Resumes should be simple, bold and professional

So there comes a time when we have to leave our blissfully sheltered lives in high school, college or university and venture out into the big bad world of corporate society. Coping with this change, it is always good to reflect and summarise what we’ve achieved so far.

I’ve helped conduct searches for new blood in the past few years and among the sea of resumes belonging to fresh graduates, around 15% would be good, quality ones. However, kicking off my search again last month made me ruminate about some pretty hilarious resumes.

Here are some examples, with details omitted for anonymity:

“I took a break from work in 2009 to renovate my horse”

“I performed service for old man to check if he still alive or not”

“My hobbies is enjoy cooking Chinese and Koreans”

“I’m a hard worker and a maximizer” — Pray tell, what sort of “maximizer” are you?

“My exceptional skills are: Strong Work Ethic, Attention to Detail, Team Player, Self Motivated and Attention to Detail”

I kid you not.

Then there were resumes which were concise and complete. Some were even Dean’s List students. But alas, their e-mail addresses made me question the Dean’s List requirements and possible lack of standards over here.

As cute as they may sound, not all companies are as forgiving about e-mails with usernames like “JuJu_Piglet_89”, “badfishy734”, “paramore_rulez” and “Siti-Nemo”.

After the laughter and giggles subside, it makes me start to question if there’s really something wrong with the way our students are being educated here, especially in local public universities. The worst part is, these applications all contained signatures and endorsements by the students’ professors, career advisers and counsellors.

Don’t colleges and universities have resume preparation classes, career placement offices, or guidance counselors at the very least? Are these students not given the correct information on how to prepare a curriculum vitae? Can’t these students use all the resources they have today — the most obvious one being Google — to research for samples and tips?

Every notable employer would encourage applicants to keep it simple, bold and professional. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but the advice is given for a reason — simply because it works. Instead of using stationery with bears and spraying perfume on it, keep it clean and easy to read. It’s also recommended that you ask someone else to review it, because a fresh pair of eyes can spot potential mistakes better.

I’m no human resource professional, but I would think it’s common knowledge that for fresh graduates, it’s best to identify your academic background which also includes your extra curricular activities, not your personality traits and strengths.

Applicants should resist the urge to say that they’re a “highly energetic, results-driven, visionary, world-class entrepreneur.” Can the employers decide that for themselves, after they’ve met and have had time to consider the accomplishments?

Perhaps it will be far more meaningful if we allow the employers themselves to conclude that the applicant is a “seasoned, savvy professional with a distinguished career” than if they announce it beforehand and the employer has to hunt for evidence to support that claim. Let the facts speak for themselves. The experience is what counts, not the applicant’s interpretation.

One friend said someone sent her an application stating experience as a “social escort” and “KTV bar hostess”. Now that’s good to know. Another friend had someone list down his favourite food: “nasi paprik, maggi goreng pedas and milo ais”. Charming.

The last resume I opened was the ultimate champion. She had good grades from a reputable local university, and spoke our three major languages. But as I scrolled down, I saw this: “SPM Results — 3.92 GPA”.

Wow. I must have left school longer than I thought!

■ Dawn Jeremiah had the e-mail username PoShGal15 briefly in Form 3 when she admired Posh Spice, but it was never to be seen again. Armed with a passion for television and journalism, she handles regional marketing at a high definition lifestyle channel. An actress part-time, she also tweets at

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