Ask a Coach

Q: Can I put a volunteer position down in the Experience section of my resume?

A: Of course you can! If you held a volunteer position that you were dedicated to for an extended period of time, you can use this position as part of your professional experience. Remember, however, that the skills you utilized in your volunteer position must relate to the skills desired for the position you are applying for. Just because you weren't getting paid doesn't mean that your experience is less relevant. Many people have volunteered extensively while out of a job or while getting a degree in order to build up certain skills. You might also be able to develop a unique skill that you wouldn't have been able to develop while in your current position, too. Many volunteers have leveraged their unpaid experience to achieve a paid position, definitely include your experience in your resume if it'll help you sell yourself to the employer.

7 Tips For Writing Your Federal Resume

Writing a Federal resume is different from writing a civilian resume. Although the main function of the two resumes is the same – selling yourself to the hiring manager – there are certain tips you should follow to help make your Federal resume stand out.

Tip 1: Make sure you meet all of the minimum qualifications of the position.

The Federal Job Opportunity Announcements (JOAs) make it easy to see if you're qualified for the position or not because all the relevant skills, competencies and needed experience are laid out in the sections of the JOA. If you don't meet the necessary qualifications but apply anyway, your resume will likely be passed over.

Tip 2: Target your resume to the job.

Targeting your resume means tailoring your relevant experience to those skills, competencies and qualifications that are set forth in the JOA. The hiring manager is looking for candidates who have those particular skills and if they don't see the skills in your resume, your resume will be overlooked.

You can learn more from the February 2015 article, "How to Target Your Resume."

Tip 3: Don't include all prior job experience.

When you're writing about your experience, you don't have to include every job you've ever had. Make sure you include your relevant experience. You want to maximize the impact of what you've written on the hiring manager, so make sure the jobs you include on your resume are ones that fit the skills, competencies and qualifications for the position.

Tip 4: Make it lengthy.

Although civilian resumes should only be 1-2 pages, a Federal resume can be 3-5 pages long. Federal hiring authorities want you to give them a more detailed description of your work experience so they can see you have the relevant skills, competencies and qualifications.

Also, you can go back further in time with your relevant work experience for a Federal resume. Civilian resumes generally go back 7-10 years in time but Federal resumes can go 15+ years back as long as the experience is relevant. If you do go back that far, however, it is important to spend more time explaining your recent experience because hiring managers are more concerned with what you've done lately.

Tip 5: Write accomplishment statements.

When you're writing about your relevant experience, make sure to focus on writing accomplishment statements. Hiring managers want to know what you can do for the agency. If you show them what you've accomplished in another position, then they'll be more likely to see that you can do the same thing for them in this new position.

Tip 6: Quantify your accomplishments.

Use numbers, percentages, amounts, and specify how often or how many. The hiring manager might not quite understand exactly what you did in another position but they will know what it means if you had a 100% success rate!

Tip 7: Show them the money.

Let the hiring manager know if you have experience saving time or money in a past position. With agencies under pressure to save money due to budget cuts, any past experience you've had will be appealing to the hiring manager.

Good luck!