New Year, New Resume

Every year we make resolutions…and we break them. If you are planning on applying for a position in 2015, reviewing and/or updating your government résumé is a resolute you need to make and just can’t break…especially if you are that government employee who wants to climb the GS scale ladder. In my experience, employees attempt to update their résumé during the open announcement process. As a result, they seek me out fraught for help! Yet, this is not a good practice because seasoned veteran employees are competing with pathway students, interns and fellows…and the latter seems to prevail in securing position.

According to Liz Wolgemuth of U.S News & Report, your résumé is an important aspect of your job search. Yet, over the course of my government career, I have been in the loop of hundreds of government employees or potential government employees’ résumé. And from my professional work in assisting employees applying for a position, lots of them are out of the loop! Keeping this resolution is an active mission for the government worker if you plan to apply for positions.

Your résumé is your brand. As you continuously gain skills, as you often do in government service, you will want to refine your brand. However, when I review résumés they are often times outdated, poor formatting, and fails to highlight the skills your brand has to offer. If you want to move ahead in 2015, resolute to bringing your résumé along.

Before you take this trip, do not bring along the “I” in your résumé. For example you can include a narrative such as this: “Trained over 100 employees to use Microsoft Outlook “instead of “I trained over 100 employees to use … “Therefore, write in third person or first person implied. Note that you would have included who, what and how many(see #1 below) .

HR Specialists have tons of résumés to review. Who’s to say she is reading your entire résumé? So, when you’re crafting yours, you’ll want to include skills to immediately catch the specialist’s eye. This is where your Summary of Skills come in. Right below your abbreviated objective (see #3). It is intended to give a brief summary of who you are, what your skills are and how they apply to the position. Use active verbs. Use bullets. They are easier on the eyes.

You don’t have to attend my workshops to do the following:
1. Review your achievements from the previous year. What have you accomplished? No one knows your achievements better than you do. Quantify those achievements.
2. Reflect on the skills and training you acquired in the past year (Did you learn to use an automated system in the past year?).
3. Be sure to include both soft skills (interpersonal skills) and hard skills (you can draw blood, you are an expert in Microsoft Excel). Match skills as closely to the skills in the job announcement. Never lie on your résumé (Never lie about anything that can be fact checked).
4. Ditch an objective that reads something like this: “A position where I will feel utilize my experience necessary to achieve my goals.” Remember, although your resume is you brand it’s not only about you. What can your brand do for the agency? Your objective should be concise and focus on the position you are applying for.
5. Remove your physical address (You most likely won’t be getting a notification in your physical mailbox. According to a study conducted by Schullery, Ickes and Schullery (June, 2009 ) over 90% of employers prefer to receive résumés electronically.
6. Have someone you trust review your résumé.

Your objective is to convince the HR Specialist of your qualifications. Unfortunately, many job seekers create a fantastic résumé which propels them into the position. I have seen too many times where they failed to function in the position they were hired to do and as a result, they overrely on coworkers. Therefore, read the job description carefully and decipher if you’re the ideal candidate with the precise skills to hit the ground running.

But wait…don’t stop there. As I educate today’s job seekers on trends and practices that will drive job search success; I suggest updating your résumé at least every three months if you have learned a new skill or recently attended training.

Government employees work hard…at least some of us do! Allow your résumé to show your good works!

June Bridges Cox 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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Russell Irving

June, I have been one of those who has far too frequently procrastinated as regards the updating of our resume. Thanks for the proverbial ‘kick in the b_ _ _’.

Antoinette Paulk

Thanks for these wonderful tips June! Quick questions, what are some of your ideas on keeping your resume simple and concise. I often have so much that I’d like to add to the skills portion, but fear going overboard. Do HR specialists prefer applicants to stay under a certain amount of pages? Also, would you mind sharing your knowledge on cover letters in a future blog post? I have yet to complete one of these, but it’s definitely on my goal list for 2015!


Thanks Antoinette for your inquiry. Content is important. Therefore, include the precise skills that are relevant to the position. I recommend including both hard skills (type 60 words a minute, create a dynamic dashboard, teach up to 50 people, manage an EEO program) and soft skills in the summary of skills but the hard skills needs to be at the forefront.

Remember to quantify what you have done!

Soft skills are your customer service skills, ability to communicate with individuals at various levels of the organization and your commitment to the mission of the agency, etc.

Since this blog is relevant to federal employees, no more than four pages. However, focus on your summary of skills on the first page because you do not want the reviewer to get to the 4th page to determine you have a required skill. She may not get there.

i am not sure I believe cover letters are necessary in applying for federal positions. Certainly civilian positions.

Hope this helps.

Jeanne Nierman

Wished I had known this valuable piece of information sooner! Well, it’s never too late to start a good habit. Thank you.


That’s right Jeanne…never too late! Find your resume, follow some or all of the tips and I am sure a new resume will emerge. 🙂 Good luck!

Debra Marcelle-Coney

June, these are excellent tips! When you get an opportunity, would you please share more of your wisdom on the brand? Thanks Again for all that You Do.


Hi Debra, thanks for your comment. Our “personal brand” was a term that was first used by Tom Peters. He is the author of In Search of Excellence and The Pursuit of WOW!

Our personal brand refers to how others perceive us, how they consider our knowledge and skills and the knowledge, skills and abilities that make us unique.

This is what makes people choose you, seek you out and only you for a task, a project, to collaborate. Our brand delivers time and time again. Think of Nike, the brand has delivered consistently that my son keeps going back to the mall, Apple products evidenced by the long lines when they is an update, Starbucks, etc.

We should continuously be in pursuit of wow! Our resumes should be a WOW! Set apart from your competition!

Dijon N. Rolle

Love this! It took me forever to learn how to properly craft a resume for federal employment. I update and tweak my current one as often as possible. In fact, I’m due now. Learned that It’s got to be an ongoing thing. Makes it a lot easier when a position pops open.


Dijon, thanks for your comment. A resume is a fluid document. Guess what Dijon? Since your are due to for an update, I would like for you to consider including your experience as blogger on Govloop.
For example, it can read something like this: Selected from hundreds of submissions to serve as a featured blogger on Govloop, a dynamic website designed to create content that is relevant to federal employees and connect them to share best practices.

You can change around the narrative to fit the tone of your document. Good Luck.