How to write a great CV – for Malaysians

This has been a long time pet peeve of mine on teaching fellow Malaysian how to write a great CV. Honestly speaking, in the last 10 years of my working life as an employer having to review CVs and interview employees, I have not come across a single CV that has impressed me. Not a single one!!! Zero! Zilch! And mind you, I also review CVs from the UK and Australia and they are no better. Yet, for all the people who have asked me to help them with their CVs, they have gotten their job of choice. Which makes me wonder if I should start a CV writing service instead! Or start a Recruitment Company. Why ever not? After all, I should have earned about RM50,000 alone just from recommending people to companies in the last year. For free! Well, something for me to think about and consider and I know my Hubs is going to start rolling his eyes again at my itchy bum wanting to do so much. Heh.

So. How to write a great CV? I do this for fellow Malaysians as a service.

First and foremost, do a mind map on ALL your skills. Not just the work you have done in the last X amount of years but ANY skill that you have since you were a baby, write it down on a piece of paper. Anything remotely interesting about yourself, write it down. Anything you consider brilliant that you have done, write it down. It doesn’t even have to be work related. Just write down all the things that make you the most fantastic person on this planet. Can’t think of much? Well, think harder. You must have done SOMETHING good in your life and if not, then you don’t deserve that job. Go do something brilliant first. Of course, we all have various degrees of brilliance so just put what is brilliant to you. Hey, even my daughter T1 has a growing collection of skills and awards and she’s only 10. Her book of certificates from school is full. It’s not the number of certificates that you get that matters. It’s the experience you soak in that molds you into the brilliant person that make you.

1. Mind Map on Self

So yes, write it all down. For example, for me it could be bringing profit up for company X within just 5 months from X dollars to Y dollars. It could be being published in the newspapers, journals and online sites covering areas from business to finance to parenting to charity. It could be actually publishing a book appointed by the Government. It could be being a sharp negotiator with clients and employees alike (give examples and references). It could be raising two well grounded kids. It could be keeping my husband on his toes (haha, just kidding). It could be managing people well (show examples). It could be playing the piano for school. It could be lead roles at school year after year. It could be winning an International Competition based on 12,000 participants. And the list goes on….you get the idea, yes? How to write a great CV – for Malaysians, pay attention.

2. Chronological Order of Employment

Start listing down all your workplaces from the moment you started work anywhere till now. Fill in the gaps too, so if you weren’t working officially, then what were you doing with your time. Don’t be afraid to write down your stint at burger king either. Put everything down FIRST and we will edit it later based on priority.

3. Study the JOB that you are looking at

What is the job? What is the company? What are they looking for? Research. Research. Research. Come on, if you cannot even make the effort to learn everything there is to know about the company that you are about to start working for, why even bother? You should know what the job is about. Look at other places offering similar positions. Ask around. Read up about the company. Read up about their competitors. If you can, find out something about their recruitment process and the person who will be reviewing your CV. In fact, you could even cold call and probe. Just don’t say who you are. Pretend to be someone else inquiring. You’ll be amazed how much information you can actually get if you just dared to ask. You can even ask what type of person the person of relevance is. Seriously! And of course, use your network to dig for information. You need to use everything to your advantage if you want that job. For example, if the person likes black, please don’t go adding turquoise font into your CV. This exercise will be useful when you go for that interview too so you would be killing two birds with one stone. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Plus if you do not know anything about the company, how would you ask any questions at the interview? You MUST have some questions to ask.

4. Organising and Prioritising the CV

OK, first rule of thumb. If you are approaching 45-60 years old, you’re allowed 2 pages max. If not, stick to ONE page. Seriously. If you do not know how to prioritise your CV and leave it at ONE page, you do not know how to be an efficient worker. And only if are you in a very specialised field that requires the employer to review the level of detailed skills such as which software tests you have passed etc, then only are you allowed up to 4 pages max. Anything out of that, get throws into the bin in my books. It truly shows that you don’t have much hence need to fluff about stuff to make your CV grow. It won’t work.

4A. Choosing what to add and what to chuck

So within those 1-2 pages, what do you think are the most IMPORTANT things that the employer would want to see? You can only choose enough stuff to fit into ONE page. How? If you have so much stuff, bite the bullet and choose what you think is THE most important. Maybe make your font smaller but not so small that I need a magnifying glass because that would warrant your CV into the bin too.

For me personally, the stuff I have done are so diverse that I really need to customise my CVs for each industry. So if you’re applying for a job in Management, focus on all the skills and employment where your management skills were exhibited. If the job you’re applying for is Creative, do the same. The rest? CUT IT OUT. If you still have space, then you can add in that you have won the short story telling competition organised by SHELL once upon a time. I did.

