TIPS FOR PREPARING APPLICATIONS AND RESUMES
For many government agencies the application is the primary document used to
evaluate qualifications. Its presentation is key to obtaining an interview.
Most government employers will require completion of the organization's
official application form at some time during the process. Even if the resume
contains the same information, an application form is often required for legal,
data processing, and employer convenience reasons.
The application is an official document. The information must be complete and
accurate. If the space is inadequate for a certain situation, explain the
situation on an attached page.
Be certain that you document is neat, error- and smudge-free, typed, centered,
and complete. Typing application forms is not always possible; however, it is
preferred. The form is often copied and widely circulated internally, and a
typed form is a more effective presentation.
If there is a "salary desired" or similar blank, you may write,
"negotiable" if you have
no significant work experience related to the sought-after assignment. For
candidates with work experience or a minimum acceptable salary, the minimum
should be specified. If the employer cannot meet the minimum, an offer is
unlikely, so both parties can save time.
Designing Your Resume
A resume is a self-marketing tool. It is designed with one purpose in mind - to
"sell" your skills, knowledge, and experience to an employer so that
he/she will invite you for an interview. An effective resume speaks to the
employer's needs and requirements and demonstrates a match between what you
have to offer and those requirements. It stimulates interest in you by
summarizing information: unique qualities, well developed skills, relevant work
or academic experiences, or accomplishments that clearly differentiates you
from the competition.
Employers want to know about you, not your position. Spend more time describing
your duties, responsibilities and accomplishments than describing the size and
nature of your organization, although it is important for the employer to know
that you have had experience in a similar organization. Your resume should be factual,
impressive, readable, and tailored to the position you are seeking. It should
describe your experience and achievements to stimulate a positive response.
Your resume is an important item in getting you the position desire.
In preparing to write your resume, remember that you can only count on an
employer to spend twenty seconds scanning your resume before deciding whether
to review it further or put it aside. The key is to design the format in such a
way that it leads the employer's eye to words that speak to his/her needs.
Obviously then, effective resumes are developed by individuals who have
thoroughly researched the organizations they want to work for, have identified
the specific job they want, and have figured out what they have to offer. In
addition, well designed resumes have these characteristics in common:
* Visual appeal, easy to read layout, and high quality reproduction;
* Highlights strengths and links them to employer's needs; minimizes or
excludes irrelevant experience;
* Presents the most important information first;
* Entirely free from any errors: spelling, typographical, punctuation, or
* Succinct and organized; does not exceed two pages.
Types of Resumes
The chronological and functional resumes, or some combination of these two
formats, are the standard types of resumes used by job seekers in today's
employment market. To select the type which best supports your needs, review
the following information. Many professional recruiters discount functional
resumes and consider them as a "red flag", since many applicants use
them to disguise a lack of experience or unstable work history.
Chronological Resume (Preferred)
In this type of resume, job history is organized chronologically with the most
recent information first. Job titles and organizations are emphasized and
duties and accomplishments are described in detail. A chronological
resume is easy to read, since it highlights names of employers and job titles,
and emphasizes career growth. It is best suited to those whose career goals are
clear and whose job objectives are aligned with their work history.
A chronological resume is advantageous when:
your recent employers and/or job titles are
you are staying in the same career field;
your job history shows progress;
you are working in a field where traditional job
search methods are
utilized (e.g., education, government).
A chronological resume is not advantageous when:
you are changing careers;
you have changed employers frequently;
you want to de-emphasize age;
you have been absent from the job market.
Stay away from a function resume if at all possible. In a functional resume,
skills and accomplishments developed through work, academic, and community
experiences are highlighted. Your skills and potential can be stressed and lack
of experience or possible gaps in work history de-emphasized. However, it is
important to realize employers often view functional resumes more critically
for these very same reasons.
The functional resume is advantageous when:
* you want to emphasize capabilities not used in recent work experience;
* you want to emphasize personal qualities relevant to the job such as
industriousness, cooperative attitude, related interests, and aptitudes;
* you want to focus on capabilities rather than lengthy employment history;
* you are changing careers/re-entering the job market;
* your career growth in the past has not been continuous and progressive;
* you have a variety of unrelated work experiences;
* your work has been free-lance, consulting, or temporary in nature.
