• Wong Wing Lum

Future of Work | Build a CV or Resume that lands you that callback

Updated: Apr 15

Employers in Singapore tend to regard the terms ‘CV’ and ‘Resume’ as synonyms, but they’re not the same. Find out the differences between a CV and resume, and how you can craft a job-winning document that helps you get closer to landing your dream job.

a comparison between resume vs cv templates

A year has come and gone since Singapore was put on circuit breaker to stop the spread of COVID-19. The devastation of the pandemic is still very much evident today. Those who were rendered obsolete have been crippled by waves of retrenchment exercises. Meanwhile, the graduating class of 2020 and 2021 continue to struggle when it comes to securing a job.


While the Singapore government has worked tirelessly to support workers through expansionary fiscal policies (see the recent Budget 2021), whether an individual is able to bag the job is still up to them.


Let’s take you back to the basics of the job hunting process, starting with the resume.


Long gone are the days when job hunts involved the intense scouring of newspapers for advertisements, or handwritten applications painstakingly posted to every company.


On one hand, the digitalisation of talent acquisition has paved the way for the abundance of opportunities. Now, jobseekers can simply go on Google and type in the desired keywords. Almost instantly, the engine is able to churn out a selection of jobs matching their interests and competencies.


At the same time, competition has never been stiffer. We get how nerve-racking it can be to see the sheer number of applicants who are trying for the same job as you (Yes, we are talking about you, LinkedIn and MyCareersFuture).


Should I bother to apply? Will they even notice me?

They tell you to “never judge a book by its cover” but it really does boil down to how impressive your CV or Resume looks to even get to your first round of online interviews. To craft a stellar personal pitch and stand out in a sea of candidates is no easy feat, but let us do what we can to help.


The International Uses of CVs and Resumes


As of September 2020, there are 203,500 Singaporeans who are working overseas. If you’re planning to join them, it’s important to be well-acquainted with the different expectations foreign employers have when it comes to using the two sets of documents.


CVs and Resumes Around the World

In the UK, Ireland, most European countries, CVs are the default document to send for recruitment processes. In fact, most countries in the European Union require candidates to use the Europass CV template created in 2005 to provide a transparent and standardised framework for jobseekers to showcase their qualifications and competencies (though, there remains some contention as to its effectiveness).


In the US and Canada, resumes are most commonly requested. The only exception is when the nature of the job is geared towards academia or research roles.

In Asian Countries, Australia, and South Africa, the terms ‘CV’ and ‘Resume’ are used interchangeably. For the most part, they are similar in style to the US where resumes are more commonly requested, with CVs being exclusively requested for academic positions.


Japan handwritten resume rirekisho

Differences between a CV vs Resume


The most discerning difference is that while a CV is all-encompassing, a resume is customised for a specific job role.


For CVs, experiences and qualifications are incrementally added on as individuals acquire them – without the need for any alterations to the existing document. On the other hand, an individual can have multiple versions of a resume depending on the nature of the jobs or fields they are applying to.


Still confused? Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two documents:



What is a CV?


Curriculum vitae, or more commonly referred to as CV, means ‘the course of one’s life’. As its Latin roots highlight, it’s an extensive piece of document that covers an individual’s complete professional and academic history. Though it does not have a stipulated number of pages, it usually runs over the course of 2-4 pages for entry-level applicants. CVs of more experienced personnel with richer experiences could go up to 10 pages.


For who | CVs are usually used to screen candidates for jobs in academic positions or research fields (Ph.D., Masters, Professors, Researchers etc). This is because these roles often require deep expertise, hence requiring recruiters to verify an applicant’s specific knowledge and skills. Certain scholarship programs, grant applications and bursaries may request your CVs as well. The role of CVs in this context is to help the review committee assess a student’s quality to be awarded through their exemplary standards in personal and academic achievements.


Different uses of CVs require a range tactics to excel. In the context of this article, you will be taught how to write a successful non-academic CV.

CVs for academic roles


For who | CVs are usually used to screen candidates for jobs in academic positions or research fields (Ph.D., Masters, Professors, Researchers etc). This is because these roles often require deep expertise, hence requiring recruiters to verify an applicant’s specific knowledge and skills. Certain scholarship programs, grant applications and bursaries may request your CVs as well. The role of CVs in this context is to help the review committee assess a student’s quality to be awarded through their exemplary standards in personal and academic achievements.


Different uses of CVs require a range of tactics to excel. In the context of this article, you will be taught how to write a successful non-academic CV.


