Ask a Coach

Q: I'm trying to organize my resume and I'm not quite sure where to put my Education section. Can you give me a suggestion?

A: Where you put the Education section on your resume will depend on the position you're applying for and whether your education is one of the most important requirements you need for the position. Generally, you are going to want to put your Education section at the end of your resume after your Experience section because with most positions, your skills and qualifications are more important than the fact that you have a degree or what specifically your degree is in. Sometimes, however, you must have a specific degree or else you won't be considered for the position. In that case you should put your Education section near the top of your resume so that the person who is reading your resume will easily see early on that you have the required education.

How to Target Your Resume

The idea of writing a resume for a job can be very intimidating. It might be the first time you've ever written a resume or it might have been a long time since you've updated one. Where do you start, and how do you make sure your resume is going to be on point to the job you want?

The key to writing a resume is targeting your resume to the job you're applying for. That means it needs to be written exactly for that particular job. It's tempting to put everything you've ever done, employment-wise, into your resume to try to impress the reader; however, the hiring manager is looking for candidates who fit certain criteria. By targeting your resume, you show that hiring manager you have exactly what they're looking for.

Read the JOA Carefully

So how do you go about targeting your resume? It is important to first read the Job Opportunity Announcement (JOA) carefully. The federal JOA contains all the relevant skills, competencies and qualifications the position requires. Make sure you don't miss anything important. Once you've read through the JOA, go through each section yet again and underline, highlight or make a list of all the pertinent skills and experience needed. These are the things that you'll want to include in your resume.

Identify Keywords

Once you have these skills highlighted, look again for keywords or key phrases. Keywords and key phrases are words or phrases that seem like they are critical for the position. They are certain skills you must have from prior experience or you must have in order to perform the position. Sometimes you'll see a skill repeated multiple times within the JOA. If so, it's probably a keyword. The best sections to find keywords and key phrases are the "Duties" and "Qualifications & Evaluations" sections of the JOA. You might even find keywords in the Agency's mission statement. Also pay close attention if you see the phrase, "knowledge, skills and abilities," because there will likely be keywords in the paragraph afterward.

Customize Your Resume

Once you've made a list of the relevant skills, competencies and qualifications from the JOA and you've identified the keywords and phrases, it's time to target your resume. If you use the USA Jobs Resume Builder, they'll ask you to input your relevant past jobs in chronological order. Then you'll have the opportunity to write statements about the tasks you accomplished during each job. When writing these accomplishment statements, make sure you focus on the relevant skills, competencies and qualifications you found in the JOA.

Also incorporate those keywords and phrases into your statements. When you do that, you show the hiring manager you have the relevant skills and qualifications they're looking for. If you don't show them you have this experience, they won't know you can do the job and unfortunately your resume will be passed over and you will not be referred to a supervisor for a possible interview.

Targeting your resume really is one of the most important things you can do to find success in your job search. Good luck!