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Here are some hints to help your resume get noticed and help you get the interview.

Get organized.

Gather your previous resumes, descriptions of jobs you have held, past performance evaluations, letters of commendation, and awards. Sort them and put them in chronological order. Read them carefully and take notes on important points or themes.


Think before you begin to write. What are your career goals? Where do you prefer to work? What type of positions will you apply for?

Tailor your resume to the announcement.

Your resume should focus on your knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies that relate to your overall career goals.
Resume for a specific job opportunity (with a specific closing date): Announcements for particular job vacancies provide details on specific duties and requirements. Your resume should address the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies that pertain to those unique duties and requirements.

Write a first draft.

Then walk away from it. Take a second look and revise, reorganize, and improve as necessary. Make sure spelling, punctuation, and all grammar basics are perfect.

Be descriptive.

Descriptions of your experience should be simple. We want to know what you did on the job. Think about:

  • The projects you have worked on
  • What your specific duties were
  • What you needed to know to do the job
  • What tools, software, or equipment you used
  • What you accomplished
Be clear.

Use nouns and verbs that present an accurate, clear summary of your accomplishments. Use correct tense for past or current positions. For example:

  • Write “Utilized Microsoft Project to develop timelines. Prepared budget requests, hired staff, selected vendors, negotiated contracts, and designed and implemented a new Unix client-server information system,” rather than "Performed the full range of project management duties for a new information system."
  • Rather than writing "Communicates orally and in writing." it is better to say "Writes complex technical documents and reports; prepares policy statements, and develops and presents PowerPoint briefings to large groups."
  • It's better to write, "Directs work, interviews and hires employees, establishes and reviews performance standards, identifies training needs, effects disciplinary action, and performs other supervisory duties for 10 employees," rather than just saying "Supervising.”
Use action words, modifiers, and phrases such as:
  • Designed and implemented new organizational structure plan
  • Negotiated contracts valued to $90,000
  • Delivered report on waste management
Eliminate unnecessary or flowery language.

Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Instead of saying, "I was responsible for the processing of a wide variety of extremely complex financial transactions using two technically advanced automated accounting systems," you might say, "I was responsible for processing a variety of financial transactions using two automated accounting systems."

Don’t repeat.

Once a skill such as “management” or “budget” is pointed out, you need only cite the skill again if you are describing a different position.

Use plain English.

Describe skills and experience in terms common to your occupation and profession that could be readily understood in both the public and private sectors. Minimize the use of acronyms. If you must use them, spell them out at least once and explain what they represent, what processes or systems they describe, and how you have used the knowledge, skills, or abilities associated with them.

Keep paragraphs short.

To make your resume easier to read to the human and electronic eye, add a carriage return (blank line) after every 20 lines or so. It’s OK to have more than one paragraph for each experience, just keep the paragraphs short.

Don’t be fancy.

Don't use graphics, italics, underline, shadows, reverses (white letters on black background), or symbols such as % # * = and don't type your information in all capital letters.

List only recent training and awards.

List only training and awards received in the last 5 years. Don’t attach copies of training certificates, transcripts, or awards unless specifically requested in the job opportunity announcement.

List certifications and licenses.

If applying for a position that requires you to possess a license or certification, list all current licenses, certificates, and/or contracting warrants under the Professional Licenses and Certificates section of your resume. Identify the city and/or State of certification, name of certifying organization, and expiration date, if any. For example, “Certified Public Accountant, Illinois, 06-95.”

Test your text.

When you finish writing a section, ask yourself:

  • Would a person who is not familiar with my occupational background understand the kind of work that I do?
  • Is there nonessential information in what I have written?
  • Have I omitted any relevant special experience or skills I possess that might distinguish me from other candidates?
  • Have I adequately described the major characteristics of my occupation, or background and skills that are most common to my occupation?
  • Have I clearly described my accomplishments?

For more tips on resumes that get results, check out Ten Tips for Letting Federal Employers Know Your Worth.

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