Job Search Essentials
How to Write a WINNING Resume in 2023 | Your Ultimate CV Guide
Welcome to our Ultimate Guide on How To Write A CV.
Written by our team of former recruiters and HR executives, here’s our inside take on what it takes to get noticed by hiring managers.
This guide is so detailed, we actually use it to train our own team of professional CV writers.
And now, we’re opening up our secret CV writing playbook to you as well.
Follow the steps below, and you too will have a brilliant CV that lands you interview after interview.
|NOTE: While we’ve tailored this Guide for jobseekers in Singapore, our tips are general enough for job applicants all around the world.|
Ultimate Guide on How to Write a Resume
- Difference Between Resume vs CV
- How Long should a Resume Be?
- Example of a Great CV
- How to Write a Resume
- Include The 6 Key Sections In Your Resume
- Craft A Compelling Executive Summary
- List Your Key Skills
- Separate Work Experience and Achievements
- Craft a Powerful Opening Bullet Line
- Use Power Verbs To Describe Your Job Work Scope
- Highlight Your Achievements (with metrics)
- Education and Professional Qualifications
- Miscellaneous Information
- Done With Your CV? What’s Next?
ResumeWriter Tip: Of course, a stellar resume is not enough to land you a job. You absolutely need a Cover Letter too! Remember: job-hunting is a two-piece puzzle, so fill in the missing piece with our Ultimate Cover Letter Guide.
What is the Difference between CV and Resume?
We know it’s confusing! The technical explanations are:
- Curriculum Vitae (CV): an in-depth document detailing your entire career history. Often under 3 pages
- Resume: a short, 1-page career overview
But in Singapore, CV and Resume are used interchangeably to refer to the same document. Both are typically under 3 pages long, and include your hard and soft skills.
If you’re still confused an unsure, take a look at our CV writing services here. We can take the CV writing process completely off your hands, allowing you to focus on attending the right interviews.
How Long Should My Resume be?
The short answer? Keep it under 3 pages.
Many jobseekers make the mistake of dumping every last bit of information into the CV, making it snake well past 5 pages.
Take it from recruiters like us – we hate long CVs.
To write a crisp CV, think about which parts of your career are most relevant to the recruiter. Exclude everything else.
If you’re coming into the workforce with less than 5 years of experience, keep your CV within 2 pages.
If you’re a mid to senior level candidate, you probably have enough work experience to justify a 2-3 page CV.
ResumeWriter Tip: Wondering what a CV looks like for your specific industry or career stage? Check out our collection of 50+ professionally written CV samples.
How to Write a Resume
This was our client, John’s, original CV, which he sent to us for Free CV Feedback.
ResumeWriter Tip: If you’re not getting the interviews you deserve, reach out to us for help. Sign up for our CV feedback session. One of our seasoned recruiters will take a look at your CV and give you personalised feedback on how to improve your application. This feedback session is completely free with no string attached.
While the above CV was neat and organised, it wasn’t getting the client interviews to the top positions he was gunning for.
So our team of professional recruiters stepped in to completely rewrite the CV for the client. (resulting in twice the number of interview calls)
This is what his WINNING resume looks like now:
ResumeWriter Tip: Want a CV just like this? Just download one of our customisable CV samples and write one yourself, following the steps of our guide. Or you can check out our professional CV writing services
6 Key Section Every Resume Needs
These are the 6 key sections every recruiter looks for in a CV:
1. Executive Summary:
Purpose: Share your career narrative and give an overview of your entire career
2. Key Skills:
Purpose: Tell recruiters your core skill sets – focus on hard skills – at first glance.
3. Work Experience:
Purpose: Elaborate on your current and past job scopes and responsibilities.
4. Achievements: Your Competitive Advantage
Purpose: Highlight your specific accomplishments in each role.
5. Education & Qualifications:
Purpose: Showcase your academic and professional qualifications.
6. Miscellaneous Information:
Purpose: Additional AND relevant information about you, such as languages spoken and your notice period.
ResumeWriter Tip: Alternatively, just download one of our ATS Friendly CV Templates! All the relevant sections are already laid out and pre-filled for you. 🙂 If you’re a fresh graduate or university student with limited exposure to the working world, you can still craft an impressive resume. Here’s our guide on how to write a resume with no work experience.
How to Start a Resume
Use a Professional and Appropriate Header
Keep it clean and simple!
Includes your name, career title, email, contact details and nationality.
