Federal Resume

By Kathryn Troutman

Blog archive

Does your resume pass the five-minute test?

Recently we received some feedback from a Human Resources person who was selecting resumes for a Senior Executive Service position. Her job was to make the second cut and find the 25 best applicants out of 125. The amount of time she spent on each 15-plus page SES application package was no more than five minutes.

The HR person said that the 25 applications she picked were easily identified by their “outstanding accomplishments,” “easy-to-read documentation,” and “obvious matches between past experience and this position.”

Can your resume pass the five-minute test? Can the reader very quickly see how you are one of the best candidates for the position? Do you demonstrate your qualification for the job in the first glance?

Here are some top tips to help your resume make the cut:

Knock Down the Big Blocks

The big block resume—with a single long paragraph for each work experience section—originated with Resumix, which was a computer-read resume system. But Resumix is GONE, and the big blocks should be too, because they are unfriendly to humans. Read this article to see why big blocks are an ineffective format.

Avoid Death by Bullets

Bullets are admittedly better than big blocks, but the reader still has to try to find the skills in your resume, and this is to be avoided at all cost. Read this article to find out why the Outline Format is an even better format to use.

Don’t Revisit Ancient History

Not sure which jobs to include in your resume? Follow this rule of thumb: “recent and relevant.” Recent means within the last 10 years. Relevant means that there is some connection to the skills and competencies required by the vacancy announcement. Any jobs that are too old or irrelevant will only slow the reviewer down.

Do: Show Off

I personally love to read the accomplishments in a resume. Most resumes just have a boring list of duties, which is necessary, but tell me how much money you saved, or how you overcame difficult communications with a particularly demanding supervisor, and I will keep reading with interest. I will also determine that you are more qualified than the next person who didn’t list any accomplishments in his or her resume. So, brag away.

Do Match the Keywords Every Time

This tip is perhaps the hardest to convince the federal jobseeker to do, because it is time consuming. However, it is absolutely critical to the success of your job search. Find five to seven keywords in the vacancy announcement, and USE THESE in your resume as headers in the outline format and use the paragraphs to support the headers (see a sample outline format resume).

Still Not Sure How to Improve Your Resume?

Take the next five minutes and contact us for a free estimate. We would be happy to look at your resume and give you a quote for our world-class services.

You can also view some outstanding resume samples in the Federal Resume Guidebook to help you get started on improving your resume today.

Posted on Jul 15, 2014 at 10:37 AM


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