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Résumé tips for government job seekers

By Tirza Austin posted 10-29-2021 05:15 PM


In preparation for November's ASCE Resume Workshop that will provide a dedicated thread for public sector resumes to be reviewed, we've collected resume tips from government job seekers. I hope you find these helpful! 

Sue Hann, P.E., M.ASCE, Assistant Superintendent Facilities Services, Brevard County Public Schools – Florida

  • Research the agency and their current issues before your interview. Hiring managers like to see that you have enough interest in the position to have done some research.
  • For local government positions – Attend/watch at least one Council/Commission meeting before your interview. Review recent Council/Commission agendas for issues that may relate to the position for which you are applying. Read the mission, vision, values statements. Read the strategic plan. Read the budget and the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). These documents will give you an excellent sense of the culture, priorities, and fiscal health of the local government.
  • If the position requires good communication skills (including presentation skills), be prepared and use every opportunity to demonstrate those skills through the hiring process. Your résumé should be clear and crisp, with proper grammar and spelling. You should be able to comfortably talk to an interview panel. If you have media relations experience, highlight it!
  • Customize your résumé for the position – Include what is in the job description as well as what you might have learned through your research.
  • Before you apply/interview – Determine three to five things about you that make you a good fit for the agency. Write down these points and practice weaving them into answers to likely interview questions, or include one or two in your cover letter.

Jacob Forrester, P.E., M.ASCE, Utilities Director, Starkville Utilities – Mississippi

  • Never submit a cover letter and résumé without proofreading for spelling errors or grammatical errors. If your cover letter or résumé are filled with those types of errors, and you’re looking for a professional-level position, those are automatically thrown away. No organization, private or public, wants a professional-level employee who cannot attend to minor details such as spelling and grammar.
  • Always submit what is requested. If a cover letter is requested, submit it! That cover letter alone may get you past the first round of résumé review.

Joe Woliver, P.E, M.ASCE, Chief Geotechnical Engineer, Naval Facilities Engineering Command – Atlantic

  • Use the USAJOBs résumé builder to create a federal résumé when possible.
  • Tailor your résumé to the position. Keywords can help in the certification process and may also indicate to the hiring manager that you have some specialized knowledge that will be applicable to the position.
  • Don’t worry about résumé length for federal applications. A one-page résumé can put you at a disadvantage. A hiring manager has a crediting plan to score both the interview and the résumés. A short résumé could leave a lot of points on the table.
  • When describing your experience, state the overall project costs if you can. This will give the hiring manager some basis to judge the project’s scale.
  • Some projects may have a high visibility and low dollar value. Try to describe the project’s importance and impact.
  • There is typically a self-assessment when submitting an application. Don’t assess yourself too harshly. These assessments can disqualify you from the certified applicant list.
  • Read the required documentation list carefully. When in doubt, too much documentation won’t hurt your selection chances.

Jarred Jones, P.E., M.ASCE, Executive Director, North Charleston Sewer District – South Carolina

  • Be concise. If you have just graduated or are still in school, the résumé should be no more than one page. If you have more experience, go into detail more on the recent and relevant work and have only a short description of less important items.
  • Your résumé should look professional and be formatted properly. Make it look clean. Do not list an inappropriate email address as a contact.
  • Show how you will be a good fit for the desired position based on your experience and desire. You can put this in the objective or summary statement to let the reviewer know you thoroughly reviewed the position and to demonstrate why you are the best candidate.

Edith Martinez-Guerra, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, Research Environmental Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–Engineer Research and Development Center – Mississippi

When applying through

  • Prepare a separate résumé per opening.
  • Use keywords from the announcement on the résumé.
  • Build a résumé in the website instead of attaching the résumé.
  • Some positions (entry-level) require a specific GPA; make sure a GPA is included.
  • Attach EIT/FE or PE license with application.
  • Attach unofficial transcript.

Learn about the ASCE Resume Workshop here!

1 comment



11-06-2021 12:15 PM

Was NYC government engineer ! There is civil service exam that might be part of the process. Immediate thought is one page and remember answer the question ! What good can I do you.