resume tips

5 resume tips to keep in mind (and mistakes to avoid!)

Assalamualaikum, and hello!

It’s been a while since I last wrote here, sorry for that!

Now, some of you might know that I’ve been doing resume reviews and career coaching on the side. This is on top of the Job Search 101 classes that I have taught between May to July.

So I thought that I could share the top 5 resume tips that I always tell job seekers and graduates, as well as some common mistakes that people do when writing their resume.

As usual, please be reminded that I am not a recruiter or HR person. So do take my suggestions with a grain of salt. If in doubt, do consult a more seasoned professional.

First thing’s first – what is a resume?

Now, don’t get it confused with a curriculum vitae (CV), since they are two separate documents with different purposes. Although, in Malaysia, some (if not all!) people use the words CV and resume interchangeably.

A resume is a short piece of document to highlight your education, skills, and experiences that you use to apply for the majority of jobs out there.

Whereas a CV is used to showcase your credentials (academic affiliations, research experience, certifications, etc) that is mostly used for people intending to go into research or academic roles (think lecturers, professors, etc).

resume vs cv
CV vs Resume

Now that we have that covered, let’s have a look at some resume tips that you can use as you are writing (or editing) your resume.

Resume tips for university students & graduates

#1: Don’t make it too long.

I have seen some people with resumes over 3-5 pages long (!!!). This is a common mistake that job seekers do where they think “I should include every single thing that I have done on my resume!”. Some even listed out all the student clubs and organizations that they were a part of, even if it was for one semester!

In reality, most recruiters and hiring managers don’t spend too long looking at all the resumes that they receive. Some even say that they spend only. a few seconds on your resume. Because of this, grabbing their attention in those short few seconds is very crucial.

In this case, quality matters more than quantity.

So, what can you do?

  1. Make a list of all your experiences, including all your student involvement, part-time experiences, internships, volunteer work, everything.
  2. Refer to the job posting and look at their requirements. Really understand what they are looking for in a candidate.
  3. Look back at your list of experiences, and select the ones that are the most relevant to the job that you are applying for.

#2: Don’t focus too much on the design.

I also see some people who worry too much about the design. There are a lot of people out there who sell resume templates and offer the service of making and designing your resume for you.

Don’t get me wrong, having a nicely designed resume is a plus. But that should not be your number 1 priority.

As Tip 1 says, focus on the actual content of your resume. Don’t try too hard to incorporate a lot of icons, colors, and graphics in your resume. In most cases, these additional ‘fluff’ would just distract people from your actual content.

Throwback to my Resume Writing workshop with Malaysian students in Korea under PPMK/Seeds Job Fair

Note: This is more applicable to those applying for more ‘professional’ industries or roles, such as banking/finance, education, engineering, law, the likes. If you are applying for a more creative job, like graphic design, marketing, social media, communications, feel free to ignore this tip and let your creativity shine through!

#3: Focus on what is important.

Some people include a lot of unnecessary details in your resume, which would only take up space. Instead, focus only on what is required and relevant for the job that you are applying for.

Some things that you can omit from your resume include:

  • Personal details such as age, religion, sex. In some instances, some companies even ask you to remove any identifying features to make the review process as unbiased as possible.
  • Any unnecessary education background. If you are a university student or graduate, focus on anything from the degree-level and above. Current university students looking for internships can include pre-university level as well. There is no need to include anything from SPM, PMR/PT3, or even UPSR!
  • Sensitive information like IC/passport number or full home address. You can list down a general location (i.e. Shah Alam, Selangor) instead.
  • References – though this is a personal preference. I prefer to keep my references private until the company asks for it, but some companies may specifically ask you to include your references in your resume. It’s up to you!

#4: Highlight achievements and accomplishments, not just responsibilities.

It is easy to just copy & paste our past job descriptions in our resume. Instead of writing about what we did as part of the role, focus on the actual accomplishments that we achieved during the role.

For instance, if you worked as a part-time sales or promoter at a mall, instead of writing ‘Promoted items to customers‘, maybe highlight how many customers you approached per day/shift, or how many sales you made in a month.

As much as possible, include quantifiable numbers so the recruiters can see the extent of your work. Examples include:

  • Organized a week-long orientation program for 250 new students.
  • Achieved RM20,000 in sales for the month of October 2020.
  • Analyzed questionnaire responses from 321 participants using Microsoft Excel.

#5: Make sure you check for typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies.

Your resume is a professional piece of document, so make sure you scrutinize it as much as possible. Have someone (a friend, a family member, etc) to look over your resume and make sure that it is error-free.

Makes sure your formatting is consistent throughout your resume – this includes your fonts, the font size, the colors, and bullets that you use.

Other common resume mistakes to avoid.

#1: Using the same resume for all job applications.

A resume is supposed to be catered for each job application, especially since each company will have different requirements and skills that they are looking for in their potential employees. Try to cater your resume as much as possible for each application, even if it means tweaking just a line or two in your experiences.

cater resume to job applications
This is a screenshot of my folder for all my job applications – I have a LOT of versions for different job applications.

#2: Using graphs or scales for your skills.

If you buy a pre-made resume template, some of them come with these graphs/scales that you can use to give a ‘level’ to your skill (i.e. 4 out of 5 stars for Leadership, 85% for Communication, etc).

resume tip do not use graphs

The issue about this is – how did you come up with the ‘number’ or ‘level’ for your skills? Did you randomly pick a number (4 out of 5), or is there some sort of a calculation involved? How can you know that your teamwork still is 100%?

These ratings are super subjective, and often time, we would rate ourselves more than what is true. Trust me, I used to think I’m well-versed in Microsoft Excel. But after my Master’s degree and how I have to resort to asking my husband to help me with my analysis on Excel, I realized that my Excel skills are super duper bad in comparison.

So unless you have taken specific tests to determine your skill level (i.e. MUET/IELTS for English proficiency, etc), try to not rate your skill levels! Instead, focus on where you can highlight how you have used your skills in your experiences.

What other resume tips do YOU have or think is important?

Of course, there are a lot more things that you can and should do with regard to your resume. After all, it is an individualized aspect of your application, and the way you approach it would be different than how I would do mine.

So share your thoughts in the comments section! If you are a recruiter or hiring manager, do share some of your resume tips or what you personally look for in a resume.

Until I see you in the next post, stay awesome & take care! 🙂

2 thoughts on “5 resume tips to keep in mind (and mistakes to avoid!)”

  1. syafiq abd halim

    Maybe after making resume, we can make resume review from trusted people (mostly on LinkedIn), then we get some glimpse how the employer see our resume/cv and make the modification

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