The functional resume is not advantageous when:
* you have little work experience;
* you want to emphasize promotions and career growth;
* you are working in highly traditional fields, such as teaching, accounting,
and politics, where employers should be highlighted.
This format combines the best elements of the chronological and functional
types. It presents patterns of accomplishments and skills in a section headed
"Areas of Effectiveness" or "Qualifications Summary." But
it also includes a brief work history and education summary. This format is
advantageous for those who wish to change to a job in a related career field.
Preparing your Resume
Ronald and Caryl Rae Krannich in their book, Dynamite Resumes, point out
that the categories of information you include on your resume should provide
answers to these questions:
1. Contact section: Who are you and how can you be reached?
2. Objective statement: What do you want to do?
3. Education section: What have you learned?
4. Experience/Employment section: What can you do? What have you done?
5. Professional activities and accomplishments: How have you been recognized?
6. Miscellaneous: What else do they want to know about you?
Sequence the categories according to what is most important to the employer and
your career objective. A recent college graduate with limited experience should
usually put the education section first since it is the most significant
qualification. Education should also be listed first when, as in the case of
teaching, law, medicine, or engineering, education is a qualifying requirement.
In a situation where an applicant wants to
emphasize significant work or extracurricular experience or when an employer
seeks to fill jobs in fields such as sales, public relations, or merchandising,
the experience or work history category may be listed first.
1. Contact Information
Begin your resume with your name by capitalizing or using bold type. Include
street address, city, state, and zip code. Include phone number(s) where you
can be reached weekdays, 9am-5pm. Designate your home phone with an
"H," and work number with "W," or a "Messages"
2. Career/Job Objective
This is recommended only for recent graduates or entry level personnel.
Experience and professional job seekers rarely include it. This component of
the resume can be very challenging to write. The purpose of the objective
statement is to inform the reader of your career goals and qualifications. The
statement should be written specifically enough to let the reader know that you
have a focus to your job search. If you are considering a variety of
objectives, you may want to relay the relevant objective in an accompanying
3. Educational Highlights
This section is most effective when you have experiences from your education
that are impressive and/or directly relate to your objective. Adding this
section is useful when you have developed skills and specific knowledge through
your education rather than work experience. This section can be used to
highlight coursework, research, or special knowledge that complements your
objective. This information is useful in a resume of entry level candidates and
An alternative to highlighting courses is to list the skills and knowledge
acquired through important courses and research.
Examples: Developed model investment portfolio for Fortune 500 company.
Analyzed revenue and expense history using state-of-the-art computer simulation
programs. Designed promotional campaign for new service a targeted market.
Summary information about your undergraduate and graduate education should be
included in your resume. List the name and location of the school, time period
or date of degree, the degree received, and academic honors, e.g. Phi Beta
Kappa, significant scholarships or fellowships. You may also list any
continuing education and significant professional training but do not list
every course or seminar you have attended. In general, the more recently you
have attended college, the more education related information you may want to
provide as you will most likely have relatively less work experience.
Start with your most recent degree or the program in which you are currently
enrolled. List other degrees or relevant education in reverse chronological
Highlight your degree by using bold type, capital letters or underlining.
If the degree is relevant to your job objective, begin with degree and
emphasis, followed by university, location of university, and date of
graduation or anticipated date of graduation. Example: M.P.A., Masters of
Public Administration, George Washington University, Washington, DC, May 1995.
If degree/program is not directly related to current job objective, begin with
the university, followed by the location, degree and emphasis, and graduation
If you are within two semesters of graduation, do not use "expected"
or "anticipated" with month/year of graduation.
If you are an entry level candidate or recent graduate and have a high GPA,
include it on your resume. You may want to highlight your GPA on a new line, or
in an educational highlights section. Note: Some employers believe no GPA on a
resume indicates an poor GPA. Employers hiring experienced professionals
generally care only that you have the degree.
If your education relates to your objective and is within the past three years,
it should be the first section. If not, education should follow the work
experience section of your resume.
4. Employment and or Experience Summary
A brief summary of qualifications can condense an extensive background by
emphasizing experiences and accomplishments in brief phrases. The
qualifications summary is accomplishment-oriented and provides an overview of
your work experience. A summary is most appropriated for someone with
substantial experience, for someone who is changing careers and wants to
demonstrate transferable skills, or for someone with an eclectic background.
