How to Rock Your Government Resume

Using the USAJOBS website is a necessary step for anyone who wants to work in government, but it can be difficult to figure out how to navigate the site and create a resume that will peak the interest of a hiring agent. At a recent career seminar hosted by the Cyber Security Summit, Francesca El-Attrash, Senior Writer at GovLoop, shared GovLoop’s top tips for creating a rock star government resume that will get you noticed by the agency of your choice.

Before you become an expert on navigating the USAJOBS website, it’s helpful to know what’s going on behind the scenes. El-Attrash gave a step-by-step account of the way hiring agencies use USAJOBS to find qualified candidates.

Stage 1: Evaluative software

“The hiring agency begins the review process by using a computer to make sure that your qualities align with the job announcements,” El-Attrash explained. The computer is programmed to find a number of keywords. If the keywords are not found, the applicant is not considered. “You want to be sure that your resume and your cover letter are using the same keywords that are present in the job opening.”

Stage 2: Category Rating

After your application is screened by the evaluative software, your application is assigned a “referred” status and a “not referred” status. If you are rejected, don’t be discouraged “It might be demoralizing, but always keep trying. You may get a lot of rejections before you receive the referred status,” El-Attrash said. The referred status applicants are then moved to the next stage.

Stage 3: Verification

The hiring officials review the highest qualified applications and will verify the accuracy of their qualifications based on agency policy. If you reach this step, the hiring agency will probably contact you for an interview.

Stage 4: Interview

The interview phase is considered the advanced qualification phase. “You will probably have a lot of interviews over the phone, in-person and a few follow-up interviews. It can be a time-consuming process, especially when you include security clearances,” El-Attrash mentioned. The interview process may be extensive, but it could take even longer to receive your posting. “You want to have a source of income when you’re applying because you never know how long it’s going to take.”

With the knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes in the USAJOBS process, here’s how you can craft your rockstar resume:

Crafting Your Government Resume  

Creating a new resume for different job openings can be a time-consuming process. When you see a job that peaks your interest, you’ll want to get started on creating your application right away so you can take your time drafting a unique resume for each and every single job opening.

Your resume should be simple and easy to read, meaning you should avoid visuals and graphic design. “Bullets and lists are your best friend,” El-Attrash said. “Hiring managers look at your resume for maybe 5 to 10 seconds. Avoid using any font like PDFs or other texts besides Word that can be mistranslated in USAJOBS.”

While you do want your resume to be straightforward, you also want to include as much detail about your experience as possible. “You want to include details like the number of projects you worked on, how long you worked for an organization and numbers regarding dollar amounts and your accomplishments,” El-Attrash said. “Your resume doesn’t have to be in chronological format; it just has to tell your story in a very clear and quick way.” However, you will want to put your previous jobs before education, as your professional experience is what sets you apart from the rest of the applicants.

As you’re filling out the details of your resume, remember that word choice is important. First, you have to include keywords from the job post in your resume and cover letter if you want to get past the evaluative software. Additionally, when you outline your accomplishments, use strong verbs that imply initiative. For instance, instead of using words like “assisted or “supported,” verbs like “developed” and “executed” to emphasize your role in a project.

Personal Brand Statement

Instead of including a typical objective statement on your resume, you should instead create a 3 to 5-sentence personal brand statement. “A personal brand statement presents your promise of value to your next employer,” El-Attrash explained. “It sets you apart from the rest by summarizing who you are, what you want to do and what your qualifications are.”

Here are a few things to identify as you create your personal brand statement:

  • Values: Ask yourself: what are your core principles that give meaning to your life?
  • Interests and passions: Identify what motivates you and how you want to spend your time.
  • Vision: Determine how you see yourself making government a better place.
  • Strengths: Examine certain abilities that you’ve mastered and identify what you’re really good at.
  • Freak factor: Think about a unique, professional quality that makes you different and sets you apart from the crowd.

Uplifting these assets will not only give you sense of purpose in your job search, it will also give you the opportunity to showcase your most unique qualities to hiring agents on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

With new knowledge of the USAJOBS website and a solid resume, you have everything you need to stand out in the government hiring process.

For more ways to rock your resume see:

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

How to Get Your Resume Government-Ready

Rock Your Resume

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