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Rock My Resume: Aili Petersen
September 1, 2011 at 5:13 am #140183
Hi Resume Reviewers,
Thank you so much for doing this!
Here is my information:
- Why do you want your resume reviewed?
I would really appreciate some feedback on how to strengthen my resume for federal jobs. It seems like USAJobs requires so many things to be included in resumes (eg salary, supervisors’ contact information)–and I’ve heard that it is important to include as many “key words” from the job description as possible. However, I’m afraid all the details and extra verbage make my resume too long; dilute my strengths; and divert attention from the things I’d like to highlight.
- What is your current situation (employed, seeking, etc.)?
I recently finished graduate school and am now job seeking full time.
- Where are you in the process (submitted resumes, applied for jobs, etc.)?
I have been submitting resumes for federal as well as private sector jobs. So far I have not had much luck getting through the USAJobs system.
- What’s the main issue you’re encountering?
See above– putting together a resume that meets the requirements while showcasing my experience in the most positive way.
- Can you share 1 link to a job you’re interested in applying for?
I attached a job description as a PDF (wasn’t sure how long the link would be active on USAJobs).
I look forward to your feedback and suggestions!
September 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm #140191
Thanks for participating in Rock Your Resume Aili. Looks like you have a fair amount of good experience and education. It seems to me that the position you sent as an example would be a great opportunity for you and you have much of what they are looking for. You did a decent job of including many of the key words and phrases the DoS position asked for.
However, there are a couple things we can do to make your resume even better and more effective.
First of all, we need to get you past two things you mentioned in your comments:
- You are right about the key words—you need to use them as much as possible and as often as possible. This will NOT dilute your resume
- You mentioned you are worried about not highlighting what you want on your resume…it’s very important to remember that your resume is NOT about what YOU want, but about what the EMPLOYER NEEDS.
Although I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean that you want to focus solely on those things you think are important, it is key that you put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be reading your resume. Often, those people are not the ones who will be working with that position directly and sometimes they don’t even know what the position does. That is why it is very important to focus on what they have said they want. This ECA position at state is written better than most federal announcements I’ve seen too.
I took the announcement and highlighted the important skill-verbs by underlining them in blue and those things modified by those verbs in red boxes. You did a GREAT job of including many of these items in your resume. In fact, the best I have seen so far.
Where we may be having problems is the presentation of your information. Your resume may be in a format that most HR people are not used to and in fact, the density of bullet points and text might turn them off a bit.
Therefore, I’m going to suggest that, if you haven’t already, you use the USAJobs resume builder to create your resume. Although many federal employers may not like the USAJobs resume style, they are used to it and will recognize it immediately.
The other thing that will help your presentation is to use a “modified chronological” format. This is a hybrid version of the functional and chronological that is organized in reverse chronological order, but has subsections focused on the skills sets the employer has said they need.
Each description, then, has longer bullet points that are focused on specific skill sets determined by the job announcement. For example, a recent client of mine was applying to a position at a university that had a number of distinctive requirements. He had a number of shorter bullet points that weren’t cohesive or understandable, so I suggested something like this:
- Recruitment and Marketing ‑ Develop employer outreach strategy and marketing plan, requiring relationship and network building in all sectors and publication of the first brochure sent to over 5,000 contacts around the world. The number of employers holding on-campus recruiting events almost doubled in this timeframe and the number of employers participating in the annual Employer Site Visit program increased 50%.
- Communications – Customize and administer, in conjunction with director, the web-based career management system, which gives student and alumni 24-hour access to job and internship announcements, an event calendar, employer contacts, and career-related documents.
- Project Evaluation ‑ Create and administer electronic surveys and evaluations for students and alumni in order to organize relevant and timely workshops, seminars, and career fairs. Attendance at events increased over the past four years including twice as many employers participating in the Elliott School career fair from 35 (2001) to 74 (2005).
- Training ‑ Advise students and alumni on career plans, job search strategy, organizational research, professional development opportunities, resume writing, informational interviewing, salary negotiation, and networking techniques. Review 200-250 resumes and cover letters per year.
That kind of bullet point pulls together the skill sets he used (developing, implementing, creating), what/who/how/why he did these things, and his accomplishments. And it focuses the employer’s attention on those skills sets the employ said it needed. It also gives much more context to the employer and the sense that my student’s work had a much broader impact.
You don’t want to have massive bullet points for every skill set, just those that highlight the things that mean the most to the employer.
Another way of laying this out is to have several bullet points under one sub heading like:
Strategic Planning and Policy Development
- Develop strategic plan for new one-person career development office, monitor program budget, and serve on Executive Committee for school that has grown by 80% in 3 years.
- Identify career development needs of 450 MPA, MPP, and PhD students, implement appropriate programs and services, and offer support to 3200 alumni. Approximately 95% of all alumni are employed six months after graduation.
- Establish systems to ensure seamless coordination with Student Disability Services, Counseling Services, and International Services Office to help clients with special physical, mental, emotional, and legal needs.
- Evaluate financial aid process for graduate students and collaborate with upper management to review and develop process to decrease waiting time to receive confirmation with purpose of increasing student recruitment and retention.
- Assess personnel needs of school according to mission and present reclassifications and proposals for new staff members to director and faculty.
Along with this structure, I find it useful to write these using a “project management” mindset. In other words, your bullet points should not be brief descriptions of individual activities, but they should show that you were involved in a much larger project.
Also, you need to look at your descriptions from the perspective of the person reading your resume and ask yourself these questions: “So what? Is this what I need?” Most of what you have written now would not give them what they need.
Avoid using verbs like conduct, perform, administer, support, assist, maintain, or the really old and tired phrase “responsibilities included.” Those are really passive verbs and don’t give you nearly as much credit as you deserve. Try to start each bullet point with an action verb that is the exact same word as you found in the job description.
Whenever you find it hard to avoid starting your bullet points with “Assisted” or “Helped,” break down what you did into manageable parts that you can describe. Everything you do relates to a skill set that an employer will find useful as long as you present it as such.
Finally, it is important that the last sub-section of every position description be a “Key Accomplishments” section. Federal HR professionals like to see a section that highlights you key accomplishments for every position. These accomplishments can be awards, recognitions, commendations, and even a retelling of those things your mentioned in the sub-sections above the Key Accomplishments. It is a good idea to flesh-out those key accomplishments from your bullet points, because they may have been buried in the project management style of writing.
For example, the second bullet point above, under Strategic Planning and Policy Development mentions an accomplishment, but it is slightly buried. Therefore, one of the bullet points under Key Accomplishments could be “95% of recent graduates successfully found professional positions six months after graduation, the highest historical success rate.”
Of course, this means that every organization you describe will take up a lot of space. I am not an advocate for writing long federal resumes just to get as much information onto the page as possible. I do believe, however, it is very important to give the employer all the information you can that directly relates to their needs. The more you can do that, the more likely it is you will be moved forward in the process, even if your federal resume is 5+ pages.
September 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm #140189
I’m just back from a long holiday weekend and was so happy to receive your feedback. Thank you very much for taking a look at my resume and sharing these comments and suggestions. You have given me a lot to think about and work on! I will begin revising my resume accordingly and hopefully post an update soon.
I appreciate your help- thanks again!
September 15, 2011 at 12:47 am #140187
Glad you found them useful Aili.
If you’re up for it, please share the “before and after” versions of your resume with everyone else. It’s always nice to see how things have changed.
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