In general, you should list, in successive order for each position you have
held, your employer, position title, dates (year to year), a brief description
of your position, and accomplishments. You need to devote little space to
explain commonly known responsibilities for positions such as city manager,
police chief or public works director. You will probably devote more space for
positions such as assistant city manager, city engineer, and similar jobs. You
should also indicate the size of the budget and number of employees for whom
you were responsible. Give brief, illustrative examples of your
responsibilities and accomplishments. This is where you have the opportunity to
tailor (while being accurate and truthful) your resume to what the employer is
seeking. At least for your current position, indicate your base salary, not the
top of your range.
Begin with your current/most recent position and work backward,
chronologically. Devote more space to recent employment.
If your job titles relate to your current job objective, start each position
description with job titles. If not, begin with the organization.
Follow job title and organizational information with the organization's city
Use the first and last month and year to describe dates of employment.
Describe the last three to five positions in detail. Summarize earlier
positions unless relevant to your objective.
Do not show every position change with each employer. Only list the most recent
and describe promotions.
Do not repeat skills that are common to several positions.
Within each listed position, stress the major accomplishments and
responsibilities that demonstrate your competency. It is not necessary to
include all responsibilities, as they will be assumed by employers.
Tailor your position descriptions to future job/career objectives.
One-page resumes are preferred for entry-level positions.
Two-Three page resumes are preferred for experienced persons.
5.Professional Activities and Accomplishments
This part of your resume offers you the opportunity to provide insight into
your career development. You should be selective and complete, listing such
items as memberships in professional associations and offices held,
professional registrations, honors received, and major articles or publications
you have written. Do not list every article or every speech you may have given
or every conference you have attended. Emphasize quality - this section of the
resume should help you to demonstrate you are current and active in your
The following checklist has been designed to assist you in writing your
1. Overall appearance...
makes an immediately favorable impression
is inviting to read
is easy to read
2. Contact information...
is clearly presented at the top.
includes address information; permanent and temporary
includes telephone number(s) where you can be reached day and night
3. Objective (optional; use if yours is specific)...
includes type and level of position sought
includes type and size of organization sought
emphasizes strongest qualifications and skills pertinent to desired job
highlights strongest qualifications or credentials
uses headings to help establish common ground with employer
is brief - usually one page unless you have 5-10 years experience
demonstrates ability to do the job and speaks to employer's needs
supports and substantiates objective
stresses transferable professional skills, accomplishments, and results
contains only that personal data relevant to the job
omits racial, religious, or political affiliations
6. Education section includes...
most recent degree
list of other degrees or relevant training
name and location of university, college, or training institution
major, minor, and/or area(s) of concentration or interest
relevant coursework, skills, or knowledge
GPA, honors, and awards
percentage of educational expenses earned
7. Extracurricular activities section (optional) includes...
list of most impressive offices held, including title and organization
leadership roles and transferable skills
pertinent professional memberships
8. Experience section...
Each relevant paid, volunteer, extracurricular, intern, or co-op experience
dates position held
description of transferable skills, accomplishments, and effectiveness
specific examples of successes and results supporting your objective
examples that quantify results or successes
is expressed in succinct manner
uses action verbs to begin phrases
has short action-oriented phrases instead of complete sentences
is free from grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors
is in active rather than passive voice
uses vocabulary of the field for which you are applying
10. Layout and space utilization...
is crisp and clean
separates sections and incorporates enough blank space for easy reading
centers text with adequate margins
11. Highlighting and emphasis...
uses bold type, underlining, different type styles and sizes
is well balanced
12. Printing and reproduction...
paper is high quality; heavy weight bond
paper is off-white, ivory, light tan, light gray, or other conventional color
reproduction is clear, clean and professional
print is letter quality, never photocopied
Scannable and E-Mail Resumes
The job search is moving into the electronic age, so make sure your resume is
on the cutting edge. Employers who receive several hundred resumes for each
advertised opening and a couple of hundred unsolicited resumes now have a
better way to manage all the paperwork. How? By investing in electronic
databases which store resumes and are quickly accessible by a few simple
Resumes may be entered into a system using an optical scanner and the images
stored, thereby building a database of applicants and relevant skills.
Employers then access candidates by searching the database for qualifications.
