Federal Proposal Resumes – Hints on Preparing Winning Resumes

  |  June 27, 2019

I will never forget my experience as a young proposal writer starting work for a small business. My boss was a retired general who thought a proposal resume could be prepared in 30 minutes. So I had to hide to have enough time to get winning resumes prepared.

How Long does it take to Prepare a Winning Resume?

For those personnel who have a resume written in crayon, you can expect to spend eight to ten hours. At the other extreme you can expect to receive a resume that is already close to RFP specifications one in 20 times, and these resumes can be edited in two hours. For the average resume, you normally need 4 to 6 hours to maximize evaluation points.

The principle task of the proposal writer is to edit the resume in a way that is highly responsive to RFP requirements. In many cases, resumes are written to a description for the position in the RFP.  In other cases, however, there is no position description, and it is necessary to infer what the position requirements are. If the proposal writers don’t have the experience to know what the position requirements should be, it will be necessary for a person from HR or line operations to sketch in the requirements.

Resume Format

A uniform format used in proposal resumes helps to standardize the process both of producing and evaluating the resumes. Although some solicitations will specify a resume format, many do not. It is therefore incumbent on each company to develop a format suitable for their proposal requirements. Most resumes for technical personnel will have the traditional sections such as summary paragraph, education, and jobs starting with the most recent, as well as sections citing specific Hardware and Software experience. However, style of pagination varies widely and can be adapted to suit the needs of each company.

How to make the Resume Score High

The fundamental job of the resume writer is to conclusively demonstrate that the canidate is well qualified for the position. For even the most time-constrained proposal, the writer should rewrite the introductory paragraph, focusing on the requirements and the evaluation factors. By organizing the resume to follow the evaluation factors, it will highlight any deficiencies of the proposed person – allowing the bidder to get more up-to-date information from the person or to substitute a better candidate. The resume writer should also address the RFP requirements in the individual jobs held by the proposed person, because this greatly enhances the scoring potential of the resume.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the position description is limited to four requirements: A, B, C, and D. When recasting the introductory paragraph, the writer throws out unrelated material and focuses on the relationship between the person’s career and the four requirements. For example, the writer could say, “Mr. Jones has 20 years of professional experience including 4 years of A, 5 years of B, 7 years of C, and 4 years of D.”  His experience in A includes … and so on. When time permits, the writer also needs to systematically address A, B, C, and D in every past job the person has held in as far as honestly possible to do so.  Using this approach lets the person preparing the resumes systematically ensure there is strong evidence the proposed person is well qualified.  Additionally, this approach also makes it easy for government evaluators to document their decisions to provide a high score.

In order to ensure that the resume completely addresses the requirements, it may be helpful for the writer to create a matrix. In the matrix, the writer develops a plan of how each requirement in the specification will be folded into every possible paragraph in the proposal resume. It is sometimes the case that a lazy proposal writer will work on a resume using the genuflection approach. I mean spending a limited amount of time in lightly salting an existing resume with a few details pertinent to the RFP. This approach is sometimes necessary when the time has expired. However, no company that wants to win contracts would choose to use this method of formatting a resume.

Who will Write the Resume?

A key question: Who will write the resume? Will it be the technical proposal writer, the person being proposed, or a combination of the two? The most cost-effective approach may be to have the owner of the resume prepare the first draft response to the specification. This approach costs less in terms of proposal budget. However, it requires a longer lead time and more of a coordination effort to accomplish. Additionally, some personnel cannot or will not prepare written input or do not have the time to do so. At the other extreme, the technical proposal writer can do an excellent job of formatting a resume by obtaining the candidate’s existing resume and filling in the facts through interviewing. Many groups will use a combination of approaches, with the good writers doing their own resumes and with the proposal writers doing most of the work for the personnel who can’t write.

Problems with Lack of Qualifications

Every writer is confronted with problems caused by personnel who lack some of the required qualifications. For example, the specification may require a B.S. degree, and the candidate does not have a B.S. degree. In cases in which personnel do not possess a credential such as a degree, it is sometimes possible to substitute. For example, federal standards commonly allow personnel to substitute two years of professional experience for one year of education. Therefore, if the candidate lacks two years on his degree but has four extra years of experience, you can write in the education section, “B.S. (equiv.). Furthermore, some writers will resort to the practice of “weasel wording” when confronted with a qualifications problem. In this case, weasel wording means carefully choosing words to obscure the deficiency, while being careful to not outright lie.  When confronted with an opportunity to “weasel word,” the first line of defense is to find a more qualified candidate. Weasel wording is the last resort and should not be used except in extreme circumstances.

The importance of having responsive, well-formatted resumes in a proposal is critical.  Without them, the bidder probably cannot win the contract.  So upper level management needs to just bite the bullet and budget the hours necessary to prepare winning resumes.

Don’t wait until the last minute to secure resume-writing support: to do so may put you in a position where the best talent is scarce or non-existent.


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