Applying for GS Jobs (resumes)

Il Duce

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In my current job I’ve been involved in a number of civilian hiring actions. I just finished reviewing resumes for a GS-12 position we’re interviewing folks for and thought I would offer some generalized advice on what board members see when they review resumes – and invite others to do the same. The purpose of creating this thread is to help SS members improve resumes. I know a number of things have been mentioned on other threads but thought consolidation might help.

A couple of caveats before I start my list. These come from my own experience (MI LTC – reviewing resumes for intelligence-related positions at the GS 11, 12, 13, and 14 grades) and those I work closely with (intelligence civilians at the GS-13, 14, and 15 level – most retired MI officers or senior NCOs). So, may not be as applicable for non-intelligence jobs or folks with a different background reviewing resumes. However, at least it’s a start point. If the tips come off a little mean I’m trying to relay what panels really think – not necessarily what they’ll tell you in the interview.

Tips:

1. Finish your bachelors degree. Nothing says I cannot achieve goals like people who list 150 credit hours of different stuff but don’t have a degree. Looks like a lot of folks figure experience, military schools, or other things compensate – they don’t. Online opportunities make it relatively easy to get a degree so folks who don’t get discarded for anything above a GS-09 position.

2. Masters level degrees are great – not that important what they’re in – but listing ‘I intend to finish my degree in’ or ’12 credit hours towards’ – do not work in your favor. Awesome to have goals, awesome to work hard, but when your resume is getting reviewed it’s based on what you’ve done – not what you intend to do. Same thing when listing out the several programs you started but didn’t finish – doesn’t help you.

3. Don’t list out all the courses you’ve taken. I’ve seen a bunch of resumes with each of their courses listed – as though because you took accounting 101 you’re awesome at accounting? It looks terrible and makes panels think you’re padding your resume (and that you’re a moron).

4. Related, and probably one of the biggest things, don’t pad your resume. If you’re listing every single thing you’ve ever done that may or may not seem relevant (i.e. certificate from the unit Armorers course – applying for a GS 13 position) you are ensuring yourself a place in the discard pile.

5. Build a resume with a good format in PDF – don’t use the word format on USA Jobs. The word format looks like shit and is difficult to read – it also rewards putting way too much irrelevant information. A clean, clear PDF looks very professional and is easy to read/review.

6. Modify your resume for the job you want. Understand a lot of people apply for tons of stuff – so they keep a generic resume. But, a little review and tweak for a specific job goes a long way – and it’s very noticeable when your resume is specific to the job or not.

7. Along with number 6, cover letters are helpful – provided you have the communication skills of an adult. A cover letter should not go into great detail on your qualifications (that’s what your resume is for) but instead it should indicate your desire for the job and specific suitability/motivation (i.e. I think I would be a great fit for this job and it fits with my long-term goals, let’s me be close to family, aligns with my passion for making coffee – whatever). The major thing I look for when reviewing a cover letter is written communication skills – speaking clearly, concisely, and honestly.

8. Longer on a resume is not better. Most duty/responsibility descriptions are way too long and very inflated. The worst are the one’s that just cut and paste their PD. I think their intent is to show how awesome their responsibilities are – but you need to remember the folks reading the resume are the same ones who write (or approve) those PDs. Cut and paste and/or inflated PDs make you look lazy and ineffective – and border on dishonest. Be clear, concise, and restrained in your job description. It will make the significant accomplishments stand out.

The one caveat I’ll add to this is try to know your audience. If you’re applying to jobs where the panel will have no idea what you’ve done and you need a lot of explanation maybe those long job descriptions and accomplishments are good – but that’s likely only where you’re changing fields. When you’re applying for a GS position most of the folks (at least where I am) are very familiar with military and government work – so acting like being a gopher somewhere was saving the world works against you.

9. Read the PD for the job you’re applying. Most of the time the KSAs are easy to identify – if you address those in your resume or cover letter you will be lightyears ahead of the competition.

10. Kind of a rehash of 9 but not everything is important. I’ve seen multiple resumes that list every single thing an applicant has ever done – i.e. online courses that take 20 minutes to complete listed out for more than a page. I guess some people think it looks like they’ve accomplished a lot but it takes away from your real accomplishments. Any list that has graduating from SOC and completed your mandatory SHARP online course in the same list is fucked up.

11. Edit your resume for format and grammar. If it’s bullets, make them uniform – if it’s complete sentences/paragraphs make sure they make sense. Automatic programs won’t cut it – have someone read your resume with a critical eye.

12. By and large emotional descriptors don’t add value. The only place they might belong is a cover letter. I got it you’re ‘motivated’, ‘dedicated’, ‘ready to learn’, ‘passionate ass-kisser’ or whatever your descriptors float your boat. A short summary ‘branding’ you might appeal to some at the start of your resume but I’ve always found they look like filler. Just say what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have the experience other people do – it matters a lot if you can communicate clearly, seem smart, and are clearly trainable because you’ve done well at each of your jobs.

