5 Top Cleared Resume Tips

Posted by Patra Frame

your resume is an ad, not your biographyAt each Cleared Job Fair we offer quick resume reviews to our participants. This is a popular aspect of our program. Few of us write resumes very often. There is also conflicting advice out there, so most people are not sure about their resume’s design and content.

You should have a master resume – one that contains your entire work history and achievements in each job. This will provide the background information when you are in a job search to create your basic resume and fill out applications . If you are seeking a new position in two fields, as many retiring military consider, then you need to create separate basic resumes for each.

Your basic resume can be used for networking and for job fairs. Once you have targeted specific employers or are responding to job postings, you will tailor your basic resume to meet the employer’s needs and terminology.

Here are our top tips for your resume, and why we recommend them.

Remember: A resume is an advertisement designed solely to encourage an employer to contact you.

Tip 1. Specifically Focus on the Work You Want to Do

Before you create your resumes, focus on the work you want to do and the organizations you want to work with. Be specific in your goals – both in terms of the job and the work environment. You cannot write a resume that will attract the right employers until you really know what you want your next step to be. Without doing this, your resume will just be another blah-blah-blah that does not support your goal.

Once you have defined your specific goals and know what the requirements are for the job you seek next, review and rework your past achievements to support that. Use the current keywords you have identified in your job research to describe work you did in the past. It is vital to create a resume which demonstrates how you will contribute to the job and target employers, right now!

Tip 2. Start with a Professional Summary

Summaries show experiences, skills, and attributes as they apply to the employer’s needs. This immediately shows the employer what you offer that they value. It is designed to ensure that recruiters and hiring managers get interested. You want them to look at the rest of your resume and contact you. Omit Objective statements. Objectives are about you and generally do not interest employers or give them a reason to be interested in you.

Create your summary by highlighting your most relevant 2-3 strengths. Go for clear and concise to grab the reader’s attention. Use the most important keywords in your summary. If appropriate, you can add a short list of critical technical skills underneath.

When looking at the strengths and experience you want to highlight in your summary, you want these to match the most common requirements. Then when you do a tailored resume for a specific employer, check this again and tailor it as needed to their interests, requirements and terminology. Do as bullets or a short paragraph. Examples:

  • Team leader, known for developing and retaining highly productive technical staff.
  • Award-winning web designer recognized by clients for excellent ability to meet user needs.
  • Program manager recognized for client relationship-building skills, on-time and on-budget performance, and obtaining contract extensions and new business.

Do not include a statement of your total time in a career field or in working. This can be used to make negative assumptions that toss you out.  Often these might include how expensive your salary requirements are likely to be, or  how set in your ways you may be. And, although illegal, sometimes this may contribute to age discrimination. If the job requires specific years of experience in a position, then do say that for the major requirements. Example: Over 8 years as a program manager.

I recommend using a specific resume for your networking, job fair, and similar general uses. For this resume, use a headline about the summary which shows a specific job or job family that you are interested in, such as:

Effective Federal IT Business Developer

This helps people remember what work really interests you so that they can support your job search more effectively.

Tip 3. Show Your Achievements

Tell what you actually did so an employer can see what you can do for them. Detail the:

  • situation/task/challenge that you faced,
  • actions which you took to address that need, and
  • results of your work.

Quantify what you can, but do not limit yourself to only those successes that were easily quantifiable. Choose those success stories from your past work that are most important to the employer and job you are now looking for. How do you do that? You base your decisions on what part of your background to highlight on the research you have done about what the job you seek requires.

Show your achievements as bullet points. This makes it much easier for a hiring manager or recruiter to see what is important than a dense paragraph does. You want each bullet to be relevant to your target employer and job. These short-form achievements should present successes which you can describe more fully during an interview.

  • Took over failing contract; within 90 days built effective customer relationships, improved critical metrics, closed all overdue items, and led team to successful re-award.
  • Researched and presented daily intelligence summaries to national command authority.
  • Streamlined department processes and set up a Category Management plan for out-year procurements, which resulted in a savings of $1.5 million within 12 months.

