Prepare to dig in. This is the first of four resume posts I will be putting out. The work will be hard for some but the payoff will be worth it as you’ll be building a resume that will help you apply to positions in many areas at once. The caveat here will be if you are a professional in the medical or engineering or science fields. But this information will still help you with your capabilities and be able to formulate your resume such as to make it untouchable. This is free information, I have used it successfully and so have the few people I have consulted with on a paid basis. If you put in the work, results will happen.
One of the very first places I look when browsing position openings is the required work experience as well as education level. There are many positions that have a concrete must have, Graduate education, number of years in a particular field or position, or even a Phd. Then there are the positions that you can have a combination of experience that may take care of the education requirement, but none of this matters if your resume doesn’t just say in plain english that you’ve done the job or had a position for one year or more at the next GS level. Less than a year will get you nowhere unless the education requirement works. I’ve even seen a colleague of mine with 27 years in a particular field with 20 of those years as a SME (subject matter expert) be turned down because they didn’t have a bachelors degree. That is an oversight that should have been challenged by the hiring manager, but I can’t talk about what should have happened, all I can tell you is that agency lost out on a star employee.
In the beginning I had a great resume. Standard format with bullet points and a few highlights, references upon request on the second page, life was good. If you remember I then showed my resume to a co-worker of mine and they laughed at my “private resume.” You may also remember that I have met the unicorn who picked up a great entry level GS-7 position with a private resume, but remember they are the outlier here, don’t subject yourself to chance when you can knock out a great well researched multi-use resume from the beginning. Depth counts when it comes to the Federal HR professionals reason for pushing your application to being “REFERRED”.
There should be an overwhelming desire to hire you for a position and that comes from making sure there is nothing left to chance when it comes to your work experience. From the basic office experience that many of us have slogged through like knowledge of copiers, multi-line phone mastery, faxing documents, etc.. If it says the incumbent needs to know this, why not just put it in to your work experience, make sure it’s reflected in every position you’ve held. Why? Why not is what you should ask yourself as it’s important. Does basic office procedures and equipment usage make you a stand out candidate, NO, but it says you have the BASICS down and that’s generally a requirement. “Knowledge of office automation” is a phrase that comes up quite often.
As I have suggested that when you embark on your next application, you should print out the whole package. Here you can underline all of the skills or what used to be known as KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities) and be able to estimate whether you meet the general requirements for the position. This isn’t rocket science, but I will tell you many applicants fail to produce in their resume these essential requirements, thus leading them to going in the “thanks but no thanks” pile which then heads to the hungry shredder. I also find it very simple to review what the required experience is for a position. Perhaps you aren’t confident in your abilities, upon review you see that your current job goes far beyond the requested experience and now your confidence level goes up and you say “I could have this job!”
Reviewing the experience can also help you to formulate your resume for the position and for many more in the future. Everyone knows about “key words” to include in their private resume so those BOTS can scan your resume and know that you at least spelled them correctly and you can move forward in the process. I am not going to say that your resume work experience will be the deciding factor in whether you get an interview, but if you are like me and in your past you weren’t used to seeing the “REFERRED” on your application status, then once you revise your resume to reflect even the office automation capabilities you will see that “REFERRED” more often which leads you to being interviewed, which leads you to the best option possible of “SELECTED.”
How do you know what to write about yourself and work experience? There are a ton of books out there, blogs, podcasts, etc.. But I’m guessing that many of the jobs you may have held in the past came with a list of duties and expectations you were to perform. Maybe you even signed one and were given a copy of it. Now is the time to dig that dusty paper out and copy it into your profile. You say “FRC, that’s too much for a resume, it’s an entire page…” Well let me tell you that USAJOBS.GOV says you can use 5000 characters so why not use as many as you can? I will tell you that being THOROUGH is the way to go as I have said before, leave nothing to chance or on the table when you are building your resume and work experience. NOTHING! At the end of the day let the Federal HR professional read every line so they have the fullest belief that you are a prime candidate for the position you have applied to.
You may also say “FRC, I can’t find that position data from my last job,” I say use the great google to find it or something similar. This comes with a warning though. I have seen postings when I’ve built others resumes that were misspelled or had specific location information that wasn’t relevant to that person I was working with. Be sure to check the posting you are copying, you also should make it your own. If it’s a federal posting you are borrowing it may have strange language like Incumbent all over the place, change it to reflect you and also make sure if you were given awards or participated in certain events or conferences those are added in, you’ve got 5000 characters, use as many as you can to develop the best picture of what you have done and what you are capable of doing.
This is also the way to truly build a one size fits all resume work experience into your federal resume. Don’t worry about length, I believe my resume at this time is around 13 pages printed out. Much bigger than your average private resume or CV. Choose your wording wisely, borrow from previous position expectations you have signed and should you need to create your own work experience from scratch use USAJOBS.GOV to search for a position like the one you need to create and tailor it. If the federal government says this is what they want, in their words and you use the same language, it will be very hard for the Federal HR professional to look at your previous work experience and say “this person doesn’t have what we are looking for.” As a last note, it is my personal opinion to stay away from bullet formats, but that’s up to you. I don’t use them and don’t use them when I build other peoples packages.
Get to work and happy hunting..