Your resume is a place to express individuality and style. However, some fonts
and style choices could present too much of a challenge for the scanner. If you
follow the tips below, the system will be better able to extract your
Font - Standard serif and sans serif fonts work best. Avoid ornate fonts and
fonts where the characters touch. Font size is also important. Sizes between 10
points and 14 points work best.
Italics and underlining may cause problems for the scanner, especially if
combined. Use boldface for emphasis.
Vertical or horizontal lines should be used sparingly. When used, leave at
least a quarter of an inch of space around the line. Avoid graphics and shading
Do not compress or expand the space between letters or lines. Also, do not
double space within sections.
The resume you submit should be an original. It should be printed with a laser
printer on white or light- colored 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Print on one side only.
Resumes which have been folded, stapled or otherwise mutilated will not scan
It is imperative that you describe your skills and accomplishments using the
language of your (desired) profession.
These new systems search for applicants by using key words or phrases. So in
order for your resume to have appeal in your chosen career field, use the
jargon of the field.
While sections which highlight experience, education, languages, technical
skills and other categories are important, emphasize specific skills and
achievements. Nouns are also more distinguishable than action verbs.
Remember the rules differ for unusual or different looking resumes. The fancy
graphics used to catch an employer's eye will only confuse a computer, so keep
Key Resume Phrases and Words &
The following phrases and words may help with organizing your resume
statements. They convey involvement and accomplishments and make your resume
Acted as liaison for/between...
Assigned territory consisting of...
Innovation resulted in...
...amounting to a total savings of...
Recommendations accepted by...
Proven track record in...
More than ____ years experience...
Expertise and demonstrated skills...
Experienced in all facets/phases...
Knowledge of/experienced as...
Temporarily assigned to...
In charge of...
Provided technical assistance...
...on an ongoing/regular basis...
...to ensure maximum/optimum...
Worked closely with...
Additional Resume Categories
To add relevant information to your resume that focuses on special
knowledge or skills, consider the following resume headings:
The Transmittal Letter
The transmittal letter gives you an additional opportunity to tailor your
experience and background to the position for which you are applying. It is
important to include a transmittal or cover letter, even if you are sending
both a resume and a standard application form. Your letter should be tailored
specifically for the position applied for, should address several areas: 1. It
should clearly express why you are interested in the position; 2. It should
summarize the relationship between your experience and the position (why you
are well suited for the position); and 3. It should leave a positive
impression. The transmittal letter should be an original letter, no more than
two pages in length.
6. Miscellaneous Information
While not required, it is a good practice to include in your resume four or
five current, work-related references. If you prefer, you can include a
separate reference list as an enclosure, with a reference to it in your cover
References should include the name and title of the reference, relationship,
and their current telephone number. Work-related means they should have some
ability to comment on your skills and capabilities. Most often they will
include individuals who have served as your supervisor, co-worker, or
subordinate. References from friends, relatives, neighbors and ministers are
not considered as useful or valid as work related references.
Unless you are on a first name basis with the person listed on your reference
sheet, and the person will immediately accept reference calls, do not include
the governor, chief justice, or other high ranking person unless your have
actual direct work experience with that person. Name dropping can work against
you unless it is bona fide. It may be nice for the reference checker to talk to
these people and others with similarly impressive titles, but they need to be
work-related references. If you do not want your references contacted without
first notifying you, clearly make that indication in your resume, on your
reference list, and in your cover letter.)
Your resume should include your military service, if any, including rank and
the dates you served. If you have had a first career in the military, you
should clearly state what your rank and positions were. Trying to make a
military career look like a civilian one is very difficult.
You should use your own judgment about including other information. Some applicants
include a listing of their hobbies, membership in service or charitable
organizations, community service, marital status and similar information. This
information can be helpful in giving the reader a more personal view of you,
but it could also make you look weird. Be discreet!
Attachments are not necessary for the first screening if you have prepared your
resume properly. If you decide to attach items to your resume you need to be
very selective. Letters of reference, transcripts, certificates, newspaper
articles, and similar items generally should not be attached to your resume
unless they are particularly appropriate to the position for which you are
applying. Lists of projects, grants obtained, publications may be helpful in
demonstrating your qualifications for a particular position, but it should be
as an attachment, not as a part of the resume.
For EEO purposes, do not include a picture on your resume or as an attachment.
Also, you should not give your age, religious affiliation, race, marital
status, number of children or similar information that could be used in a
discriminatory manner or not considered job related.