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The Art of the Resume; Tips for Success

Nicholas Christensen, CFO, MPA


It could be easily argued that the recruitment process in the fire service is more competitive than ever before. Narrowing down a candidate list for Firefighter interviews via resume reviews is a common part of that initial process. Here are a few tips for you to consider to help you standout:


You would think this goes without saying, but you would be surprised; spell check and grammar check your resume. It’s available to you and at your fingertips, and this is a small example of your attention to detail as an applicant. Simply put, words matter!


Use the same font throughout the document. Be consistent, varying font types and sizes present a product that can easily look sloppy, or even copied and pasted from someone else’s resume. Keep it neat and professional throughout.


Don’t write a book. Summarize your personal experience in each position or each agency. I would offer that many organizations don’t have the time to read a NFIRS narrative for each response you have been on in your career or a position description that’s been copied and pasted into your resume that results in a 20-page document. Take the time to articulate and summarize what you do in your current position, what programs you have been involved with, and what you have done in your previous positions.


List your most current experience first. Right from the beginning this shows where you are presently, what your role is, and what your duties are. Work backwards from there, ending with your first position or job. Starting a resume with what you were doing in 1995 is not an attention getter. After all, you are wanting to grab the readers attention and stand out, right?


List your most significant certifications first and work your way down. Many candidates list them in the order they completed them. This is not a “wrong way”, but once again, you are wanting to capture attention as a standout applicant. Starting with your highest certifications achieved can assist with this. This applies to education, professional credentialing, and personal achievements as well.


Include a cover letter. Summarize what you have to offer and why you specifically want to work for the agency you are applying for.


Last is references, make sure they are current and always list them. When you see “available upon request”, “contact me first”, or none listed at all, these are red flags. References listed and that are easily contactable are an important factor in the resume review process to validate what your resume reflects.


Ultimately, the purpose of a resume is to show what you bring to the table, make it count!

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