by Nancy Segal

I am often asked what the DIY person can do to their resume to make it better. Here are 10 easy-to-implement suggestions:

  1. Create a Skills Summary or Professional Profile. This is great way to include keywords and summarize who you are and what you bring to the table in a couple of sentences.
  2. Add awards. Give yourself credit.
  3. Get rid of experience that is irrelevant and/or more than 10 years old. Hiring Managers [and Human Resources (HR) people] want to know what you have done lately. And, most likely your experience from 10+ years ago was not at the same level as you are targeting now—so it may not count as qualifying experience. Finally, if you haven’t done something in more than 10 years, even if you are considered qualified, you may not be best qualified. If you were the hiring manager, would YOU want to select someone who hasn’t done something in 10 years or someone who is doing it now?
  4. Include metrics in your resume to give your work context. Stating that you manage a budget is fine, but stating that you manage a $150M budget has more impact. Include as many metrics in your resume as possible; think how much, how often, and how many.
  5. Eliminate training that is outdated or meaningless. Everyone has to take ethics, EEO, and Information Security (IT) training annually. Unless you are the ethics person, the EEO Counselor, or the IT Security Specialist, including this kind of training is a waste of resume “real estate”. Of course, if you have taken courses beyond what’s mandated for all federal employees, then go ahead and include them—and sign yourself up for something that shows you have kept up in your field.
  6. Check your spelling. This is obvious, of course, but it constantly amazes me how many resumes I see with serious typographical errors. Do not rely on spell check, and have someone else proofread your resume.
  7. Spell out acronyms. Please spell out acronyms with your first usage. Even if you are applying in your same agency, do not expect the HR people to understand your language. DOD could mean the Department of Defense OR Date of Death.
  8. Do not copy and paste your position description. It is always obvious when someone uses their position description as their resume. Instead, write about your experience, skills, knowledge, and abilities, and use the language of the announcement and action verbs to do so.
  9. Make sure your resume matches your answers to the occupational questionnaire. This means you may have to tweak your resume for every application. Agencies are allowed to eliminate candidates whose resumes do not support the answers they have provided to the questionnaire. If you’ve answered that you’re an expert, show it in your resume.
  10. Ensure your resume is readable. This means no long paragraphs that make readers’ eyes roll back in the heads. Break up your text into short paragraphs. If you are still remembering Resumix where those long paragraphs were prevalent, it is time to move on!

And, a bonus: be sure to include accomplishments in your resume. Accomplishments demonstrate that you can get results—and that’s what hiring managers really want to see.


Nancy Segal is a federal career and job search expert. She is also the author of The Complete Guide to Writing a Federal Resume which is available at www.fedweek.com. Following her own senior-level federal HR career, she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC to provide HR management perspective to astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy is also one of our premier management and career development trainers for our online webinars.

She will also be holding a one hour live webinar training session next month “Your Federal Resume and USAJOBS Application Strategies for Success.” You don’t want to miss this one. You can register at https://fedweek.webex.com/fedweek/k2/j.php?MTID=t591f4e69fadfee5f65df86db56218584. If you have any questions for Nancy concerning your federal career or the federal job search process you can email her at fedcareer@fedweek.com.