Before You Hit Apply for This Job

Posted by Jo Weech

Apply for this jobIn federal contracting, there is a term called “Req Recruiting.” A recruiter receives a requisition to place a potential person in a position in a particular program. Said recruiter, if indeed a sourcing sorcerer, employs many magical methods to find and vet the perfect person to present to the program manager. “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing…where I stand with you?” Great lyrics by The Young Rascals, and a question that job seekers everywhere are asking.

How are you going to make sure that you are going to be found by beautiful, Boolean search strings? How can you keep a recruiter’s attention for more than 4 nano-seconds once your resume surfaces? Inquiring minds want to know, and, since this is not the stuff of “secret sauce,” the simple solutions follow.

First of all, the most important information recruiters need should be in the “top third to half” of page one of your resume. There is advice currently circulating that you should just have a one-page resume. Please make it at least two, but no more than three — two is ideal.

Remember, the resume is just the ticket to try to get the interview, not to get the job. Also, some university career centers — check how old the school is, and some of the advice may date back that far — who tell you to put your Education last, on the very last page. Please do not put your education at the end of your resume. You paid a lot for that degree. It needs to go on Page One!

This is the format that can best showcase info that is needed by the recruiter, and in that precious real estate of the top half of your resume. I will add comments after each section.


314-555-1212 | [email protected] | LinkedIn address

This is your header. Do not put “home” or “cell” or “phone #.” Just put the actual digits, like 202-555-1212. Note: I highly recommend that you get a Google number. This way, you can screen your calls, and your personal number does not go into cyberspace.

Next, your email address. Please get a gmail address. Please do not say you are a highly skilled software engineer, who uses Splunk, but you have a Hotmail email address. Or AOL. Or worse, Juno or Erols. And please make sure it is not [email protected]. Your email address should have as much of your real name as is possible. Recruiters do joke about this. You do not want to be the brunt of these jokes!

Why the LinkedIn address? Because over 90% of all recruiters industry-wide say that they use it at some point in the process. If your name is John Smith, you want to make sure it is the real you, and not some fake profile that was created to make it seem like it is you. #FakeProfilesAreReal.

Did you notice that I didn’t put city/state? If you are in Baltimore and are willing to commute anywhere in the DMV, it isn’t necessary. If you want to work in Austin, because you are moving there of your own accord, there is no reason to put your actual geographic location. It is then helpful to put the city/state in which you wish to work into that second line of your header. Also, please do not put your home address. No one needs to mail anything to you in this decade.


I get this question all the time when I am doing resume reviews at career transition groups: “What if I want to apply for both a Logistics and an Administrative position?” If you put both, a recruiter or hiring manager will not know what you want to be when you grow up. If you put NO TITLE, then we have to try to figure this out by hunting through your resume, and we do not have time to do this. Have an industry-specific resume for each industry, and only document the skills/transferable skills commensurate with the position to which you are applying.

That said, please use or or Copy/paste the entire position description along with the required skills into one of those sites. The most important words will be revealed. If you have a synonym on your resume, change it to that exact word. If it is really important, make sure you use it at least 3-4 times in your resume. Why? So your resume will make it through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and turn up in Boolean searches.

Rabbit hole comment here: Please do not use colors or fancy fonts or unusual symbols or creative formatting. ATSs do not like that, not one little bit. Arial is another safe font to use. Do not get me started on Comic Sans. And please, no smaller than size 11!


So, right after the title of the position for which you are applying, you may write 3-5 attributes that scream, “I am THE ONE!” Do not use the first person I, me or my, nor the third person “Mr. Emerson excels in….” or “He has achieved….” There are no complete sentences being used in the example below.

Over eight years of experience in full lifestyle projects utilizing Agile/Scrum methodologies in diverse environments. Ability to quickly and efficiently design, rapid-prototype, and integrate software solutions within pre-existing infrastructures. Skilled in collaborating with junior engineers in pair programming, and leading cross-functional teams located in different time zones.

CLEARANCE: TS/SCI with FSP, active (or current) (ONLY IF APPLICABLE)

Please do not list your clearance if it has expired. It’s as though you never had it. Also, please do not say “clearable.” If the position requires the clearance, that means you have to have one that is active, or has been active less than 24 months ago (current).




Don’t include the graduation date or the address of the college.


     Cloudera Hadoop,     2014

     Certified Scrumaster, 2010


If applicable. Please list software, hardware, databases, operating systems, tools, software applications, etc. Please put the number of years experience after each skill, like Java (6 years). It is also helpful to put the list in alphabetical order. You do not need to state MS Office products unless the position description states a particular level of proficiency needed, such as “Advanced Excel.”


Here is where you can highlight the top six points, using normal bullet points:

  • 5+ years of demonstrated experience in website development with database functionality using HTML, ColdFusion, JavaScript, Dreamweaver, CSS, SQL
  • Experience in creating tables, writing custom SQL queries, and performing backups for MS SQL Server databases

Also, please do not waste valuable space here by saying that you are a hard worker, team player, organized, problem-solver, etc. If you held any viable position for any length of time, we assume all of these attributes to be a given.

Finally, your Professional Experience. Recruiters are persnickety about certain things. So, please lay out your experience like this:

ABC Company                                                                                04/13- present

Software Engineer

What is most important is the title of the position, and the dates should be all the way to the right. Repeat: dates should be all the way to the right! If you have worked in different roles in the same company, still put the start and end dates and show the differences like this:

ABC Company                                                                                 04/13- present

     Software Engineer,     06/14-present

          Bullet point

         Bullet point

         Bullet point

     Jr. Software Engineer, 04/13-06/14

         Bullet point

         Bullet point

         Bullet point

So, about those bullet points in your professional experience. Many global companies rate candidates by the “STAR” method. Situation, task, action, result. So, in your 3-5 bullet points per position, do not list out your duties. Instead, state: what was accomplished, how it was done, what tools/methods were used, and the brilliant result. In the result, put a quantifiable number or percentage, if possible. Increased sales by 26% Q3-Q4. Successfully managed 28 people on 4 teams in 5 countries. Here is where you showcase your achievements, and not just copy/paste your job descriptions.

The professional experience should go back about 10 years, unless you are applying for a job that requires more experience. If it calls for 20, just put 20+ years, rather than 34.

Start your summary like this: Software Engineer with 8+ years experience in… It will be truly helpful to know the years of experience at the get-go, since the number of years needed will vary across contracts. Please do not include your lawn mowing business from middle school, no matter how entrepreneurial you think it makes you look. It does not look good on your resume. Again, something else that recruiters joke about. So, for those of you who have many more years of experience, you can simply list the titles in “Other Relevant Experience”.

Lastly, there should be a list of professional organizations, volunteer groups, and if you won an award that wasn’t from your high school home ec department but is highly relevant to the position you are seeking, please include that here.

To summarize, the reason that your clearance, your education and your key skills need to be up top is that those are the most important things needed in order to match up your qualifications to an existing req.

Finally, from Jimmy Eat World – The Middle:

Don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best
Try everything you can
And don’t you worry

Jo WeechJo Weech is a career coach and technical recruiter in the defense and intelligence communities.


This entry was posted on Monday, February 22, 2016 5:19 pm

3 thoughts on “Before You Hit Apply for This Job”

  1. My resume has changed a lot (for the better, based on the progress of my career) over the years. A lot of the advice Jo Weech offers, I had to learn through experience.

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