Tip 4. Tailor the Resume to the Opportunity and Organization

Use the keywords that are current for that specific job/employer. Keywords are important because most recruiters use automated systems to find the right resume, based on the most important keywords the hiring manager requires. Keywords are those specific to your field, similar jobs, and the employer’s terminology.

You see them all the time when you are looking at job postings. They are in the description, the requirements, and any challenges or employer information in a job posting. Some are common across the career field, others are specific to certain levels of job and to specific employers.

An example: Your background and job titles are as a Trainer, but the employer calls such positions Instructor. Change your terminology to match the employer’s terminology.

Using your main resume, tailor it as needed to the specific job. Focus on your experience and achievements that are most relevant to that target employer.

Tip 5. Get the Basics Right

I hear you groan – of course everyone knows the basics. Except that anyone in the hiring process can tell you how many resumes do not have the basics right.

A. Make it easy to read. Use plenty of white space, an easy to read font in a 10-12 point size, bullet points, and limited formatting. Most employers prefer Word documents unless otherwise specified. Do not rely solely on spell check, but do be sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Many hiring managers see such errors as indicating carelessness.

B. List name, one phone (with voice mail), one email address, and relevant social media/portfolio URLs. This is often the best place to show your security clearance too.

The big problems here are:

  • Voicemail messages that are long or joking or done by kids. The message on your phone during a job search should be crisp and professional.
  • Email addresses that are distracting, hint of problems, or comedic. Get a free email address with some variant of your name and perhaps a credential at most. No hiring manager wants to contact SouthernBlonde@ or NoViagra@ – and those are among the less objectionable I have seen recently.

C. Two pages max! Most preferred format is reverse chronological with current job shown first.
Sometimes an employer may ask for a more detailed resume. But the most common is still a one-pager for those with less than 8-9 years of experience, and a two-pager for those with more. Longer resumes make you look as if you cannot focus on the most relevant material.

D. Omit jobs that are more than 12-15 years ago or create a simple summary sentence.
Hiring managers want to see what you have done recently and a bit of your progression. They are not going to read much about older jobs so do not waste your time and space on them.

Review your resume using these tips.  Have someone else look at it to help you assess clarity, spelling, and grammar.  Then get out there and up your game.

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra



This entry was posted on Thursday, April 06, 2017 7:21 am

3 thoughts on “5 Top Cleared Resume Tips”

  1. With the automated tools in use now for searching cv’s, the two page advice is starting to go by the wayside. Now days, unless you are handing the resume directly to a recruiter, the two page limit is less of an issue. Many companies now store cv’s in a database and do key word searching to get relevant cv’s. I have a resume that tops out at 2 pages, but even before I pared it down from 3 pages, there were constant contacts from recruiters.

  2. There are certainly people with high-demand skills or SME expertise who get contacted almost whatever their resume looks like. And if your resume is chock full of achievements that are vital to the new job and are in the past decade, recruiters and hiring managers will be interested. Even for IT jobs where long lists of skills are common, the skills must be relevant for the job. Alan is right that the web allows you to upload longer resumes which many do. Longer social media profiles also allow you to put in more experience. Still, many hiring managers look at resumes that are long as an indication the person does not know what is really relevant. And far too many people write longer resumes because they are trying to cover all possible options rather than tailor the resume to the job they want most and/or to the specific employer.

    1. Agree with Patra .. even with longer cv’s allowed.. when actively job searching you should be tailoring the resume for the job you’re applying against.

      I have a generic resume I use for sites like Monster that is chock full of key words (words I know they’re looking for on any IT req.. I’m IT after all). But I also make sure to keep my ksa’s as relevant as possible. I have found that recruiters use poorly defined search terms so I get a lot of first contacts. But the KSA’s (knowledge, skills, achievements) that quantify what you can do for a company based on what you have done in the past get a lot of attention. After tailoring to a single req when I’m job hunting.. I make sure I put stuff in there like “Implemented a password management software (I name it, I’m not going to here ) which cut administrative overhead, saved my team 80 hours worth of man hours per quarter, and increased productivity and efficiency of my team. That tends to get more attention than my list of competencies…

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