Prepare yourself—and your resume—for a VA career
So, you’ve found the job on our team you think is right for you? As you plan your application, take a few minutes to review your resume and consider these tips before you hit “submit.”
Do: Tailor your resume to each application!
While you may have a basic resume saved in your files, it may not tell a hiring manager why you’re a good fit for a job. You want to make sure that the resume you provide matches the key theme of the job announcement.
Tailoring your resume also has a very basic function: it shows you care. If you’re taking the time to match the job requirements, it shows that you recognize the employer’s needs and shows you’re willing to work to be the best candidate.
Don’t: Copy and paste!
When you’re looking at job announcements, you may have a strong desire to copy and paste what you’re reading into your updated resume. If you meet those qualifications, why not? And the more keywords you feed to the applicant tracking system, the better your chances, right?
Nope. Don’t take word for word from the job announcement. That’s as much of a red flag as not tailoring your resume. Instead, use the information in the job announcement to introduce key themes and carefully employ specific keywords that match the announcement.
Do: Read the job description!
A job announcement is much more than just a job title. There’s a tendency among applicants to jump into the application when we see something that looks familiar. Just because you’ve had the same job title in the past, though, doesn’t mean you’re qualified for this position.
This advice may seem to go hand-in-hand with the reminder above to tailor your resume, but it’s a small detail that could just save your whole application.
Don’t: Disqualify yourself!
In keeping with the theme of reading the job announcement, make sure you pay special attention to the requirements you find there. You may be an expert in your field, and more than qualified, but you could also take yourself out of the running before you even get started without meaning to do so.
Is the position open to the public? Does it offer Veterans’ preference? Do you need to provide documentation for any of your certifications, experience or education? If you miss something so basic as eligibility, qualifications or even necessary documentation, you’ve inadvertently set yourself up for failure from the start.
Another tip that should go without saying, but if you turn in a resume with mistakes or errors in it, you can be sure hiring managers aren’t going to look on you too fondly. That missing period or misspelled word will almost certainly cost you a chance at a great job.
Take the time to polish your resume, word for word. Make sure you’re saying what you mean to say, and make sure that you’re using those keywords we talked about above. Check your grammar and your punctuation. Read it out loud, read it backwards, but read it until you know what you want on the page is there.
Don’t: Hesitate to ask someone else to look at your resume!
Any writer or editor will tell you that we’re prone to missing our own mistakes. No matter how many times you proofread your work, there’s a good chance something will slip through. It’s a human condition: we know what we want to say, so we’ll see what we want to see.
Having someone else look at your resume is a great way to make sure those mistakes don’t cost you a chance at your dream job. They’ll have a better chance of seeing grammatical errors, problematic sentence structure or something that just doesn’t make sense.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to consult a professional resume writer either. Those folks make their living by helping people whip their job histories into shape, and the more eyes looking at your resume, the better.
Work at VA
Your resume is the first impression that a recruiter gets of you. Make sure that impression is a good one!
- READ more advice about careers and resumes.
- WATCH one of our recruiting specialists talk about the application process.
- HEAR about VA directly from members of our team.
- APPLY for an open VA position at VACareers.va.gov.
This article was previously published on the VA’s VAntage Point blog.