Intelligence Insiders Break Down Resume Tips, Tricks and Hacks

July 20, 2021

"Served as assistant sore manager."

"Special skills: Thyping."

"I worked as a Corporate Lesion."

While a quick Google search for ‘resume fails’ is always good for a chuckle, recruiters in the Intelligence Community (IC) warn it’s no laughing matter.

“One typo or misspelling and it’s over. You’re done,” said Gilbert Jones, Intelligence Community Outreach and Recruitment Program Manager for the Office of the Assistant Director of National Intelligence (ADNI) for Human Capital.

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Jones recently helped lead a resume workshop webinar hosted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The audience was made up of students and recent grads interested in IC careers.

The program covered the purpose and value of a resume, knowing the difference between government and private sector resumes, and writing effective cover letters.

Jones’ co-host was Michael Bennett, Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence Program Manager, Office of the ADNI for Human Capital. In addition to the basics (i.e., that a resume provides a summary of your skills, abilities and accomplishments in a succinct manner). Bennett explained that it is important to add specific, relevant details as well.

“For example, to stand out I would always include my foreign travel experience on my resume,” he said. “Mainly because it was directly related to the job I was applying for.”

Both Bennett and Jones emphasized the importance of tailoring each resume to the specific job you are applying for. While they admit that it’s a time-consuming process, it often produces the best results. Jones expanded further: “By ‘tailoring’ I don’t mean copying and pasting what the job description says onto your own resume,” he said.” It’s more about the art of figuring out what it is they’re looking for.”

That ‘art’ – so to speak – begins with a close reading of the job listing itself and is followed by tweaking one’s resume to best align their needs with your skills.

Depending on what type of resume a job seeker is writing, you’ll either have more or less room to make your case. Federal resumes want to see your Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) written out in full, where private industry resumes are usually your previous employment experience only.

For the federal resume, Knowledge is described as “bodies of information which are applied to the performance of work functions,” Skills are “measurable and observable and acquired through learning or training,” and Abilities are “enduring innate or acquired talents which can help a person do a job with or without formal instructions.”

Like resumes, a cover letter is a tool to sell yourself to prospective employers and represents you when you are not there. Much of the advice Bennett and Jones gave regarding resumes can also be applied to cover letters. However, Jones singled a few red flags he sees in cover letters that every job seeker should avoid.

Jones and Bennett also stressed that embellishing your experience will never end well. No matter how tempting it may be, both presenters made it clear that you’ll be caught.

So, after knowing what to avoid, what makes for a winning cover letter? For starters, details, details, details. It’s easy to overlook typos in your contact information, street name, and phone number. Second, pepper your cover letter with active verbs, descriptors and results-oriented words. These include: Administer, Analyze, Motivate, Produce, Expand, Improve, Strategic, Leading, Successful, Reduced, Enhanced and Increased.

The webinar wrapped up with a Q&A session between the experts and the audience. One participant asked about how some online job applications won’t allow you to simply upload your resume but requires you to painstakingly enter it, line-by-line, in their own template for it to be considered.

The experts’ response? Be patient.

“That can be a frustrating experience, but don’t get discouraged,” Jones said. “It’s crucial that you always build in extra time to complete these applications, otherwise you may get rushed and make a mistake.”

Here’s more of the experts resume/cover letter advice gleaned from the Q & A:

Bennett and Jones’ final piece of advice was again to highlight the importance of getting the details right and taking the time to make a good impression with your resume and cover letter.

“I hate to break it to you, but no one is going to read your whole resume,” Jones said. “Take the time to really understand what the hiring manager is looking for and put that up front.”