30 Minutes to Resume Rockstar


Is your resume ready for prime time, or is it languishing in its folder, just waiting for that day when you grab it for a job application? Are you ready to confidently answer any interview question that comes your way, with results-oriented examples of how your unique skills and characteristics saved the day?   One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you are going for your dream position is to have a stagnant resume, and not having relevant examples to discuss at your interview. This week’s post will focus on how thirty minutes every quarter can get you a top-tier resume, ready for any application, any time. Next week we will talk about how to rock your next interview by marrying your resume and career documents to relevant outcomes-oriented examples that showcase your best skills.

The key to having a dynamic resume that will become a powerful tool for your interview preparation is to make the time to actually manage your career documents. Most of us push our resume and interview material to the back burner and don’t think about it until we want to apply for a position. Starting today, you can painlessly get ahead of the game and always have a polished resume and the real-life examples to go with it. Step one is to schedule time to work on your career management. Pick a day within the next two weeks at a time when you are typically less busy and less likely to get distracted and pulled away. Schedule thirty minutes on your calendar and set the event to repeat every quarter. Thirty minutes every quarter is a drop in your bucket of time, yet the payoffs are huge. Step two: label a file folder for resume updates and stick it in your drawer.

Your first thirty-minute appointment may be spent locating documents you are likely to need for future interviews. This is really the first step in being ready when you apply for positions. Track down your SF 50, letters of recommendation and transcripts, scan them and put them in an electronic folder that you reserve for your application material. Even if you keep documents scanned and accessible in a government jobs site, you should still have copies available on your own computer to easily grab when you need them.

Your next step is to do a high level fly-over of your resume and make sure the basic information is up to date. Check your contact information and make sure your email and phone are typed correctly; this small step can save a lot of grief later! Add your current position if it’s not already included, and start adding start and end dates and other key information. The idea is to have a current resume available at all times. I recommend creating a “master resume” that contains all possible information you may potentially need on an application, including full addresses of former employers, contact information you have verified for former supervisors, license and certification numbers, and any other information that may be relevant. When you apply for a position, start with your master resume then make a copy that you can custom edit to the position for which you are applying. Chances are, you have more work to do than your first thirty-minute appointment will allow. Once you have put in your time working on your documents, you can stop here and pick it up next time. If you do this, it is a great idea to drop a note reminding you where you left off into the folder you put in your desk for resume updates.

That folder you have for resume updates is going to serve a very important purpose. Throughout the next three months until your next update session, use this folder to store information about accomplishments and events that are important to remember for your resume or interview examples. Some of the types of things to throw in your folder are letters of appreciation, data showing improved outcomes or goals met, and notes about trainings attended and major projects you have led or participated in. Once you start making notes about these things as they occur, you will be amazed at how much you have been forgetting!

From this point forward, use your quarterly appointments to make sure your recent accomplishments are updated on your resume and that changes in job titles or duties are always kept up to date.   Review what you have dropped into your folder, and add any things that are appropriate for a resume. Scan into your electronic folder anything you need to keep, and add relevant items to your resume. Throw out the paper copies so that all remains in your folder are items that don’t belong on a resume. Do not despair if you end up with a folder full of great examples of your skills and accomplishments that don’t work for a resume. Next week, we will talk about how that information, together with your resume will add amazing energy to your next interview. What are your best tips for keeping your resume lively and relevant? Sound off in the comments below

Brenda Dennis is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Stephanie Lopez

Great post. One thing I do that saves me lots of effort is to keep a meticulous calendar. Because I do this, I can easily go back and document every presentation and teaching activity I’ve done. This makes it easy to update my CV (which is the kind of document I must keep in my line if work).

Francesca El-Attrash

Brenda, very important post! I like that quarterly schedule, we can definitely get into a lull with our resume. Would be great to emphasize the need to keep updating even when we’re already working, since you never know.

Becky Latka

I just updated my resume this morning! I like the quarterly idea, since it’s more efficient than the continual random updates that I do to ensure my resume is up to date.

Catherine (Cat) Carlisle-McMullen

I really enjoyed this article and will use these methods starting this Friday! It is truly amazing, after reviewing my accomplishments file (which I’ve updated once per week over the years), the data has really piled up. Now I can pop the information into my new resume when it comes time. Creating a master resume works well too. Can’t wait to start the first 30 minutes. Thanks. 🙂

Brenda Dennis

Hi Cat, glad that worked out for you! It sounds like you have an awesome “accomplishments” file! Stay tuned for this week’s post and I’ll talk about what to do with all of those fabulous accomplishments that may not exactly fit into your resume!


Wow! Love the idea of a master resume! I’ve got a folder full of various resumes for various positions in various departments. No more! Thanks for all the helpful hints, Brenda, this is a wonderful post!

Brenda Dennis

Exactly Anne…..I had a whole folder full of resumes, all in different states of being updated! This way, you never miss including something important and it’s so much less work!

Joe Record

Great tips Brenda and I have maintained a master resume for years, but didn’t schedule a “resume update session” every three months. Excellent suggestions!

My added advice would be, don’t worry about the length of your resume. Especially for government jobs because you need to tell the perspective employer what your capabilities are that relate to the position you are applying for. Also, you will (or should be) tailoring your resume for the position you are applying for anyway which will eliminate some of the information. My master resume is currently eight pages long and usually comes in at six to seven pages per application depending on the position I am applying for.

With that in mind Brenda, are you planning on having a future discussion focused on how to modify your resume for success when applying for a new job? I have some recommendations for that topic as well because it is a little different than this one as this is the basic/master resume.

Brenda Dennis

Thanks Joe, I really appreciate the tip about not worrying about length. I have tried to get the fluff out of mine but it is still longer than many would recommend. It’s hard to find the sweet spot between what is boring to the reader and what is vital information!