Notice that your career title doesn’t have to be your actual job title. (ie. Sales & Marketing Director)
You can match this to the job title in the job advertisement – like John has done – provided it’s still an accurate reflection of your role, of course.
An identical job title immediately catches the attention of the Hiring Manager and warrants their further interest.
- Keep your header short and sweet
- Include only your essential contact information
- Use a professional email address
- Include your address, photograph or date-of-birth – these aren’t necessary and may subject you to unconscious hiring biases
ResumeWriter Tip: Always match your CV title to the job title of the advertisement you’re applying for.
Crafting A Compelling Executive Summary
The summary is the opening paragraph of your CV. Think of it as your elevator pitch.
Recruiters often only spend 6 seconds reviewing a CV. Half of that time is spent in the executive summary.
As a jobseeker, your goal should be to craft an executive summary that compels the recruiter to go on to read the next section of your CV.
So use this section wisely – fill it only with the most relevant, most impressive bits of your career.
Note how we filled the executive summary with plenty of metrics. This adds plenty of clout to the applicant’s candidacy, placing him above other applicants in the pile.
Likewise for you, these opening lines MUST draw attention to your top selling points.
Demonstrate that you have the skills, experience and achievements to thrive in the position you’ve applied for.
If you’re uncertain how to craft a compelling executive summary, take a read of our essay on structuring a career narrative.
ResumeWriter Tip: Before you begin your Executive Summary, write your Work Experience and Achievements sections. Once you’ve nailed these, it’s easier to define your personal narrative and career overview.
How To Craft Your Career Narrative
Human beings love the lure of a good story. So when selling your career, channel your inner J.K. Rowling – craft a captivating story that sucks the reader in.
Write something unique that sets you apart from competitors.
Make yourself memorable to the recruiter.
One of our clients was gunning for senior software sales positions. So when crafting his narrative, we emphasised his prior background as a programmer.
|Former Software Developer turned B2B SaaS Sales Director…|
We didn’t say that this candidate is just any B2B SaaS Sales Director. There are far too many sales directors competing for the same role!
By positioning him as a former Software Developer turned B2B Sales Director, he stands out from the sea of applicants.
This narrative tells recruiters: This candidate isn’t just an excellent salesperson. He also has deep knowledge of the technical aspects of software design.
Who better to convincingly sell software solutions than a passionate salesperson who actually understands the technology, through and through?
This career narrative clearly defines and elevates the candidate’s competitive advantage.
Avoid Motherhood Statements
Here’s another thing that recruiters really hate – Motherhood Statements!
Below is a classic example:
“Dedicated executive with excellent communication skills geared towards building relationships across organisational levels.”
Statements like those contain a lot of bombastic words. But when you really pull them apart, what are they actually saying?
“I work hard, communicate well and can interact well with both my bosses and subordinates”
Hardly impressive, no?
So why then do jobseekers include lines like that in their CV?
This is why recruiters hate motherhood statements so much. They occupy a lot of space and communicate NOTHING about the candidates’ real ability.
If you want to impress the recruiter, avoid using motherhood statements. Instead, use metrics!
Substantiate Your Claims with Metrics
John’s claims in his CV are now backed by relevant metrics: revenue delivered and sales captured, within specific timeframes.
Compare this with his original Executive Summary:
If you were the hiring manager, reading these 2 versions, which candidate would be more attractive to you?
John’s original Executive Summary was literally a wall of text riddled with motherhood statements that don’t actually say anything. The poorly formatted paragraph also repels hiring managers at first glance.
His new Executive Summary is far more concise, and embedded with various metrics. At a glance, you can tell just how significant John’s achievements are.
Numbers give claims far more weight, while using fewer words. They also personalise John’s Achievements – only he can deliver his results.
So always substantiate your claims with metrics.
If you’re struggling to think of suitable metrics to use, ask yourself these questions:
- What was the amount of new business you secured?
- How much revenue did this project bring in?
- What was the size of the budget you managed?
- How many team members did you work with or lead?
- How many new customers did you land as a result of this initiative?
We go deeper into metrics later, when we discuss Work Experience.
Include Your Most Impressive Achievements
In your executive summary, also toss in a few of your top career achievements.
There’s no need to add a long list of them. Just select 3 of the best achievements, ideally achievements which resonate closely to the role you’re applying for.
We have listed John’s most significant achievements in his executive summary, and supported them with metrics.
If you have more achievements, fret not. You can go into detail about those accomplishments later in your CV, under each relevant work stint.
