself. It should highlight your strengths, achievements and experiences.
These will inform the recruiter or HR manager reading your CV that yes, here is a person who can succeed well in this particular position.
The moment you add anything negative, however, that illusion is shattered.
Negative details can include expected salary package, reasons for leaving, or even the fact that you went to jail that one time.
That last one you’ll probably want to avoid altogether includes information such as salary package or reasons for leaving your previous jobs. These can be left to the interview.
The constraints of a CV or a cover letter will not allow you to explain and discuss these sensitive matters with the same amount of detail or caution that a phone or face-to-face interview will allow.
Your résumé is your first and most important marketing tool in getting a job in Singapore.
Don’t waste your time, or the readers’ and try to avoid the red flag killers highlighted above. Instead, stay focused on presenting a professional front, and on tangibly highlighting your abilities and accomplishments, and your job applications are more likely to break through that mysterious HR black hole.
Are you looking for more specific examples? Check out our resume samples page! There, we give detailed examples and explanations for sample CVs for a broad range of roles including IT Project Manager, Finance Manager, Sales Directors & Banking Executives. Are you a fresh graduate or currently still studying? We’ve got you covered too!
That’t it! That is how to write a resume that stands out.
Then, once you’re all done with your CV – its time to send it out to this list of headhunters and recruitment portals in Singapore. Leave no stone unturned in your job search.
All the best!