Seven Easy Steps for Updating Your Government Resume for the Private Industry

Many IT professionals in the government are looking to transition to the private industry, but creating a technical resume that appeals to non-government recruiters and hiring managers can be an obstacle. I have put together four more best practices to make your resume shine.

This article is a continuation from a posting on my Blogger site.


Remove References to Federal Proprietary Tools

Including the names of proprietary tools in your resume will not provide the information that the reader needs to understand your achievements. One of the number one rules in resume writing is to create clear and easy to understand achievement statements. If the propriety tool name is included and the reader pauses to consider how it fits in, then the reader’s focus has changed from the individual to the tool, not a good thing when a resume is being quickly reviewed.

An easy way to add clarity is to eliminate the tool names and instead describe the system/tool in terms of what its functionality, for example, it’s a content management system or an IT utility tool.  Here are several examples of strong achievement statements that illustrate this point.

  • Within a highly-visible environment scrutinized by federal regulators, provided Tier 2 support of an enterprise-wide records and content management solution.
  • Migrated 250+ GB database to enterprise system that enabled advanced storage options. Redesigned tablespace structure and negotiated outages with user community to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Utilized ticket management tools to control changes and work issues for 100+ daily tickets.

Modify Approach to Including Awards

One very distinctive difference between government and private industry is the use of awards for recognizing high performance or specific achievements. Many private companies don’t have a process for administering formal awards, and instead favor using annual performance evaluations for recognizing achievements. Although this difference doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate awards from your resume, you should use a modified approach to including them.

Rather than using just the award name to describe the achievement, think about the reason for the recognition. Here are examples of how you might include award information in your resume.

Recognized by the VP of 787 aircraft production for process improvements made to ….
Recognized for contributions to R&D efforts to create …..
Honored with a monetary award for significant improvements to the procurement process that ….

Quantify and Qualify Achievements

With typical resume writing advice, you’ll find statements such as ‘Quantify your results to emphasize your accomplishments and provide proof of your potential value.’  It would be great if writing your resume were really that easy. The reality is that in federal jobs it is often difficult to link IT projects directly to the bottom line. How then do you demonstrate value?

Let’s think about some of the questions that can be answered to uncover achievements.

  • What specific deliverables were produced by my projects?

Every project produces something: diagrams, processes, business requirements, technical requirements, recommendations, business capabilities, information, etc.

  • Who uses the project results and for what purposes?

This can be for business users or technical teams. Not every project connects directly with business value; some achievements are about the value provided to the technical team.

  • What value do the users see in them?

When thinking about the business users, consider what they were able to do that they could not do before your project was completed.

  • Did I make the user organization more efficient by saving time, money, or other resources? Can I estimate the savings as hours, days, dollars, or other units?

These numbers are relatively easy to produce when processes are shortened, automated or eliminated altogether.

  • Did I make the user organization more effective by increasing quality, throughput, or productivity? Can I estimate the improvement as a percentage of overall gain?

Understand that you’re not really seeking “proof” of value here. The goal is to provide credible and supportable evidence of value creation. You don’t necessarily need hard numbers when realistic estimates serve the purpose.

  • Did I help the user organization to avoid or mitigate risk of non-compliance, process failure, or other undesirable outcomes? Can I estimate the probability and severity of the risks?

In these cases, the value is often qualitative rather than quantitative. When considering what to include, think about the harm that might occur if your project fails.

Streamline the Format

Although you want your resume to accurately document your job history, too much irrelevant information will just bog the reader down. Think about it from the reader’s perspective. Will the detail help the reader to better understand what you’ve accomplished? Would it be deceptive to remove the detail? If the answer to these questions is a definite “No!” then streamline the message.

In this example, my client worked as a subcontractor on a number of different projects within Boeing for over 10 years. He listed each position separately so that it accurately followed his job history timeline although it made an unyielding list. Besides taking up valuable space, the division names weren’t meaningful outside of The Boeing Company. Here is a partial view of how his resume was organized.

Software Design Engineer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Quality Engineering, 12/2012 – 8/2013

Designed, developed and delivered software and hardware for a …..

Software Design Engineer, Boeing Computer Services – QA R&D, 8/2010 – 7/2011

Ported 3-tier client/server architecture Java application to shared application …..

When selecting the format for this resume, I looked at each position to see if I could consolidate the information into categories. Here is a look at how I organized the resume.

About the Author

Jennifer Hay is that rare technical resume writer who actually has IT experience and understands the complexities of working in a technical environment. She goes beyond a standard information gathering process and applies her knowledge of data and information management, business analytics, data analytics, data science, infrastructures and architectures, software development, project and program management, among other areas to create truly compelling messages.

Jennifer is the author of Supercharge Your IT Job Search available through Amazon. She is currently working on her second book about data and information management careers, a collaborative effort with Dave Wells, a mentor, educator, and thought leader in fields of business intelligence and business analytics.