We suggest crafting your Executive Summary after you’ve written your Work Experience and Achievements sections. This makes identifying your best achievements a lot easier!
Need more inspiration in crafting your achievements? Check out our guide to writing great career achievements here.
ResumeWriter Tip: Customise your CV for specific job ads by adding in 2 to 5 relevant target keywords from the ad you are eyeing. This ensures your CV can be read by ATS Scanners, and lands in the recruiter’s hands!
- Spin a unique career narrative – you want to stand out!
- Include up to 3 of your most impressive achievements
- Substantiate these claims with metrics
- Use your Executive Summary to tell recruiters your life story – be concise!
Add Keyword-Friendly Skills at the Top of your CV
We’ve seen many jobseekers bury their skills section at the end of the CV. That’s a mistake!
Recruiters only eyeball each CV for an average of 6 seconds.
So, your key skills MUST be placed near the top for recruiters to see at first glance. (adding key skills to the top also assists in getting past those automated ATS scanners)
We embedded John’s skills right below the Executive Summary in his CV, and aligned these with the target keywords of the job ad he is applying for.
When crafting your Key Skills section, focus on higher value, hard skills, instead of soft skills. Why?
Hard skills have more impact and connect more easily with hiring managers. They also have much higher chances of being picked out as keywords!
Do also group related skills together, so that they’re more easily digestible to hiring managers.
Order your skills from highest value skills at the top to lowest value below. Remember – skills that feature first are most likely to be read by recruiters!
It’s also crucial that each skill listed does not break at the end of a line and spill over into another line! ATS Scanners are not human – they cannot read across multiple lines like us.
- Focus on hard skills
- Order them such that your higher value skills feature first
- Group related skill sets together
- Include only soft skills
ResumeWriter Tip: If you are in a technical role (such as Software Engineer), be sure to include technical skills, such as the programming languages and frameworks you are most familiar with.
Separate Work Experience and Achievements
One important structural change to make in your CV is separating out your career achievements from each work stint.
Separating them out like this ensures that recruiters notice the contributions you’ve made above and beyond your day to day workscopes.
Craft a Powerful Opening Bullet Point To Each Work Stint
We’ll let you in on a secret:
Recruiters typically only glance at the first bullet point of each work stint, and skip the rest!
So, your first bullet point must communicate everything the recruiter needs to know about what you do, in one line.
Compare the first line of John’s original CV…
…with his reworked CV.
Isn’t the second opening line much better?
In that single line, we’ve communicated the size of his team, budget managed and total number of clients.
It gives the recruiter a fantastic overview of the client’s capabilities.
It speaks volumes, with fewer words!
Here are some ideas for other metrics you can include in your opening bullet point:
- Team Size
- Geography (Local, Regional or International)
- Work Function
- Budget Managed
- Revenue Generated
- Who You Reported To/Liaised With/Led or Supervised
Kick off your Work Experience section with these details to impress recruiters!
- Capture the essence of the job in your first bullet point; include only key roles
- Substantiate your claims with numbers and metrics
- Make your first bullet point too long! Strive for a maximum of 3-4 lines.
A powerful first line entices the recruiter to read on.
But don’t stop here – keep the subsequent bullet points to be as IMPACTFUL as possible!
Here’s what we did for John:
Compare this with his original Work Experience:
Can you spot the differences?
We’ve condensed the loooong list of responsibilities into much more succinct bullet points in John’s new CV.
Each bullet point drives greater impact and leaves a stronger impression on the hiring manager.
Use Power Verbs To Write Great Work Descriptions
Here’s another tip – when crafting descriptions of your prior work stints, use power verbs give your CV that extra oomph!
Power verbs are vivid, positive words that inspire confidence in your abilities.
Most jobseekers use statements like this:
Frankly, it’s quite boring and bland. Nothing to impress the reader.
Instead, replace verbs such as “Responsible” with stronger power verbs such as “Oversaw”, “Spearhead”, or “Supervise”.
Here are some of the power verbs we used in John’s new CV:
Doesn’t that read so much better?
Stand Out From The Pack – Highlight Your Achievements
That’s right – most people fail to realise the importance of including achievements.
Your work descriptions list your day-to-day experience. It’s your achievements though, which show you to be a stellar executive.
So how do you write great achievement statements?
Use our formula:
Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]
Take a look at how we applied that formula to John’s Achievements below:
Aren’t his career achievements super obvious and impactful?
This formula works because it tells recruiters two essential pieces of information:
- Scale and impact of results achieved
- What exactly you did to achieve these results
Every achievement contains an impactful, measurable outcome and a description of how the outcome was achieved.
