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Follow these 4 steps for federal resume success

One of the most important things you can do before applying for a federal job, like those found here at VA, is to build a resume that highlights all the important skills and experience that you can bring to your chosen role.

However, not all resumes are created equal, so try these tips to help you get the most out of your resume and make a good first impression on our recruiters.

Build a master resume

While we’ll discuss the necessity of tailoring your resume in a moment, it’s always a good idea to build a master resume of all your work experience. This is the place where you’ll list every job, every duty, and every skill from throughout your career.

When building your master resume, leave no career stone unturned, and don’t skimp on the details. You’re building a historical record of your career, so every entry is important. You’ll refine it later, but for now, just get it all out on the page.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can use the federal resume builder on USAJOBS, which has the added bonus of putting all your information in one easily accessible place. This master resume can also double as part of your LinkedIn profile, which you will want to keep up-to-date.

Read the job announcement

You’ll find all our current job openings on USAJOBS, and it’s vital that you read the job announcements thoroughly to position yourself for success. All those details are there for a reason—to make the expectations as clear as possible.

There’s a tendency among candidates to jump into the application when we see something that looks familiar, but just because you’ve had a similar job in the past doesn’t mean you’re qualified for this particular position. Make sure the job announcement says what you think it says.

Pay special attention to the “Duties” section of the job announcement and take note of the language we use there. Highlight the keywords that stand out to you, particularly the words that convey action, like “investigate,” “performs,” etc.

You’ll find more keywords in the “Qualifications” section, too, particularly if the announcement discusses competencies. Add these words to your list, as this information is critically important for the next step in your resume-building process.

Tailor your resume to suit the job announcement

Now it’s time to merge your master resume with the list of skills outlined in the job announcement. This is where the real work happens, and where you’ll likely spend the most time when it comes to your application.

Copy your master resume into a new document and look for places where you can reasonably apply the keywords you parsed from the job announcement. Our recruiters and hiring managers will be looking for that language, so they know you understand what’s important about the job.

At this point, you may feel a strong desire to copy and paste that language into your resume. Resist that urge! That’s as much of a red flag as not tailoring your resume at all, so stick to including key themes and carefully employing specific keywords that match the announcement.

Revise, refine, review

After you’ve tailored your resume with the keywords from the job announcement, take a step back and revise. Look for opportunities to expand or explain your experience with more specific examples. Cut any irrelevant information, whether it’s just part of your job duties or the entire job.

For example, a resume emphasizing your clinical experience is going to look a lot different from a resume tailored towards a management or leadership role. While there may be some overlap, the key skills you’ll want to stress for each role will differ as you refine the language.

Finally, take the time to review your resume, word for word. Check your grammar and your punctuation. Read it out loud, read it backwards, but read it until you know what you want on the page is there.

Work at VA

Remember: your resume is the first impression you will make on a recruiter, so make sure that impression is a good one!

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