13. Be honest. If you exaggerate with people who know what’s what your resume is going in the trash. I’ve tossed a number of otherwise qualified candidates who summarized positions they held as having more responsibility than they did. Chances are someone on your panel will know what each of your military positions did – and have a pretty good idea on the contract side.

14. If you are called for an interview you made the top 5-10 on the resume review – but in some ways you’re back to a blank slate. You’re now even with the guy who was number 1 and the one who was number 10 in the interview. None of the number 1 resumes were the number 1 candidate once we got through the interviews. Prepare for the interview! Research the unit and your job. Be yourself but one of the main things we’re judging is if we can stand to be around you everyday – likability is not a throw-away attribute. If you’re looking at the job as a stepping stone that’s fine – but be honest. We hired a dude last year who interviewed like he wanted to be here forever then dropped resumes other places the first week he started – guess who didn’t do well on his probationary period. Likability, honesty, and effort will get you a lot of leeway. Being a douche means we do our best to get rid of you during your probationary period where it’s still fairly easy.
 
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DocIllinois

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FWIW, as someone who has been responsible for hiring and firing on many occasions, to include the present, I'd like to reinforce the importance of #13.

A padded resume is obvious to someone sifting through a stack of candidates. There is no amount of slippery-ness or creativity that makes it fly.

It also creates work for the hiring authority because they have to take time to ask about the pad and drill down to what experience someone actually has, or doesn't have, which is annoying. As stated, honesty and clarity score major resume pile points.

$.02
 

SpongeBob*24

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Tips:

5. Build a resume with a good format in PDF – don’t use the word format on USA Jobs. The word format looks like shit and is difficult to read – it also rewards putting way too much irrelevant information. A clean, clear PDF looks very professional and is easy to read/review.

6. Modify your resume for the job you want. Understand a lot of people apply for tons of stuff – so they keep a generic resume. But, a little review and tweak for a specific job goes a long way – and it’s very noticeable when your resume is specific to the job or not.

7. Along with number 6, cover letters are helpful – provided you have the communication skills of an adult. A cover letter should not go into great detail on your qualifications (that’s what your resume is for) but instead it should indicate your desire for the job and specific suitability/motivation (i.e. I think I would be a great fit for this job and it fits with my long-term goals, let’s me be close to family, aligns with my passion for making coffee – whatever). The major thing I look for when reviewing a cover letter is written communication skills – speaking clearly, concisely, and honestly.

Do you have examples or a link for #5? Thanks!!!

:thumbsup:
 

Il Duce

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I think most of the 'chronological' choices in word (I think people create their resumes in word - then save as a PDF) are pretty good. The functional formats are not - and I'd be careful with the blended ones. Generally the best resumes were ones where no single experience took up more than 1/3 of the page. I thought this site had decent things to say on picking the right format: Resume Format Guide: Chronological, Functional, & Combo
 

Il Duce

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Ok, after reviewing another 50 resumes for a GS-12 job opening in my shop I'd like to add another recommendation. Under language proficiency don't list English if that's the only language you speak - better to just leave that off nd assume folks will realize you speak English when they read your resume. But, if you do list English as your one and only language it's smart to at least rate yourself 'advanced' instead of 'intermediate.'
 

DocIllinois

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Ok, after reviewing another 50 resumes for a GS-12 job opening in my shop I'd like to add another recommendation. Under language proficiency don't list English if that's the only language you speak - better to just leave that off nd assume folks will realize you speak English when they read your resume. But, if you do list English as your one and only language it's smart to at least rate yourself 'advanced' instead of 'intermediate.'

Also, please use punctuation properly if you're 'advanced,' for Pete's sake. ;-)


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Brill

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Where do assessment questions fall into the process?

Do you look at them first then resume during the sorting process (review then refer) or are they part of the overall package?

Also, what is the impression when a person with a higher grade applies for a position at a lower grade?
 

Il Duce

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@lindy the way we do it, which I think it pretty common, is review the resumes first. I don't know if they're screened before they get to me but I don't think so - I've never reviewed less that 30 resumes for a position I was on the panel for. Once we review the resumes we pick the top 10 or so candidates - who are then invited to interview. We then interview about 5-7 people (most top resumes are applying to a bunch of jobs so many turn out to not have been that interested in the job).

During the interview process is when the assessment questions fall in - at least if I've got the same idea what assessment questions you're talking about are. For us, we come up with a list of questions ahead of the interviews and try to ask people very similar questions to make it fair. Sometimes there's specific items or follow-up questions for an individual but generally the questions are 80% the same.

We've had several people interview for GS12 or GS13 jobs that are taking a step down or a pay cut from another job - and generally one of the panel members will ask them about it. The answer has always been the same - location. We're in San Antonio and it's a great location for cost of living, family for a lot of folks, and frankly other opportunities. We've found some folks in contract or other GS jobs find the security of those positions is not as strong with some of the shifting budgets - JIEDDO is an example that comes to mind specifically.

One thing we do on the assessment questions, which I think is pretty common, is we start by asking the candidate if they have any questions. It's always a good sign when they have a question about the job that shows they did some research or shows they're serious about the job.
 
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