Ask a Coach

Q: What information should I include under my private sector positions that I've listed on my resume?

A: You will put the same type of information on your resume for each position you include, whether private sector of Federal, which means you'll list your duties and skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for. Ultimately, the agency is not looking at where you got the experience but whether the experience is similar or the same as what you'll be doing for the agency. Whether that means you'll be including specific on-the-job duties or you'll be writing about transferable "soft" skills like leadership, customer service and attention to detail, if it's a skill the agency is looking for then it's important you put it down in your resume wherever it is relevant. You want to put yourself in the best position to make the Best Qualified list and including the information relevant to the job announcement is the way to do that.

Sharpening Your Listening Skills

Communication skills are important not only in the workplace but also during interviews. There are three components to effective communication: verbal communication, non-verbal communication and listening. All three of these components are important. Listening, however, is one component that can easily get overlooked.

Listening vs. Hearing

Listening can sometimes be confused with hearing, but these are two different things. Hearing is a passive act; you can hear what someone says but it doesn't necessarily mean you are listening. Listening requires you to do something intentional. You actually have to hear what the person is saying and then try to understand what was said. Listening is a skill. It doesn't come naturally to everyone and you might have to put in work to become a good listener.

Active Listening

Most of us think that we're better listeners than we really are. If you're interested in improving your listening skills, you might have to engage in active listening. There are several different ways to be an active listener. First off, acknowledge what the speaker is saying. Nod while they're speaking and say "yes" or "uh huh" or anything that shows that you are listening.


If you want to clarify what was said or let the interviewer know you understood what was said, you can paraphrase the statement by restating the main idea. If you paraphrase their idea correctly, the interviewer knows you understood their question.

Be Attentive

Always pay attention to what's being said. You don't want to tune the interviewer out for part or all of the question and then either answer the wrong question or answer only part of the question. Not paying attention is a great way to lower your chances for the position.

Get Clarification

Don't ever interrupt! Even if you have a question or need clarification on what was said, continue listening to what the interviewer is saying and ask for clarification once he or she is done. Interrupting is rude and will likely cause the interviewer to have a negative impression of you. However, if you truly don't understand what was said, you should definitely ask questions after the interviewer has spoken. It's better to ask than to answer the question incorrectly.


Do you think you might need to improve your listening skills before your interview? The best way to improve is to practice. Although you might think the best way to practice is by doing a mock interview, you actually can practice at any time. Pay particular attention when you're having a conversation with a friend or family member. Are you in the moment and actually listening to what they're saying? Or are you just hearing some of what they're saying but aren't really listening to the point of their statement? If you feel that you're merely hearing, you might want to engage in the active listening tips above. You'll be surprised what a little bit of work can do for your listening skills, and if you can show the interviewer you can listen, they'll know that you'll also be able to listen in the new position.