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How to Tailor Your Resume for the Public Sector

I am currently a year into a fellowship with the CDC, a dream opportunity I remember applying for like it was yesterday. I was six months out of school and had a generic resume I would tweak for various positions. None of my friends had applied to the public sector, and I never had any specific advice on how to tailor my resume for the public sector. In fact, I never even knew that I had to tailor it for the public sector beyond relevant experience and key words. I kindly mentioned to a neighbor who was a retired civilian that I was looking into public sector opportunities, he kindly obliged.

  1. Use common sense when deciding what to put on your resume. Tailor it and then edit, edit, edit! Only include experiences, job titles and duty descriptions relevant to what the employer is looking. Only portray a story and mission that the agency is looking for. Get creative! Languages, volunteer experiences, studying abroad and college courses can come together in a creative way to demonstrate how you can meet the demands of the job.
  2. Do not include an “Objectives” section. Your career goals and objectives should be evident in your cover letter.
  3. On average, an employer will spend 30-45 seconds reviewing your resume. A clear, organized and aesthetically pleasing format is key. Avoid underlining, highlighting, or using bold font. Use italics or small caps instead.
  4. Don’t discredit volunteering on your resume. Volunteering is considered public service. Add this in the “Experience” section or “Community Service” section.
  5. Quantify! Quantify! Quantify!: I have heard professionals emphasize this time and time again. My neighbor who helped me tailor my resume as well as all my supervisors at CDC who help me write my monthly activity reports and performance evaluations all have told me to quantify. For example, listing “Created budgets for local health departments,” sounds a lot less demonstrating then “Drafted five different budgets for local health departments within the span of three months.” You have quantified your abilities in a way that showcases your talent in terms of relevance to the organization. Quantifying will make you stand out. Government can be largely about numbers and facts. Start early!

Priyanka Oza 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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