Resume Tip #1: Make it look its best -- Use the same tense throughout your resume, spell check it, grammar check it and then be sure to save it in Print View. When the employer opens the MS Word document, it will look better.

Resume Tip #2: Don't mention consulting company names -- … unless the work you did was directly for the consulting company. In instances where you have been sub-contracting, mention the names of the clients instead. Many government employers, for example, look for consultants with previous experience in the public sector. They really don't care which consulting firm you were subcontracting through.

Resume Tip #3: Have a version of your resume for Consulting in the Government -- Most consulting firms tend to all have similar formats for their resumes and they will be much more likely to use your resume if they don't have to put it through too much of a conversion process. Unlike the private sector who won't touch anything longer than 2 pages, government tends to like detailed resumes of 8 to 20 pages. When dealing with consulting firms, they really appreciate it if your resume is formatted similarly to this one. If you don't know what I am talking about, ask them for a sample resume so that you can format your resume in a similar way. Some people say "but I want my resume to stand out!". My response is that it is you who needs to be selling yourself by speaking with and meeting people.

Here are some great reasons that consulting firms have given me for customizing the format of a resume for consulting firms:

1) Being able to easily enter your resume into their database

With so many job applications going around these days, consulting firms need the power of a database search engine to find resume's of appropriately qualified candidates for each job. My take on this is that if you try to condense your resume into just a few pages, people who use the longer format will be much more likely to have a higher frequency of keywords in their resume and come out with a higher ranking in the results list.

2) Consistent the format of the resume they forward to their clients

Consulting firms will reformat your resume to match their template so that all of the resum?s they submit with their proposals will have a common professional polished look, like they all come from a single company. Naturally they would prefer to just forward your resume over to their potential clients with very minor changes, if any at all. So, if they receive resume's in a particular format that doesn't require a lot of time editing, your resum? is more likely to go out sooner and more often.

3) Why I don't include a cover letter most of the time?

In general, cover letters are not forwarded to potential clients. This isn't to say that cover letters have no place in your resume. It might help you catch the attention of the consulting firms recruiters.

This is something to keep in mind when applying for work with a consulting firm. If the key information which might get you that contract isn't included in the body of the resume, it might not make it to potential employers at all.

Instead, include a summary of your resume in the body of your email messages. This wets the recruiters appetite and might just get them curious enough to want to open your resume and learn more about you. Tailor this "mini resume" to the particular job you are applying for. Only include your most valuable attributes, you know, the stuff that makes you stand out and the stuff they would be watching for. Keep it short. It should all fit on one screen without scrolling. They should be able to read it in less than 30 seconds. I put roughly the same information on calling cards to give you an idea of how short it needs to be. For example:

  • Security clearance
  • Linguistic competency
  • Years of experience
  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Your 3 top people skills

4) Is there an official industry standard for resum's?

I have seen minor differences in resumes forwarded from various consulting firms. Some will remove all personal information like address, phone number, email address leaving just your name. Others will re-organized the sections, putting things like Technical Experience and Education at the end. Another common practice is to replace section headers. While some call a section Education or Training, others might call it Professional Training. In any case, if you've based your resume on at least one consulting firms example, few changes will be required to re-formatting your resume to meet their needs.

Contact me if you would like to receive an example.

5) The resume looks kind of long to me. Shouldn't it be just a couple of pages?

I was told that many people that sending a resume's of about 10 to 15 pages is quite acceptable (remember, they are using a database search engine to find your resume, not reading it line by line). However, in general recruiters prefer not to have anything longer than 20 pages.

Please note that, unlike consulting firms who deal mostly with Government, private industry prefers a resume that is absolutely not longer than 2 pages! I actually know people in the private sector who do their initial triage through a pile of resum's by tossing those with anything more than two pages.

If you are still not sure, send them both your 2-page resume as well as a more details version. That will make you qualified for both contract and full time employment with government and the private sector.

6) I'm confused. How should I format my resume?

I'm glad you asked because this is actually a great reason to contact a recruiter at a consulting firm and possibly impress them. Go ahead and call them up and ask if they can send you an example of their preferred format for resumes. If you are really concerned about the length, don't be shy. Ask the recruiter what they are looking for in a resume.

7) Why should I use a format similar to those used by consulting firms?

If you don't get the idea this far, let me leave you with the following thought. Put yourself in the consulting firms position and consider the following situation:

A consulting firm has an hour to get their bid in before it closes. They receive two resumes from equally qualified candidates. One is formatted very similar to their standard format, requiring 5-10 minutes to re-format and the other is very unique and would require hours to reformat. Which resume do you think they are going to submit to their potential client in their bid for the contract? Which one is yours going to be?

8) Quality is Important

Another way that many employers triage through piles of resumes is by the quality of the text. Spelling and Grammatical errors and duplicate information are obvious signs of poor workmanship and is likely to be viewed as a reflection of the kind of work you will do if hired. Proof read your resume several times out loud. Use but don't depend on the tools build into MS Word. Use consistent formatting. Have at least one or two other people proof read your resume. Be open to their criticism and realize that they are offering their suggestions because they care about you and want you to succeed, not to point out your shortcomings.

Your resume is there to represent you. Ensure it portrays you in the best light possible.