It is a reality that some employers (actually, maybe most!) practise discrimination. Really. It is a sad fact that employers categorise race and religion and generalise but what to do? It happens so we just have to live with it and work that much harder to get that job. I personally don’t. I like asking potential prospects questions that are completely out of whack just to shock them into an impromptu answer. It shows me how the applicant deals with stress. It shows me how fast he can think on his feet. I also like to test how he reacts to humour. Of course, I also ask questions to make sure he has really done what he says he has done in his CV because 90% of the time, CVs are exaggerated. I also call references to double check before I commit to an employee.

4B. Leave personal details minimal

In this day and age, it really is a waste of space to put ALL your personal details into your CV such as your IC number, your Nationality, your date of birth, your address, all your phone numbers, all your emails, your photograph, etc. No. In this day and age, I just need to know your name and your phone number (and maybe your email). What are you trying to achieve by offering all your details? You get to do that when you come for an interview and the receptionist gives you the form to fill in. All your shit can go there. Don’t waste it on your precious CV space. Besides, in Malaysia, you only open yourself to more scrutiny for discrimination. Like it or not, it happens. I have never given more than my name and contact number with email. They don’t need to know where I live (if they want to know, they can ask at the interview). They don’t need to know what religion or race I am (despite the name, I am a BUMIPUTERA, didn’t you know? And yes, that may win me some brownie points, but I prefer to win on merit).

4C. Neat Formatting

Designers are best at this. Sometimes engineers because they are very systematic. Please organise your CV in a neat and clean format so that it is easy to look for what I want to find if I were to glance at it. It is also best to put the most important things at the top and leave the least important things for last. Typically, you would have a section for your employment history (remember to remove anything irrelevant and only elaborate on the relevant jobs), a personal profile (this will be your winning attention grabber. Pay attention to writing this), your education (I only put the last and highest level of education because it is not important for people to know which high school I went to), your interests (this is a nice little extra to give the employer an insight to your life outside of work, which is also important).

5. Personal Profile

This should be no longer than 1 paragraph and a few sentences and should exhibit your greatest strengths and hopes and promise for what you want to do in and for that company. This will be your winning piece, that clincher, the first 3 seconds of your CV that will make your future employer read more. If you don’t win this, that’s it. So think about it. Why do you want to work here? Where do you wish to go? Why should I give you the job? How are you suitable? How are you going to do it?

6. Pulling it all together

There, you’re almost there. Once you’ve formatted everything nicely and put in all the right content into the CV, edit and read, then show it off to all your friends for a review of it. Make sure you write it in the language that follows your industry jargon. For example, you cannot write your CV in the way that I am writing right now. I am just simply writing from my head without any thought. You need to choose the right words when you write yours. You don’t have to use big words but be concise and precise and use proper English. Avoid slangs and short forms, and words such as stuff. Please. And for goodness sake, do a spell check and get someone to correct your grammar before you submit your CV. I throw out many CVs of people who cannot even bother to get their CVs spell-checked. It all shows your initiative, guys. You will be automatically deemed a lazy ass if you do not spell check your CV and check for typos. And shit, if I can help it, I will not employ a lazy ass. Alternatively, you could send it to me for a review. For a fee. Heh. I will soon set up my recruitment business!!!

Did that help at all? How to write a great CV – for Malaysians?

Next Up: Interview Prep…..

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Who is Mamapumpkin?
Mamapumpkin spent 7 years in London committing crimes to gain her Bartlett BSc in Architecture. She spent 7 years as a Stay At Home Mom raising her children as documented in this Mamapumpkin blog since over 10 years ago and thereafter returned to the Corporate World stronger than ever. Her last job as Country Director of a British Railway Signalling organisation saw her getting ill with an aortal and mitral heart valve regurgitation and cancer. Through her journey from working to not working to working again, she sets out to prove to all women that they can do anything and everything that they set out to do; as long as they have that fire of desire burning within and the drive to work hard with oodles of love, passion and integrity.

Despite being ill, she has grown a network marketing business from little knowledge and experience in the otherwise infamously known MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) industry, racing from an income of ZERO to RM 100,000 monthly in merely 2 years. She is a firm believer of the MLM business model but realises the pitfalls too and understands how and why the majority of people would shy away from any MLM business.

She is now pondering the title of her new book, From Zero to 100,000 RM monthly in 2 years and has a sequel in the pipeline with the aim of helping real professionals succeed in the World of MLM. Always the giver, Mamapumpkin has supported orphans for years and has now extended her care to the sick, single mothers, and even struggling families. She believes that with the MLM business model, we can all have a life of our own desires to enable real contribution into the world.

A beautiful life without limits.

Mamapumpkin currently manages the Homeschooling Hub Malaysia on Facebook. She also runs Working Women Malaysia (not THAT kind of Working Women LOL), Mamapumpkin - Creating A Life of Abundance, and Funky Moms on Facebook to offer REAL support to all women who want career and life success. She is a living testimony that women really can have a lot. Being financially free has enabled her to travel the world anytime anywhere doing anything, and she spends most of her day to day with her children, reading and supporting other women.

For enquiries, please contact her at mamapumpkin at gmail dot com or WhatsApp her at +6012-2333840
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