ask.fedweek.com | common resume myths

Number One: Watch your capitalization. Some organizations capitalize words as a style. For people not in those organizations, the capitalization looks awkward. A great example of this is the word “soldiers.” Although I recognize that the US Army capitalizes this word internally, if you are writing for an external audience, please don/t.

2. Keep your punctuation consistent. If you are using bullets, be consistent in using periods—one way or the other! Inconsistency looks sloppy.

3. Make sure your font size is readable and your margin sizes allow for printing. No font should be smaller than 10 (and depending on the font itself, sometimes that’s too small) and no margin should be smaller than .5.

4. Combine jobs to prevent redundancy. If your jobs have basically been the same in the same organization, you can combine positions to save space, focus on the position you’re targeting, and reduce repetition. For example, if you held the positions of: Deputy Chief, Chief, and Division Director, for the same organizations, you can show those jobs as one: Deputy Chief / Chief / Division Director, Contracting Division, Organization, dates. This approach allows you to use the maximum budget, people supervised, etc. and just include one write up for duties. And you can include achievements from all 3 positions.

5. Use numerals and symbols where appropriate to stand out in the text. You do not have to write out dollars or percent; instead use the symbols $, %. In addition, in resume writing it is acceptable to use numerals—even when talking about numbers under 10. This makes it easier for the reader to find the metrics they are looking for.

6. Employ only one space after sentences. The modern approach to all writing is one space after a period. The two spaces (which most of us learned) goes back to typewriter days and is now considered old fashioned. This takes practice!

7. Don’t be afraid of what is called “telegraphic style” writing. Telegraphic writing is a clipped form of composing a message that allows you to say as much as possible with the fewest possible number of words. In the resume world, being concise and to the point is essential. This means eliminating many articles that are traditionally used in more formal writing. For example, instead of saying, “Key role in the daily operations of the ABC Office…” say “Key role in daily operations of office…” This approach makes for punchier reading.

8. Change up your words. Try not to use the same word to start each sentence. There are many ways to say “managed;” not every sentence needs to start with that word. And please banish “responsible for;” just because you’re responsible for something, doesn’t mean you do / did it; it just means you should do it. Start the sentence with a verb.

9. Pay attention to your verb tenses. Former work and all achievements should be in past tense; only current duties should be in present tense. Use parallel structure too; this means using the pattern of words. For example, a sentence that states: Engaged in overseeing the purchase card program, maintaining the budget on an Excel spreadsheet, and wrote correspondence, is NOT parallel; it should read: Engaged in overseeing the purchase card program, maintaining the budget on an Excel spreadsheet, and writing correspondence.

10. Proof, proof, and proof again. And ask someone else to proof for you. It is hard to proof your own writing.

The above tips are easy ways to improve your resume!

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.