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Quick Tips: Writing Good Resumes and Cover Letters


When applying to an Online System, (like the City of Seattle's Online Employment System) submit a PLAIN TEXT resume, not a formatted resume. If you have a formatted resume, do a SAVE AS and remove bullets, underlines, columns and other formatting. Use asterisks instead bullets.

Summary of Skills:

  • Instead of an Objective Statement, start your resume with a SUMMARY OF SKILLS with that describe your experience, accomplishments and skills.

  • Think of your SUMMARY STATEMENT as your resume's "HEADLINE" or a list your most marketable skills, so the first thing the employer sees are your best technical and/or transferable skills, traits and attributes.

Asterisk Sections (in lieu of Bulleted Sections):

  • Describe your job by sections. The first section is the basic job description.

  • Each subsequent section should describe a COMPETENCY or SKILL SET you use to do your job. In other words, each section should represent one competency or skill set.

  • Begin each section with the Name of the Competency or Skill Set. This is called a "Key Word Section".

  • Draft each section in the form of an" ACCOMPLISHMENT STATEMENT." (see below)

  • When writing each section (describing your Skill Sets and Competencies):

    • Start each section with Keywords - Nouns and Noun Phrases that describe the Skill Set.

    • Use clear, accurate and powerful Action Verbs to describe your Skill Sets.

    • Write in clear, specific Active Voice language, not passive voice - not "jargon".

    • If you need to use an acronym, state the name or title first, then put the acronym in parentheses -- Seattle Police Department (SPD).

How to Write Accomplishment Statements

  • Accomplishment Statements quantify the outcomes of your work.

  • The formula for writing an Accomplishment Statement is " Situation + Action = Results" or S-A-R. For example:

    Situation: What problem, area of responsibility or situation existed?

    City needed a comprehensive Basic PC Skills Training Curriculum so classes could be taught in-house.

    Action: What action did you take?

    Designed from concept to completion a comprehensive basic computer skills training curriculum.

    Results: What were the results of your efforts? Quantify the results whenever possible with percentages, dollars, or scope.

  • Summarize - or "Boil Down" your accomplishment in a single statement or several statements:

Example of an Accomplishment Statement:

Saved the City 35% to 50% in training costs by designing and delivering from concept to completion a comprehensive, low-cost computer skills training.

The "So What?" Test:

How do you know if you've written a good Accomplishment Statement? Ask "So What?" at the end of each statement. If you answer "So What?" you've probably written a good Accomplishment Statement.

Example of a Complete, Well Written Key Word Section and Accomplishment Statement:

* COMPUTER TRAINING: Saved the City 35% to 50% in training costs by designing and delivering from concept to completion a comprehensive, low-cost computer skills training.

Additional Resume Tips

  • Remember to add " Professional/Community Accomplishments " in your resume that highlight volunteer experience and skills when relevant.

  • If you've taken special courses, be sure to include a " Specialized Training " section, or list your special course work in the section called " Professional/Community Accomplishments ".

  • Remember to include volunteer experience -- it counts! Experience is experience , whether you were paid for it or not. Give yourself ALL the skills credit you deserve. Don't sell yourself or your skills short.

  • By the same token, don't inflate or misrepresent your skills.

  • If part of your volunteer experience includes work on partisan political campaigns or for elected officials, refer to these as offices as " Service Organizations ". If you volunteer for your church, call it a " Faith-Based Organization ".

  • Express political and/or religious volunteer experience in neutral terms - and if you want to include specific political or faith-based information, do a second resume for those situations.

  • Identify a job as part-time or temporary so you don't look like a job hopper by indicating "Temporary Position" or "Part-Time Position" next to job title.

  • Address time gaps - don't leave them blank.


  • Make your cover letter work for you - think of it as an extension of your resume not just another piece of paper required in the application packet.

  • Tailor each cover letter to the position and job description so that you don't have to write a completely new resume every time you apply for a new job.

  • Cite the position title and job number (if any) in the 1st paragraph.

  • State how you meet/beat the position requirements in the 1st or 2nd paragraph.

How to Tailor Your Letter to the Position - Topic Headings & Sections:

  • Use wording directly from the job ad or bulletin as topic headings in your letter.

  • Under each topic heading , cite by section the number of years of specific experience, skills, duties and accomplishments.

  • Because you're using language from the bulletin, you are giving the raters exactly the information they're looking for.

  • This format works well for ONLINE applications.

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