For Matt, a veteran of the Marines who served as a vehicle commander, the job of FBI Special Agent has a natural attraction. FBI agents are called on to carry out complex operations in difficult and often dangerous circumstances, areas in which Matt acquired valuable experience during his 2009-2013 military service.
But like many applicants to the FBI, Matt didn’t realize at first that preparing the specialized resume required for these vacancies would also be complex.
“The resume itself needs to demonstrate the organizational skills and detail orientation that FBI work requires,” says Lisa Holm, a federal human resources consultant with The Resume Place.
“There’s a specific template that you have to follow when you write the FBI Special Agent resume,” Lisa says. For starters, “they want a summary statement, professional skills, and a personal statement on how you approach work.” Then they’re looking for analytical ability, leadership, integrity and problem-solving skills.
A resume for FBI special agent must be organized in these sections, in this order:
- Summary statement, highlighting key skills
- Professional skills, drilling down further
- Professional work experience, with a variety of required details
- Other work experience, also very detailed
- Education, including GPAs
- Certifications and achievements, with dates and other details
- Volunteer experience and community service
- For veterans, military experience, with full details including veterans’ preference
In the heart of the resume, you write a paragraph on each competency, casting it as an accomplishment story. “You relate each of your accomplishments to the responsibilities you would have at the FBI,” says Lisa.
Candidates for FBI special agent are rated on these competencies:
- Analytic thinking
- Interpersonal ability
- Organizing and planning
- Flexibility and adaptability
Recognizing the multifaceted challenge of preparing the FBI Special Agent resume, Matt decided to seek the counsel of The Resume Place, where he connected with Lisa.
“Matt is the type of person who would put himself out there to protect his people,” says Lisa. Given his considerable skills and achievements in the Marines, Lisa was confident that Matt would make a strong candidate for FBI Special Agent – if he could get the resume right.
The draft resume that Matt had prepared on his own described his accomplishments in very generic terms. “But the FBI resume must be very detailed; for example, where the candidate’s training is described, they want the dates, credit hours earned, and where the training was conducted,” Lisa says. “So I said to Matt, these broad descriptions are not going to work, they’re looking for specific situations where you’ve used leadership skills.”
Lisa guided Matt through a process that would reveal and express Matt’s specific experiences in support of his claims of competency in key areas for the FBI Special Agent role.
The result? In Matt’s original resume, for example, the Leadership section began: “As a noncommissioned officer, corporal of Marines, my mission was to ensure the overall success of any task and that my Marines were motivated in doing so….”
In Matt’s new resume, rewritten with Lisa, the Leadership section is much more specific and to the point. It starts: “Managed and motivated Marines to complete work assignments. Supervised the use and maintenance of a $3 million light armored vehicle and personnel who utilized it….”
THE FEDERAL RESUME “JOB BLOCKS” SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS:
PROFESSIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE
Financial Manager, February 2014 – Present
ABC Company, Washington, DC
Salary: $70,000 per year
Job Type: 40 hours per week, Full-Time
Supervisor: Jane Dane, (012) 345-6789
Provide your description of duties, and identify your major roles, responsibilities and accomplishments;
For Special Agent Applicants only – All Special Agents will be evaluated on written descriptions of situations in which the candidate’s actions demonstrate each competency listed below. Please ensure that these competencies can be identified in this section of your resume.
For the definitions of the FBI Core Competencies, click here.
- Interpersonal Ability
- Organizing and Planning
- Problem Solving/Judgment
Her are two examples of competency stories from Matt’s before-and-after resumes.
LEADERSHIP – Before: too generic, After: specific example!
Flexibility / Adaptability: The un-spoken motto of the Marine Corps is Semper Gumby “Always Flexible”. While in transit to the Middle East for deployment, I had to be prepared for any hiccups that may arise. After flying out from North Carolina, my company landed in various airports where we had an un-certain amount of time before we would fly again. This was not because my command didn’t know, but because it wasn’t vital for junior Marines to know. I had to gain the mindset that I either had 10 minutes or 10 hours before orders were given. When I eventually landed in the country of Kyrgyzstan, I was told that it would be a week or so before we would travel to our destination. I took the time to use the base’s gym where I could stay occupied and maintain my fitness. It was a relaxed environment, as to give the Marines a chance to stay stress free while in transit. I had the chance to explore the base with fellow Marines, workout, call home, and stay rested when our travel date arrived. A week and a half went by without further information so I continued in my daily routine of exercise, eating full meals, and staying rested. I had no choice but to stay flexible, so I embraced it. When the day came for my company to fly out, I was prepared and glad that I didn’t sit around to wait for the news.
Flexibility / Adaptability: When deployed, I often chose to be the first man in a patrol because I knew I had the attention to detail to detect dangerous situations. In one situation, I was sweeping for metallic objects when my metal detector beeped. I halted the patrol and alerted them to a possible improvised explosive device (IED). The Marine behind me verified that there were wires planted on the walkway. As a result of finding the IED, we had to alter our plans. A routine combat patrol turned into an overnight security operation where we set up a perimeter around the IED. Because of my training, I could adapt to the new plan for our patrol.
I often relate to the saying, “the loudest person in the room is also the weakest”. No one wants to work with someone who is cocky and does not ask the opinions of others. I pride myself on listening first before I speak and it is necessary to remain humble when working with others so that all options can be reviewed. Interacting with other platoons and other leaders was part of my daily life and being able to communicate in a professional way leads to mission success. You have to remember who you are representing and that the outcome reflects on you.
I regularly partnered with other platoons and their leaders during training and tactical situations to monitor radio frequencies and maintain radio checks that guaranteed constant communication. During one deployment, I spent a week helping another platoon search vehicles and personnel. Though the personnel in the other platoon were of higher rank, I gained their trust and respect. As a result, a sergeant from the platoon later had me transferred to his platoon following the end of the deployment. He mentored and trained me, which led to my promotion to Corporal.
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