Employer Soundbite Edition: How to Make Your Application Stand Out from the Rest

Puja Shah has a deep background in HR and is currently working for a cleantech organisation. In this edition of Employer Soundbite Edition, Puja shares tips on how candidates can spruce up their job applications.
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The gradsingapore Team
Elliyani Mohamad Ali
Chief Editor, gradsingapore
Employer Soundbite, How to Make Your Application Stand Out From The Rest

gradsingapore's Employer Soundbite Edition aims to share quick thoughts from employers on current industry trends, hiring insights and useful tips for fresh graduates looking to kickstart their career on a high note. 

About the Interviewee

Puja Shah is a Senior HR Manager at VFlowTech Pte Ltd. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Management from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and has a deep background in HR, managing stakeholders, end-to-end employee cycle, and digital marketing function in start-ups and SMEs.

What are the top three things you look out for in a job candidate, and why?

As VFlowTech is a growing start-up, hiring for fit is especially important. We make sure that the candidates possess the necessary culture, skills and experience required for the position they’re applying for. This ensures that we’re selecting people equipped with the relevant skills that would be helpful to our company.

In addition to having the right skills and experience, we also prioritise passion. We want people who are excited and passionate about the environment, committed to sustainability and have a keen interest in reducing the net carbon footprint of our process and product. We find that employees with a high career drive and an eager attitude bring a lot to the table and can improve processes in the respective department.

Candidates who take time to do their homework and research the company tend to stand out from the crowd. This shows their genuine interest and that they took the time to thoroughly read up to know more about our business and understand our priorities. Being resourceful is an important asset!

What are some resume fails you’ve seen before, and what should the applicant have written instead?

The most common resume fails are typos and grammatical errors. You need to proofread it and correct any errors you find, otherwise, chances are, you’ll leave a terrible impression. Use the help of a software, such as Grammarly, Hemingway or even the basic Microsoft Word spellcheck, to highlight any mistakes. Additionally, ensure that you have followed the correct CV writing format.

Applicants are also highly encouraged to use action verbs to help show off your initiative, and boost the overall positive tone of your resume. Be specific, clarify and quantify your contributions and be confident about your accomplishments. We at VFlowTech particularly look out for the relevant value-added activities and initiatives an applicant has taken.

What are the valuable skills graduating students need to be equipped with by the time they graduate?

Since fresh graduates don’t really have work experience, we look for candidates who can value-add to our organisation. We assess applications based on academic achievements, leadership potential, involvement in the extracurricular activities and internships in the relevant industry. Experience gained during internship really helps graduates with the necessary exposure needed to head start their career in the corporate environment. Involvement in past leadership roles is also a selling point.

What are some tips that you wish to highlight when it comes to crafting the best resume/cover letter?

A cover letter should not be another version of your resume. It should instead provide specific examples of your experiences and how they can add value to the company. Highlight two to three skills and offer instances on how these were demonstrated. For example, if you are applying for a role in a company such as VFlowTech, provide an example on how you coordinated and led a successful activity or campaign addressing environmental issues.

Instead of using a generic letter for every job, take your time to customise your cover letter that reflects your interest in the specific position, project and company you are applying to. A hiring manager will appreciate the effort and see at a glance whether you’re a good match for the job.

Ideally, we also recommend resumes to not be lengthy. A one-to-two-page resume could really make a great impact if drafted effectively with key strengths and accomplishments.

What would you advise candidates who have not received a response despite applying for countless job postings?

Don’t be discouraged and keep up the momentum. The job market is filled with opportunities; so set weekly goals and target specific numbers of applications to ensure you don’t get fatigued on focusing on a particular position.

It'll also be wise to highlight the key roles you have applied for in companies so that you can follow up with the respective recruiter. More than often, recruiters are overwhelmed with the influx of applications, so if you find yourself to be suitable for a role and but you haven’t heard back from the company, it’s wise to connect with the recruiter on Linkedin and follow up with them for updates and/or explain why you think you’re best suited for the role.

Do you have other advice for graduates who may be having difficulty nailing their first job?

Attending hiring events or career fairs can definitely be beneficial. Look for local or virtual industry or company events to connect with hiring managers and networking opportunities. VFlowTech welcomes interns, graduates, and professionals who are either already in the renewable sector or looking to make the switch. We’re also partnering with local universities like Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) to support students who wish to pursue PhD under the Industrial Postgraduate Program (EDB Initiative). The new programme will nurture students who wish to build a fulfilling career in cleantech.

If you’re having difficulty getting your first job, don’t lose hope in applying, and continue to work on your resume. It may take time to finally get the job you want, but it’ll be worth the wait.