10 Tips to Make your Federal IT Specialist
Federal Resume Stand Out!
1. Make sure that your Professional Profile directly addresses the core competencies (KEYWORDs) in the target announcement!
Every resume, including Federal IT resumes, should begin with a Professional Profile. Don’t think of this as a summary of your career. This section needs to directly answer the question whether you have the required competencies in the target announcement! Avoid flowery language (“Performance-driven team player”) and overly generic descriptions (“Dependable and conscientious”) and get down to facts! If the announcement is looking for someone with agile development experience or IT Project Management experience, summarize exactly when and how you have that experience! Plus call yourself something close to the target position title: “Application Developer with over 10 years of progressive experience leading Agile Software Development Projects for Federal and private industry clients.” Use capitals in the Profile to highlight the skills that the announcement focuses on.
2. Locate your IT Certifications on page 1 of the resume!
If you have any IT Certifications, highlight them in a Certifications section on page 1. If you are applying for positions in the DoD world and meet the requirements for Cyber Security certifications under DoDD 8570 and DoDD 8140, definitely note that (See: DoD Approved 8570 Baseline Certifications – DoD Cyber Exchange). If you do not have any IT certifications, no time like the present to get starting on studying for and completing relevant certifications!
3. Include a Technical Skills section on page 1 of the resume!
Do not just include one long list of technical skills – “bucket” them into categories. Remember that the first resume reviewer may just be skimming. Below is an example of how to format these. Avoid referencing dated technologies. References to DOS and other out-of-date technologies will leave the impression that your skills have not kept up with the times!
SELECTED TECHNICAL SKILLS
Platforms: Microsoft Windows Server (2012, 2016) Windows Desktop (7/8/10), Linux, Unix, VMWare, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Citrix
Mobile Platforms: Apple iOS, Google Android
Cybersecurity: Symantec Antivirus, McAfee Anti-Virus, Bit Locker, eMass, HBSS, Security Center, Veritas Data Insight, ACAS, Splunk
Enterprise Applications: Microsoft Active Directory (AD), Exchange, Citrix Xen App, Adobe Creative Suite, Symantec Backup Exec, CA Service Desk Manager, ServiceNow, Microsoft Office Suite, Office 365
Networking/Communications: Cisco/Juniper routers, switches, firewalls; Polycom, VPN, VoIP, SIPRNet, NIPRNet, JWICS
Development: Python, GitHub, Java, HTML, C/C++
4. Be sure to address the 4 mandatory IT competencies – Customer Service, Oral Communications, Problem Solving, and Attention to Detail!
Always good to include KEYWORD paragraphs for CUSTOMER SERVICE and COMMUNICATIONS, but it may be less effective to have paragraphs devoted to Problem Solving or Attention to Detail. Instead, weave these two competencies (and Communications and Customer Service) into your other KEYWORD paragraphs and Accomplishments. For example, pick a job role you provide that actually requires an Attention to Detail (i.e., tracking required security patches/IAVAs, capturing and tracking user requirements) and weave in this competency: “Leverage an Attention to Detail in analyzing and tracking required security patches …” OR “Apply an Attention to Detail in …” Highlight the competency (Attention to Detail) using Small Caps (See the Font menu in Word).
5. Don’t forget about accomplishments and special IT Projects!
Accomplishments are truly what will sell you to an employer. Don’t think of these as Nobel prizes! These are Interview Questions on paper. The interviewer says, “I see you have a lot of experience leading IT Projects. Can you tell me about one that was especially challenging?” And you launch into your story. “Sure, in early 2022, I led a 6-month project that…..” TELL A STORY. Use “I”. Include dates, dollars, specific technologies. Explain what was hard and how you surmounted the challenge. Your resume should use as much space for accomplishments as job roles & responsibilities.
6. Directly relate your IT accomplishments to the target KEYWORDs!
When you are brainstorming for accomplishments, look again at the KEYWORDs you have picked from the announcement and think of stories you can tell that demonstrate yourself performing that skillset. Then directly relate the story to the KEYWORD. For example, here is how you might begin a story to demonstrate your skills related to the KEYWORDS: AGILE DEVELOPMENT and IT PROJECT MANAGEMENT. Note that you could also reference one of the 4 IT Competencies in this way as well!
- Budget Tool Design/Development (Agile Development, IT Project Management, Problem Solving): In 2021, I led a 6-month effort to …
7. Avoid overusing bullets!
Having too many bullets actually will discourage your resume reviewer from closely reviewing the document. When presented with a long list of bullets, the most likely reader reaction is to just jump to the next section. Reserve bullets ONLY for your accomplishments. KEYWORD paragraphs, lists of certifications, degrees, professional references, even technical skills do NOT need bullets. Just indent – and you will achieve a much cleaner look!
Joe Doe, Director, XYZ Corporation (123) 456-7890
Sally Smith, IT Project Director, ABA, Ltd, (123) 456-0000
8. Include an opening summary for each job block!
Guess what is going through the head of your resume reviewer as they are working their way through all of the bullets or paragraphs in each job block? They are asking the question, “What is your job???” If you just tell them up front what your job is and then briefly explain your organization, you will make their life SO much easier! And that IS the whole point of the resume!! Keep the summary short (2 sentences max) and put it in italics to make it stand out. Here is an example:
Senior Cloud Architect delivering cloud migration services under an XYZ Corporation contract with ABC Agency. XYZ Corporation is a small, Veteran-owned business (SVOB) that provides systems engineering/integration and consulting to Federal agencies.
9. Describe the IT environment you support!
Every resume job block needs to first provide context to the reader (What organization are you in? How large is it? What is their mission? And what is YOUR role?) – and IT resumes are no different. However, in an IT resume, part of that context is the IT environment you are supporting. Make sure that in the first or second KEYWORD paragraph of the job block that you provide at least a high-level description of the IT environment you are working in – Numbers and types of systems, networks, desktops? How large is your customer base? Who are your customers? Even if your role is less technical, adding this information will make your resume more credible to an IT reviewer.
10. Use your space well – think of this as a career brochure!
A common misunderstanding from resume clients is that your resume needs to cover EVERYTHING you ever did. NO! A resume is not a history of your life. It is a brochure of your career. If you were developing a trifold brochure for a vacation site, you would think carefully about what would go in each section of the trifold to attract visitors to the site. Think of your resume the same way. Aim for a 5-6 page resume MAX (in 11 or12 point font) and then think, how shall I best use those 6 pages to present the most important and relevant parts of my career.
Rita Chambers is the lead IT writer for the Resume Place, with over 20 years of experience writing Federal and Private Industry resumes. These are just some of the insights Rita routinely provides to her Resume Place clients!
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The Author: Kathryn Troutman is the author of many award-winning career guides including the best-selling Federal Resume Guidebook, 7th Edition (Best Reference Book/Gold in the Independent Press Awards and more) and The Stars are Lined Up for Military Spouses, 2nd Edition. Troutman is the Founder and President of The Resume Place, a groundbreaking Federal resume writing and job coaching service in Baltimore, MD.
Based on the Ten Steps to a Federal Job® method, Kathryn Troutman and Resume Place, Inc., manage and teach a train-the-trainer Certified Federal Job Search Trainer / Certified Federal Career Coach program. The CFJST / CFCC has been taught for 20 years and employment readiness, career counselors and transition counselors teach and coach the Ten Steps method at military bases and job centers.