Ask a Coach

Q: Does it matter what font I use when writing my resume?

A: It actually does matter what font you use when you write your resume. Have you ever read a written communication where they use an unusual or "fun" looking font and you had a hard time reading it? Keep that in mind as you select your font for your resume; you want the resume reviewer to be able to read what you've written without straining to do so. Fonts that are in a bold typeset, fonts like "Comic Sans" that are in a casual typeset, and fonts that are all in caps are ones to be avoided.

So which fonts should you use? Studies have been done to find the most readable font, and the most commonly recommended and easily readable fonts include Tahoma, Arial, Times New Roman and Verdana. Use those fonts or similar ones, and make sure you font size stays between 10-12 point size.

The Differences Between Federal and Private Sector Resumes

When it comes to the basics of resume writing, many job seekers wonder what the difference is between Federal and private sector resumes. Knowing the differences, along with the similarities, will help you to focus on what's most important to concentrate on as you write and format your resume.

Resume Length

When it comes to length, there are no page limitations for Federal resumes, although most candidates stick to 3-5 pages. It's most important to focus on skills and experience directly relevant to the position while writing your resume, and if that means you go a little longer with your resume, that's ok.

You can also go further back in time when including relevant job experience. Private sector resumes prefer you go back no further than 7-10 years, but with Federal resumes you can go back 15 years, and in limited circumstances if the position is directly relevant, 20 years. If you utilized skills relevant to the position you're applying for in the positions you've held in the last 15 years, include that information so the resume reviewer is aware.

With private sector resumes, you want to make sure you don't go over two pages. Private sector human resources employees want to see a succinct resume that gets your points across in an easily readable manner. They will not read past two pages of your resume.

Summary and Expertise

One way you can compel the resume reader to read through your resume is to begin with two overview sections: the Summary and the Areas of Expertise. The Summary is a short, 2-3 sentence paragraph that highlights your qualifications that are most relevant to the position you're applying for. The Areas of Expertise is a section of bullet points highlighting 6-12 skills that match the requirements of the position. The purpose of both these sections is to catch the attention of the resume reader by letting them know right away that you have the skills and experience required for the position. Once they see you do have these skills they'll continue on reading your resume. Make sure that anything you include in the Summary and Areas of Expertise is expanded upon in the Work Experience section of your resume.

The STAR Method

While there are differences between Federal and private sector resumes, tailoring your resume to the position, either by focusing on the requirements of the job announcement or by using your knowledge of the job, is the most important step you can take to maximize your chances of success for both types of resumes. You'll want to make sure you cover all the relevant information in your resume. You'll also want to include any particular accomplishments for each position you have held. Don't forget to use the STAR Method of writing accomplishments; focus on the situation you were in, the task you worked on, the action you took to accomplish the task, and the result of your work.

Being aware of the requirements of both Federal and private sector resumes will maximize your chances of success.