“ – Negotiated 30% (US$500K) reduction in costs with IT Vendor for server maintenance by issuing public tender with well-defined scope of work, resulting in multiple competitive bids.”
Outcome – Impact of what jobseeker did
What Jobseeker Did – How jobseeker achieved that outcome
In your Achievements, use metrics as much as possible!
Numbers add a sense of scale, strengthening the impact of your results.
“Captured a 50% increase” is more impactful than“An increase”.
You can also indicate the time frame for this achievement.
“Captured a 50% increase in sales from $1M to $1.5M in 3 months”
It sounds more impressive that the candidate did this in just 3 months!
ResumeWriter Tip: Always substantiate your achievements with lots of metrics. Don’t claim you’re an expert – show the results you’ve delivered!
What kinds of Achievements can you include?
If you’re unsure how to start, here are 5 questions you can think about:
- How did you make the company more money?
- How did you save the company money?
- How did you increase productivity?
- How did you solve a critical problem?
- How did you lead a large project?
For more examples on how to write great achievements in your CV, click here!
- Emphasise your achievements in your Work Experience sections
- Use metrics as much as possible!
- Apply the magic formula to show impact and scale of your accomplishments
- Use confidential data directly in your CV!
Education & Professional Qualifications
Include Relevant Qualifications
Keep things simple here. Unless you’re a fresh graduate, no need to go into too much detail.
In this section, include your:
If you’re a former Dean’s Lister or Award recipient, add it as a sub-bullet point under your educational stint.
- Bachelor’s of Business (Honours), Nanyang Technological University, 2000
- Dean’s List Award Winner (Semester 2 – 99/00)
Any industry-related or external courses or training that you’ve completed or are currently undertaking.
For example, if you’re a digital marketer, you can list your Google Ads certification here.
These should also include specific qualifications that allow you to do certain jobs. For example, the CPA or ACCA for Accounting, or degrees in Medicine or Law.
If you’re keen on exploring professional courses to upskill and ready yourself for the future of work, your SkillsFuture credits could come in handy. These are some practical SkillsFuture courses you can consider.
Pad your Miscellaneous Section with only relevant information.
This is how we reflected John’s Miscellaneous Information:
Written and spoken languages
We recommend including only languages that you have native or professional proficiency in.
Interests and hobbies
Don’t be shy to include more details about your hobbies here. You never know when the interviewer might have a similar hobby to you.
One client of ours was in the final round between 2 candidates – with not much between them. The hiring manager later admitted that the only reason he got the job was because they shared a deep passion for photography!
Availability and notice period
Indicate this clearly, for example: “1 month’s notice”
Do not mention your expected salary in your CV! Salary information should only be negotiated in the later stages of the job offer.
P.S. Benchmark your salary against everyone else in your industry with our Ultimate Singapore Salary Guide. Know where you stand to negotiate the pay you deserve.
If you have ready references, list them here. If not, simply mention that references are available upon request!
ResumeWriter Tip: If you are a foreigner with relevant residency in Singapore (eg. Singaporean PR), be sure to list it in your CV. Having a valid work permit makes a huge difference in getting more interview calls.
Done With The CV? What’s next?
Don’t forget your Cover Letter!
As we’ve shared, the job hunting process is a two-piece puzzle.
Your CV is the essential first half of the equation for landing your dream job.
But you still need a stellar cover letter if you really want to STAND OUT.
Learn how to write a Cover Letter with our Ultimate Cover Letter Guide.
As you can see, a well written CV is made up of so many little moving parts. It’s a lot of work.
Invest the effort upfront. Like a good lumberjack, sharpen your axe before you start cutting any wood. Work hard on your CV – it’ll make the job hunting process later so much easier.
When you get it right, the results are spectacular. Like our client John, who landed 3 interviews to the 3 jobs he applied for.
If you’re still struggling to land interviews, don’t lose hope. Reach out for help making your own resume stand out from the competition.
As recruiters, we know all the best CV writing tricks to get your application noticed – we’ve been doing this for over a decade.
Best of luck in your job search! 🙂
No matter what stage you’re at in your career journey, we’re here with advice from our combined experiences as recruiters to guide you every step of the way – explore our Job Search Singapore Guide.
Disclaimer: The client testimonials and results achieved from our CV writing tips shared in this article are absolutely real. The character “John” and his story are being used for illustrative purposes only. Names and CV details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
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