Yeah I know, another article on resumes. But I had to write this one. You see, when I ended my time at CIA, I lounged around for a while before landing a job as a civilian recruiter for the Department of the Navy, more specifically for the Office of Naval Intelligence. I have seen a lot of resumes and application packages cross my desk, but this past week is what prompted me to write this.

In five days, I had the distinct displeasure of writing the letters ILSE across the top of no less than 10 resumes of individuals who otherwise should have been well-qualified. I will explain what ILSE stands for later, but for now, just know that the purpose of this series—yep we are taking it step by step—is to ensure that if any of you are contemplating applying for an intel job, a government job, or heck, even a job at your local market…that you give yourself the best chance to get in front of the hiring manager for an interview.

So, let’s start from the beginning. Normally, you would think that one would start with the document(s) that introduce you to the hiring manager—your resume, and we will discuss that—but there is a method to this madness that will put you in the optimal position to get to that point. OK, you go onto USAJOBS, log into your account, start perusing jobs, and then—hold on one minute—rule number one, you don’t just start “perusing” (I feel dirty just saying that word) when it comes to looking for what could possibly be a life-changing move. Just like anything else, be it getting married, starting a family, or setting out on patrol, you have to have a plan. So sit down with your pen and paper, iPad, or whatever you use, and start figuring it out.

What is it that you want to do? This is a bit more important than when you were a kid and your grandparents asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but it’s right along the same lines. The answer to your question will ultimately depend on where you are at in life—married, kids, single, divorced, retired and looking to get back into the game, military (active, reserves, about to retire)—and what you hope to do if/when you get the job. Oh and by the way, if you are married or plan on it, now would be a good time bring your spouse or future spouse in on the plan.

OK, now you have had your “come to Jesus” moment and you know what job you want to pursue. You know how to get onto USAJOBS, but do you know how to use USAJOBS? Not many do, and they prove it daily as I look through resumes. Now, that was not a dig at all at any job-seekers, it’s just the truth. And that truth has cost many jobs that, as I stated in the beginning, they would otherwise be well qualified for. Along the top of the screen are two boxes that let you choose the specific jobs or keywords for that job as well as a location (city, state, and zip code). You can choose to just enter a keyword or job and look at all jobs that contain it, as well as all areas that have vacancies. Also along the left-hand side are drop-downs to allow you to search by everything from salary to when the job announcement posts.

To continue our walkthrough of the site, I logged on myself and added the keyword “intelligence.” The results yielded a total of 267 intel-related jobs, listing 25 at a time. I will choose one to focus on: an Intelligence Specialist (0132 series) based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, grade of GG-11, and with a salary starting at $51,811 and peaking at $67,354. I click on this job and it opens up the entire announcement. I will get into more detail about the different sections of the announcement in the next part of the series, but rest assured that understanding what each section means could mean the difference between landing an interview and coming away from the process frustrated, misinformed, and likely to make the same mistakes as before, continuing the cycle.