The job search is only a pain if you don’t know what you want and are not prepared. Here’s a guide to getting yourself hired this year.

Most youth never worry about bills, rent, insurance or medical benefits. That’s what parents are for – they take care of these “grown-up stuff” while you pluck a guitar or hang out with your friends at the latest artisan cafe.

But at some point – like after graduating with a degree – your parents might drop strong hints that it’s time to take part in a great ritual towards adulthood called “the job search”.

For some of you, though, “the job search” is right up there with tooth extraction or a P-A-I-N. But if you’re diligent and have done your homework – reading up every single article out there on cover letters and resumes (also called CVs), the journey won’t be so bad. It might even be fun.

Here are some tips on finding your dream job.

The power of intention

This is not mumbo jumbo. Without intention, nothing happens. Without cause, there will be no effect.

The first thing you need to ask yourself after graduating is what you want to do. This is “intention”.

You know deep down inside what you want to do, so follow that instinct and trust it. Make an honest appraisal of your intentions and answer that first question. Do you want a job? How badly do you want it? Pretty bad? Good. Next...

How to deal with... doubt and fear

If you are scared and worried you won’t be able to pull off this job search challenge, get over it – fast.

Fear feeds into adrenaline and increases your anxiety and prepares you for action. But too much fear will make you doubt yourself completely, resulting in zero action.

Freak out for a good five minutes, get it out of your system, and then get over it. Take pride in your successes and see any failure as an opportunity for even more success.

Wanting to do everything

Focus. That’s the keyword. You cannot do everything, so only spend energy on what makes sense. Draw up a game plan and follow that plan, modifying it as needed.

Losing momentum

Don’t be lazy. It is easy to fall into this trap, especially after exams and graduation, such as waking up late every day and not tackle tasks. Enjoy and bask in your accomplishments but don’t let it drag on for too long.

Research, research, research

Once you’ve decided what you intend to do, tackle the finicky details. An effective job search begins with laser-pointing your energy towards a job you want to land.

So, don’t waste your time sending your cover letter and resume to all the companies out there. Be focused.

Key points on job research

  1. Identify your goal.

  2. Identify your industry or field of interest.

  3. Identify what quality you can bring to your potential employer.

  4. Target employers.

  5. Scour the internet, especially social media sites and career-focused websites like Graduan.

  6. Network and connect through friends, professional organisations, college career placement centre and job agencies.

  7. Work part-time or freelance in the industry you are interested in.

First impressions

Humans are visual animals! We tend to remember someone from our first visual contact with him/her. So, your first task is to write a clear, original cover letter with correct formatting.

On a deeper level, your letter should reveal your intelligence, communication skills, attitude, personality, professionalism and attention to detail – all in one page. Note, that many HR personnel spend less than a minute scanning each cover letter.

Key points on cover letters

  1. Research the company thoroughly via its website and/or give its HR personnel a call.

  2. Use correct formatting

a) Address the letter, whether it is Tuan, Sir, Encik or Mr for men and Puan, Madam, Cik, or Ms (don’t assume Mrs!) for women.Stay consistent. If your letter is in English, going with Mr or Ms is the safest bet. In Bahasa Malaysia, Tuan or Puan should be fine. Double check the spelling of the name, position, address, date.

b) The first paragraph states the position you are applying for and how you heard of the opening.

c) Your second paragraph highlights your qualifications.

d) The third paragraph is an interesting snippet about yourself, extracurricular activities and qualities.

e) Finally, your fourth paragraph rounds up the letter, ending with information on your availability, words of appreciation, complete with a ‘Yours sincerely’ and signature.

  1. Get to the point – avoid big words and convoluted sentences.

  2. Keep it to one page.

  3. Don’t focus on duties and responsibilities. Instead, show your achievements and successes.

  4. Check spelling and grammar. Have a friend or relative read and comment on it.

  5. Computer-type your letter and print a neat, crisp copy, unless the employer specifically asks for a handwritten sample.

  6. Follow-up with a phone call to make sure they’ve received it.

  7. Do not send photocopies of the same cover letter to different employers.


Next comes one of the most important pieces of paper in a job search – the resume. Again, most HR personnel will spend less than a minute on a resume, so make sure they catch the keywords in it.

A resume won’t land you a job but it gets you a foot in the door. Remember, a resume is a concise summary of your achievements, not your life story.

Key points in a resume

  1. Research the company and position, and customise your resume to fit the job.

  2. Format your resume to make it easy to read.

  3. Use clear and concise language.

  4. Use action verbs and show what you have done.

  5. Use numbers to quantify success, such as “planned and launched 12 student events, increased student store sales by 25%”.

  6. Include your education, qualifications and any work experience.

  7. Mention special skills, such as languages and computer environments.

  8. If photos are required, look alive!

  9. Stick to a maximum of two A4 pages.

  10. Use white or lightly coloured paper, legible font and printing.

  11. Check spelling and grammar, and have someone proofread a printout.


Prepare, prepare and prepare for the interview. You’re one step closer to your goal, so it’s time to show the best of you.

Allow the interviewer to see why your cover letter and resume stood out from the rest. Have a great time, not only showcasing and selling your skills and potential, but also learning about the job and the company. Remember, each interview is a learning experience, regardless of the outcome.

Key points on the interview

  1. Do your research and know the company well.

  2. More importantly, know yourself well. This also means knowing your resume thoroughly in case you are asked to discuss something highlighted in it.

  3. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer at the end – to show you have done your homework. Don’t blow it by asking silly questions like “Do I get a parking spot?”

  4. Get some practice. While you may be nervous, remember that the interviewer simply wants to get to know you. Some types of questions are:

a) “Yes” or “no”: these may limit you, so follow your answer with “I would also like to add” or “Also” or “In fact”.

b) Open-ended: show your knowledge but also know when to stop.

c) Trick: think fast. If you cannot answer, bring them up later in the interview.

d) What-if: answer these to the best of your ability. This is to show how you think in a situation. It rarely matters whether your answer is wrong or right.

e) Past-experience: be prepared and tell a convincing story about yourself.

  1. Use note cards to prepare but don’t use them in front of the interviewer, of course!

  2. Have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview.

  3. Be on time, dress neatly, bring copies of your resume, reference letter and certificates in a case.

  4. Maintain eye contact to show strength of character and attentiveness.

  5. When leaving, thank the interviewers and politely ask when would be a good time to follow up on the decision.

The most important thing is to believe in your strengths. If you fall, pick yourself up and keep learning as you go along. Be humble and courteous but project an air of self-confidence and perseverance. Be encouraged when something works but do not despair when a challenge presents itself. You can only learn from this experience. Now go show the world what you’re made of!

Share this article: