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Ten ways to rewrite your resume for a role in Asia

It’s getting more difficult for Westerners to find jobs in Asia as cost-conscious employers look for local talent. Now more than ever, you need to make sure that the recruiter or employer who first reads your resume doesn’t trash it after seeing that you’re based overseas.

But writing a good CV for a job in Singapore or Hong Kong isn’t exactly the same as it is in your home country. Here’s how to localise your resume.

1) Include anything Asian

You might not have been based in Asia yourself, but you should still highlight any work you’ve done with colleagues or clients there, said Annie Yap, managing director of Singapore headhunters AYP Asia Group. Don’t overlook small stints in Asia either, added Yolanda Yu, a Singapore-based senior consultant at search firm Kerry Consulting. “What about that project you were working on with your counterparts in China or even Vietnam? What about that two-week training trip to Singapore? What about your multinational team who report to you from Malaysia? It doesn’t always have to be Singapore or Hong Kong; Asia is the big context.”

2) Be available

Give practical information to show that you can and will move to Asia. For example, said Yu, include a relocation time frame and state your availability for a face-to-face interview. “If I see a resume with none of this personal information, except for a name and a foreign phone number, it sounds too far away, and I might question their motivation,” she added.

3) Get personal

“Your reasons for looking to work in Asia should be included in the front page, not buried at the back of your CV,” said Ailing Huang, manager, risk, audit and governance at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Singapore. And if there’s a compelling non-career reason for relocating, such as marriage, include it on your resume. “This assures employers that you are committed to staying and are not just using Singapore or Hong Kong as a career stop-over,” said Matthew Ng, a Singapore-based senior consultant in financial services at recruiters Ambition.

4) Forget the soft stuff

Employers in Asia aren’t fond of reading generic character traits like “team player”, “good leadership” or “hardworking”, Yap from AYP said. These are assessed in interviews and shouldn’t be on your CV.

5) Qualifications matter

Financial institutions in Asia “set the bar very high” when it comes to academic qualifications, said Craig Brewer, a director at recruitment firm Hudson in Singapore. “Ensure that you list all your professional qualifications and the dates you attained them. With the standards being raised constantly for foreign workers in Singapore and across Asia, the more qualified you are, the better,” he added.

6) List all languages

Listing any Asian languages you know, in particular Mandarin, is a given. But don’t leave European or other languages off your CV – Singapore and Hong Kong, like London and New York, boast international workforces. “Even if you speak Spanish and you are applying for a role in Singapore, it’s still worth mentioning,” Brewer said. “You never know, familiarity makes people feel comfortable and you new boss might speak Spanish too.”

7) Explain your employers

Unless all the firms you have worked for are international financial institutions with offices in Asia, you should include a brief description of their business and a link to their website, Brewer said.

8) Regulation

You should shout about your knowledge of international financial regulations because banks in Asia face a talent shortage as they implement these global standards. “For example, if you have experience working in Basel III functions, it is definitely good to indicate this knowledge in detail – it’s a hot area,” Ng from Ambition said.

9) Visa status

If you are lucky enough to have a Personalised Employment Pass for Singapore, mention this on your CV because it means the new employer won’t need to sponsor your work visa. “This is especially important now as the Singapore Ministry of Manpower is being more stringent on the approvals for work visas,” Ng said.

10) Your photo is optional

While, unlike in the West, some local Asian applicants choose to put a picture on their resume, this is not compulsory. And take care if you do add a mug shot. “If you have a corporate photo that has been done by a professional, feel free to include it. A snap of you at the company Christmas party or a BBQ does not count,” Brewer from Hudson said.

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