How to write a good resume: Tips to stand out from the crowd

by | Oct 24, 2021

Resume writing can be an ordeal, especially if you’re a student fresh out of secondary school, JC, or polytechnic. Even university students can struggle with resume writing!

How do you write a resume, and where do you even start? What if you don’t have anything impressive to say?

Fret not! As someone who’s spent the last 4 years editing and proofreading resumes as a job, I’ll tell you how to write a stellar resume!

Resume writing isn’t difficult, and you don’t need to worry about having any grand accomplishments to list! Many employers are understanding of the fact that young people don’t have plenty of work experience.

Read on to know everything about how to write a resume. A basic resume template will also be provided as a guide to get you started!

Key differences: resume vs. CV vs. portfolio

A graphic image of a resume

Sourced from Freepik

Before you learn how to craft your resume, there are some terms that people often conflate with a resume—CV and portfolio. These are 3 totally different things!

Resume vs. portfolio

A portfolio consists of visual materials that showcase the work you’ve done. It’s meant for displaying your skills and abilities using real-life examples.

Portfolios are used by employers to gauge whether you’d be a good fit for the job! Typically, people in creative fields (i.e. art, game design, writing, etc.) have portfolios.

Portfolios cannot be stand-ins for resumes! Resumes are for listing your skills whereas portfolios enhance resumes by serving as a visual aid for said skills.

Your portfolio (if you have one) should be included as a part of your resume. Some people do this by having a link to their personal website, YouTube channel, or anything that serves as a platform to display their works.

Resume vs. CV

CV stands for curriculum vitae. While resumes are usually 1–2 pages long, CVs can be as long as they need to be.

They’re meant for people who are in or want to be in academia (i.e. a professor in a university) because it shows a full history of a person’s academic achievements.

In contrast, resumes are concise and in point-form. You only need a CV if you’re going to apply for teaching or research positions at tertiary institutions.

How to write a resume: The STAR approach

You might’ve seen sample resume templates on the internet before and some of them have things like “Spearheaded Project XYZ for Company ABC” in point form.

How exactly do you write those things in your own resume? This is where the STAR approach comes in to help you describe your achievements!

Star approach to writing a resume

STAR is an acronym for the steps.

  1. Situation: Set the context. Describe the situation you encountered.
  2. Task: What was required of you? Describe the tasks that needed to be accomplished.
  3. Actions: Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.
  4. Results: Describe what you have accomplished and what you have learnt in that situation; quantify the outcomes of your actions where necessary. Did you meet your objectives?

To show you an instance of the STAR approach at work, I’m going to use myself as an example. As you know, I’m a volunteer writer here at Studyramen.

This is how I’d list my responsibilities and achievements using STAR (this is just an illustration and isn’t what I have in my actual resume).

  • Volunteered as a writer for Studyramen, a youth initiative that provides value-added content for students in secondary and tertiary institutions.
  • Wrote articles to help students navigate academic life.
  • Accumulated more than a thousand page views across 6 different articles.

Note that in knowing how to write a good resume, you need not follow the STAR approach exactly; it’s only a guide to help you write your responsibilities and achievements in a way that employers can understand!

Some things you should take note of in the example above is that I:

  • Used bullet points, with only one sentence per point.
  • Started each sentence with an action word.
  • Wrote in the past tense. You have to use past tense if you’re describing tasks you’ve already accomplished.
  • Was concise yet detailed enough for someone who has no idea about Studyramen or what I do to understand my job role and achievements.

The bottom line of how to properly write a resume? You’d want the hiring manager to be able to extract hard and soft skills from what you write.

If you need an idea of what kinds of hard and soft skills are needed for different industries and job roles, do refer to this website!

In my case, a potential employer will be able to tell that I have strong writing skills, enough to pull a good readership number across everything I’ve written.

Resume checklist

Rules

Sourced from Freepik

To know how to write a resume properly, here’s a checklist to ensure you’ve done it right!

  • Your full name, mobile number, and e-mail address should be clearly and accurately stated at the top of your resume.
  • Keep your resume to 1–2 pages. If you choose to include it, use a professional photo instead of a cropped or casual photo.
  • Ensure there are no grammatical and typo errors.
  • Provide clear information about your academic qualifications and year of graduation.
  • Showcase your skills via education, FYP (final year project), internships, CCAs, voluntary work, and work experience.
  • Use action words and phrases to describe your accomplishments.
  • Quantify your results, achievements, and outcomes where possible. For example, “Led a team of 10 students as the chairperson of Club ABC and achieved 15% more club members than the previous year as a result of effective outreach efforts” instead of “Led a team of students at Club ABC”.

Do’s and don’ts in resume writing

Do's and dont's in resume writing

Sourced from Freepik

If you don’t know how to write a resume properly, some pitfalls await you.

As mentioned previously, I’ve read and edited hundreds of resumes in the last 4 years. I’ve seen working professionals who either fail to do certain things or do things that shouldn’t be done in resume writing.

Here are the most important do’s and don’ts you need to consider in writing a good resume!

Do’s

  • Do ensure your resume is in point form. There should be no chunks of paragraphs unless you’re writing your profile section—keep it concise!
  • Do stick to clean and simple resume templates. Resume documents should be white, A4-sized and in portrait layout.
  • Do always begin your bullet point with an action word.
  • Do write in third person. Never use words like “I, me, my, we, our” to describe your responsibilities and achievements!
  • Do use fonts and sizes that are easy to read! Good fonts for resumes are Times New Roman size 12, Arial size 11, and Cambria size 10.
  • Do always proofread your resume before saving and closing the document. If you find it difficult to check for mistakes that the spellcheck might miss, copy and paste your resume into a text-to-speech converter and listen to it!
  • Do be consistent. If you end your bullet points with a full stop, ensure that every point ends with a full stop and vice versa.

This also applies to uppercase and lowercase; things like school names and company names have to be capitalised appropriately. For instance, Ramen Secondary School and Study Pte Ltd.

Don’ts

  • Don’t exceed 2 pages. Resumes should typically only be 1-2 pages long. Any longer and you may make the hiring manager/Applicant Tracking System (ATS) filter out your resume!
  • Don’t use too many brackets or capitalise words unnecessarily. These tend to slow down reading speed, so only do it when you really need to.
  • Don’t opt for those ready-made, fanciful templates, no matter how aesthetically pleasing they are, unless you’re pursuing a creative field!

Based on my experience, hiring managers dislike reading resumes in those formats as individual sections (e.g. education) are sometimes difficult to find. It’s always best to stick to simple templates where you can read from top to bottom.

Resume template

Check out this free and basic resume template so you can learn how to craft your own resume!

Feel free to edit it to suit your needs—this template only contains the must-haves in resume writing.

Conclusion

I hope you found this article comprehensive enough to give you a slight boost of confidence in knowing how to craft a resume.

With the digitalisation of work today, it’s increasingly important to know how to write resumes that showcase your knowledge of new technologies.

As you gain more work experience, join more voluntary activities, participate in more competitions and the like, slowly update your resume.

You’ll soon have something I’m sure you can be proud of.

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