CVs for non-academic roles


In Singapore, most employers are looking out for resumes even if they asked for your CVs. Besides its use for predominantly academic roles, CVs are also required to apply to accredited positions such as doctors and lawyers.

But even if you’re not planning to pursue these fields, building your own CV has its merits.


A CV is meant to be a comprehensive overview of your entire experience, regardless of its relevance to any job. Having a CV thus guides the process of crafting your tailored resume as you pick out the most relevant experiences for the specific job. If not for the thoroughly documented summary of all experiences, some competencies may have been long forgotten. Consequently, this allows you to present yourself in the most compelling light to prospective employers.


Writing a Successful CV


Let’s run through the key components of any CV, and tips on how you can turn every element into a persuasive pitch.

components of a CV template

1. Personal Information


Do not include other details such as your age, gender, marital status, religion and photo. While employers in certain countries (some European countries, China and Japan) expect to see a photo attached, in Singapore, it’s safer to avoid information that might lead to any form of bias against your capabilities.

Add value to your CV by including a customised link to your online portfolio or LinkedIn profile. However, if your LinkedIn is simply regurgitating everything that’s already written on your CV, skip this. LinkedIn can be cringey sometimes, but if you’re able to optimise the platform to boost your personal brand, it might just give you that edge over your competitors.


Here’s a helpful read by Meg Guiseppi on how you can build an impressive LinkedIn personal brand using content.


2. Personal Statement


This section should be no longer than 200 words. A common pitfall for this segment is the tendency to flood it with big buzzwords and adjectives that do not necessarily show off your skills and abilities. Remember, simplicity is key. Think of this as a ten-second elevator pitch on paper on how you can convince your recruiter that you’re fit for the job.


3. Academic Background


If you’re a recent graduate, include any academic accolades and achievements you’ve received during your course of study. This includes the dean’s list or cum laude status. Include your GPA only if you’ve done well. That is, if it’s in the first class or highest distinction classification.


Once you have accumulated over 10 years of employment experience, you should remove the year of graduation. This prevents any form of age discrimination, driving the focus of your CV towards your skills and proven track record in your work.


4. Work Experience


Use this list of 185 strong action verbs to help your job description bullets pack a powerful punch. Whenever possible, quantify your accomplishments by incorporating numbers. This instantly paints an image for recruiters to see the level of responsibility you were assigned to and how you’ve succeeded in your role.


This could look something like this:

Led the project to digitalise and streamline the sales process, which increased the sales revenue by 30% in 6 months

A rule of thumb is that if you have over five years of work experience, you should lead in your CV with your employment history instead of your academic background. The more practical job experiences you’ve gained, the less crucial your educational history becomes. The only exception to this rule is for those who are going into academic or research fields.


5. Awards & Honours


Usually, for fresh graduates or those with little work experience, it may be worthwhile to include this segment as a standalone to help beef up the CV. As you start to bag more work experiences under your belt, you can do away with this segment completely by weaving in your accomplishments under the education and employment sections.


6. Skills


Do not include skills that are too basic. In this day and age, it’s not particularly outstanding to be proficient in Microsoft Word. In fact, listing the skills you’re already expected to have could reflect poorly on your application.


“By adding [these] as a skill, candidates may appear to be trying to add ‘fluff’ to their resume, i.e., that they are grasping for anything to include because they don’t have enough relevant skills to list out.”

Peter Riccio, Founding Partner of recruiting firm Atlas Search


The most common mistake that job seekers commit is to list their soft skills here. Common examples that fall under this category include teamwork, problem-solving and leadership. While there’s no denying that more employers are keeping an eye out for soft skills, plainly stating them without substantiation does not add any value to your profile.


Instead, integrate your soft skills into past employment job descriptions. For example, instead of telling recruiters that you have “critical thinking”, it could look something like “assessed market trends and conducted competitor analysis to develop strategic acquisition tactics that suit the client’s needs”


7. Extra-curricular Activities


This segment is most helpful for those who may not have enough real-world exposure for an internship or entry-level position.


In Singapore, it's common to include co-curricular activities (CCAs) in the CVs for entry-level positions. CCA is a policy formally introduced by the Ministry of Education back in the 1960s. The goal was to provide a holistic education curriculum that can foster patriotism and social integration. Since everyone in Singapore pretty much had a CCA, merely stating the activity, your responsibilities or SYF achievements will not do the magic and excite the hiring manager.


Instead, you should frame the CCA descriptions in a way that is unique to your experience. Write about how the experience has moulded your soft skills, or how you’ve implemented positive change during your time there.