A winning way to craft your résumé is to begin by brandishing your name — followed by abbreviations for any certifications or graduate degrees you earned — in large, bold font on the first line. And cite in large, bold font your professional title on the second line of your résumé.
By doing so, you’ll instantly broadcast to harried hiring managers who only skim your résumé what you are and what you could do for them.
Your professional title should be honest, but need not necessarily match the job title of your current job, particularly if the latter fails to capture your key credentials.
For example, consider the strategy used by a Ph.D. scientist who had a graduate certificate in health policy and was working a two-year policy fellowship in a federal agency. In her application for a permanent federal job in science policy, she used the professional title: “Ph.D. Neuroscientist with Advanced Expertise in Science Policy.”
While her current job title of “fellow” was comparatively vague and uninformative, her self-proclaimed professional title captured her science background as well as her policy expertise — both of which helped her land her target job.
Consider incorporating phrases into your professional job title, such as “expert in,” “specialist in,” “senior-level,” “in-depth knowledge of” and “award-winning.”
- Prominently display in your résumé header your current or past security clearances and veteran’s preference.
- Consider including a résumé objective that either specifically names your target job or defines what you offer or would contribute. For example, a worthy résumé objective would be: “A position managing a help desk where my knowledge of large networks and trouble-shooting expertise will improve network efficiency.”
Warning: Your objective shouldn’t be a “wish list” of what you want from your next job. This is important because you won’t land interviews by describing your needs; you’ll only land interviews by impressing hiring managers with what you could do for them.
- Order your job summaries in reverse chronological order because your current and most recent jobs are more important than your ancient jobs.
Emphasize in your job summaries the names of your employers and job titles by using formatting features, such as varied fonts, bold, underlining and italics. Hint: if your ZIP code appears as prominently on your résumé as your current job title, reformat your résumé.
Format descriptions of your activities in each job summary as a set of achievement-oriented bullets.
Break up long lists of bullets under headings, such as Leadership Achievements, Communication Achievements and Strategic Planning Achievements. Your headings should echo the demands of your target job.
- If the online application of your target job requires you to submit a formatless online résumé, accompany it with an uploaded PDF of your well-formatted, hard-copy résumé, if possible.
Why? Because a reader-friendly, well-formatted hard-copy résumé is more likely to get read and be remembered by hiring managers than a hard-to-read, formatless online résumé. Also, bring a well-formatted, hard-copy version of your résumé to interviews.
If possible, also upload to online applications PDF copies of documents that testify to your abilities, such as reports, news releases, articles, brochures for conferences, illustrations, photos or maps that showcase your contributions.
Alternatively, upload an annotated list of websites that showcase your work products, such as videos, artwork or other tangible evidence of your success. Also, consider including links to relevant work products on your LinkedIn profile, an online portfolio or a password-protected website — and provide all relevant URLs and passwords in your cover letter or résumé.
Remember: You will impress hiring managers more by showing them what you can do than by just telling them so.
In a formatless online résumé, use capital letters to emphasize important text, asterisks to create bullets and white space to enhance readability.
As a federal HR Specialist, I can attest to the fact that a well-structured and beautiful resume will get me attention far more than something built with MS Word, or worse, the USAJobs resume builder. The latter is by far the most unappealing resume you could have!