Diana Greenburg, a Ph.D. environmental scientist, lost her temporary federal job last year. Seeking a permanent position to stabilize her family’s finances and advance her career with the federal government, she found keen competition for jobs in her specialty. Living and working in the Midwest, the family was open to a major relocation, perhaps to an offshore U.S. territory.
Greenburg’s meticulously detailed resume, adapted from her curriculum vitae, was extremely technical and intended for an audience of academics. This meant her resume was not well targeted to human resources managers and federal hiring managers.
“In academia, you present a CV rather than a resume, and it’s comprehensive rather than selective,” says Greenburg. “It’s raw data, and you assume the search committee – mostly scientists themselves – will pick out what’s important. But for federal resumes, you have to analyze your own work history and show what’s relevant to the job announcement.”
Not realizing that the style and substance of her resume were holding her back, Greenburg put in scores of applications for federal jobs and did manage to land a few interviews. But when she met with the hiring people face-to-face, she tended to go into lecture mode regarding her own impressive research, rather than addressing the specific requirements of the job at hand and how her own research could be applied to provide solutions.
The turning point
“I’d been unemployed for a year and half, and I wasn’t getting offers,” says Greenburg. “I decided my resume needed an extra push, so I went to Kathryn Troutman for help. Kathryn totally revamped my resume, taking it in a direction I would never have thought of myself.”
That direction brought clarity to Greenburg’s presentation of herself. “We worked together to make her resume shorter and more specific,” says Troutman. “I trimmed down the scientific content and added material about her communications experience and even customer service skills, which I knew the federal folks would be looking for.”
Greenburg had an “Aha!” moment. “I’ve learned from Katherine that your federal resume needs to be a bridge,” says Greenburg. “You write your resume so HR can understand it and walk it over to the hiring manager. If the bridge isn’t written correctly, the resume will never make it to the other side.”
Troutman asked Greenburg detailed questions about her work, to ensure that her federal application contained all the right keywords to maximize her chances of being selected for an ideal job.
“Kathryn zeroed in on keywords in the job announcement and elevated those same words in my resume, to let the HR people know that I have the exact skills they’re looking,” says Greenburg. For example, in the academic world, job candidates simply list presentations they’ve given, and communication skills are implied. But for federal jobs, those skills must be made explicit in the resume with keywords relating to communications.
Greenburg then applied for two more federal jobs in her field, and won interviews for both. To improve her performance in the interviews, she received face-to-face tutoring with Troutman. She learned to shape her answers and comments to the requirements of the specific jobs and the priorities and concerns of the interviewer.
“Kathryn gave me feedback and practice with scoping out the audience and matching the material to that audience, presenting ideas in a way that nontechnical people will understand,” says Greenburg. “I learned to organize my accomplishments into 60-second answers to a variety of interview questions.”
Troutman stuck with Greenburg through the entire federal application process, ensuring that all steps were taken to maximize the likelihood of a job offer.
Within months, “I landed my dream job, working for the Environmental Protection Agency in Puerto Rico and supporting a mission to steward America’s natural resources. Maybe more importantly, this career move has enabled me to assure my family’s stability.”
In the end, “Diana’s perseverence and our efforts to retarget the resume made the difference,” says Troutman. “For Diana, the job she got is the best on the entire planet.”