Federal Resume Writing Tips - Government Edition

Attention to Keywords
Whether you're writing your first resume, updating an existing one, or answering a position’s Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA’s), stop and think about which keywords you need to add. You could be the most qualified person for the position, but you could be lost in a sea of applicants without the right keywords.
A Single Keyword Communicates Multiple Skills and Qualifications
When a recruiter reads the keyword "analyst," he or she might assume you have experience in collecting data, evaluating effectiveness, and researching and developing new processes. Just one keyword can have tremendous power and deliver a huge message.
Study Job Announcements
This is the best way to determine important keywords. Review several job announcements and their questions for your ideal position. The jobs don't have to be in your geographic target area. The idea is to find skills, experience, education and other credentials important in your field. You will probably find keywords frequently mentioned by different agencies. Focus on the "requirements," "skills" or "qualifications" sections of job ads, and look for “buzzwords” and desirable credentials for your ideal job.
Be Concise
Don't confuse telling your story with creating your autobiography. Recruiters are inundated with applications and are faced with weeding out the good from the bad. The first step involves quickly skimming through submissions and eliminating candidates who clearly are not qualified. Therefore, your application needs to pass the skim test. Look at your resume and/or KSA’s and ask yourself:
  • Can a hiring manager see my main credentials within 10 to 15 seconds?
  • Does critical information jump off the page?
  • Do I effectively sell myself on the top quarter of the first page?
The Sales Pitch
Because applications are quickly skimmed during the first pass, it is crucial your resume and KSA’s get right to work selling your credentials. Your key selling points need to be prominently displayed at the top of the first page of the resume and directly address each question asked in the KSA section. For example, if an advanced degree is an important qualification, it shouldn't be buried at the end of a four-page resume. If a KSA question asks about your writing ability, immediately detail your experience instead of enjoyment of it.
Use an Editor’s Eye
Many workers are proud of their careers and feel the information on a resume should reflect everything they've accomplished. However, a resume shouldn't contain every detail and KSA’s should only address the question at hand. So be judicious. If your college days are far behind you, does it really matter that you pledged a fraternity or delivered pizza? The editing step will be difficult if you are holding on to your past for emotional reasons.

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