Proposal resumes show that you have staff with relevant experience available to meet a customer’s needs.
Whether a government agency or a business, all customers want organizations proposing to support them to demonstrate that they either currently employ or can rapidly access personnel with experience directly relevant to the work to be performed.
To win, you must provide resumes of actual personnel who have demonstrated experience in the work described in the procurement. Promises that you will find and hire the personnel after contract award are not sufficient. Nor should you submit unnamed resources: Always recommend individuals by name in your bid response.
When planning and developing proposal resumes, your goal is to show the customer that your personnel are:
- Actual personnel
- Fully available as soon as the contract starts
- More qualified than personnel of any other bidding organization
1. Base staffing descriptions on the RFP.
Before any writing begins, review the RFP in its entirety to identify all RFP requirements related to personnel. As with all aspects of your proposal, resumes should speak directly to what the customer sees as critical success factors.
Determine the key staffing requirements and start early on resumes. An RFP often specifies the key positions for which resumes are required, as well as the experience and education that each key person must have. Some bidding organizations choose to submit resumes for more personnel than are required.
Although position descriptions are a good starting point for identifying resume-related requirements, they are not the only portion of an RFP that contains requirements. Review the customer’s detailed description of the work to be performed, typically called the statement of work (SOW) or performance work statement (PWS). Use the same terms the customer uses to describe staff members’ experience.
Place the key words from the SOW/PWS and the labor category that need to be covered directly in the template as a writing guideline to ensure maximal use. Key words should include processes, methodologies, and tools that the agency issuing the RFP expects the awardee to use.
For example, a resume for a labor category entitled Programmer/Analyst would need to include the titles (key words) of each SOW area that involves programming and mention all of the programming languages specified in the RFP that the programmer would use. Similarly, a Program or Contract Manager’s resume would need to include the key words related to customer interaction, status reporting, and budget control, as well as any automated management and reporting tools (such as an integrated reporting dashboard) that the Program or Contract Manager would use.
2. Write clear, results-oriented resumes.
The resume writer, not the person whose resume is being prepared, should develop the first draft of all resumes. This approach minimizes the staffing candidate’s time and maximizes writing efficiency. As needed, include queries to the candidate for missing key words and compliance-related information.
Resume content should be focused not on each person’s responsibilities and functional duties, but rather what the person accomplished in each position. For example, rather than writing that a person wrote a computer program (which describes a duty), state the name of the programming language used, the name of the system the person programmed, and what efficiencies or cost savings the organization employing the programmer gained as a result. In addition to providing measurable accomplishments, list methodologies, processes, tools, and systems the person used in each position.
Be sure to make the content compelling, ensuring every bullet or paragraph contains a customer-focused, measurable benefit. Write clearly, using short sentences. The work to be performed may be technically complex, but the language used in the resume content should be very simple.
3. Work with staffing candidates to gather and screen resume resource material.
As you and the proposal team identify the personnel for whom resumes will be submitted, contact each person to initiate the resume development process and outline the schedule for resume development and completion. Remember that the person may be unavailable to work with you during standard business hours. Be sure to note whether the person is in another time zone.
Use the corporate resume database as the starting point for content development, but be sure to ask the candidate for other materials they have that are not a part of the database, such as the person’s:
- Corporate resume. Ask the candidate to review and update it if it is more than 1 year old
- “Street resume.” The version the candidate used or uses to apply for positions if he or she has been seeking and applying for positions in the last year (This step is not applicable to long-term employees of the bidding organization.)
- Any “reuse resumes.” Versions of the candidate’s resume that may have been tailored for requirements of other proposals
- Photo and signature. If needed, request a high-resolution photo and scanned signature
Before writing, screen the resource materials gathered to ensure that the person meets the RFP requirements. Quickly review these materials to ensure that the person has the required security clearance, education, certifications, years of experience, and specific relevant experience (for example, programming experience using a required software development tool).
If an RFP requires letters of commitment or letters of intent, involve a human resources specialist to develop the required text and work with the candidates to secure signatures. Take a similar approach when the RFP requires any personally identifiable information, such as the candidate’s place of birth, to be included. Protect the bidding organization by involving a personnel specialist.
If the position requires a security clearance, provide the clearance level at the top, alongside the person’s name. Involve a facility security specialist to gather and verify the clearance information. Many personnel do not know the complete details (issuing organization and date, polygraph type) of their clearances.
If a chosen candidate does not meet all of the RFP requirements, replace that person now, rather than during the writing stage.
Have the candidate review the draft resume before the Final Document Review. After addressing the review team’s suggestions and completing any final editing and formatting, provide the candidate with the final version of the resume for review and approval. Make sure the person can be reached outside of standard business hours so you can remain on schedule. There may be substantive changes at this late stage. Keep a record of the person’s approval of the final version.
4. Use a standard, easy-to-follow template.
Your master resume template should be compliant with all RFP requirements (including the labor category, SOW and PWS titles, and any relevant attachments) and should be easy to skim and evaluate.
Set up the resume format up front, which ensures that the final resume is in the right style, font and font size, and colors.
An RFP often includes a specific per-resume or per-volume page count, font size, font setting, and margins. If not, work with the Bid or Proposal Manager to establish common expectations. If the RFP does not specify a per-resume page limit, an appropriate resume length is typically three pages, single-spaced, 12-point font.
Unless the RFP specifies a different format, structure resumes as follows:
- Clearly identify the person’s position or labor category, and include the RFP sections referenced in the internal resume template headings
- Summarize the person’s key qualifications at the top of the resume. This summary can be expanded, as space allows, into a short resume and can be used in any personnel overview tables the proposal team creates. Think of the summary as the key points of the person’s career that are most relevant to the RFP and the position the person will fulfill.
- Outline the staff member’s education, training, and certifications. If possible, provide certification numbers and the year received to prove the certification is issued by a recognized organization and remains current. Do not include certifications that are not relevant or more than 5 years old. Program Managers typically require Project Management Institute Project Management Certification. An Information Assurance Specialist typically needs to be a Certified Ethical Hacker. Programmers typically need certifications and training in specific programming languages, such as Red Hat Linux or C.
- Put the person’s education after the details of the relevant experience, rather than at the top of the resume
5. Secure the Proposal Manager’s approval throughout resume development.
Once you have identified staffing requirements, assess whether the resume-writing workload is achievable in light of the master proposal schedule. If additional resume writers are needed, pull them into the project early. Consult with the Bid or Proposal Manager to ensure the workload, writing resources, and proposal budget are aligned.
Secure the Bid or Proposal Manager’s approval of the master resume template. To minimize revisions and maximize the efficiency of the resume writing process, secure this approval before writing resume content.
Following the Bid or Proposal Manager’s approval of the master resume template, build a tailored resume template for each labor category for which you will be submitting a resume.
6. Build a corporate resume database.
Every bidding organization needs a corporate resume database. Resume writers can then search the database to identify currently employed personnel with the key skills and experience required for the proposal. One way to keep the corporate resume database up to date is to require employees to update their resumes as a part of performance reviews.
As proposal-specific resumes are created for personnel, those resumes should either be added to the corporate resume database or to a separate “resume reuse material” database.
Application in Diverse Environments
Scarce writing resources in small organizations
Many small organizations have a sole writer assigned to write resumes; some lack a corporate resume database. Writers pressed for time should focus on writing a strong summary of the candidate’s qualifications that features key words and metrics, contains a solid description of the candidate’s current job, and is compliant with any resume format requirements in the RFP.
Many personnel from whom to choose in large organizations
Large organizations, in contrast, often engage in a more deliberative process for choosing the personnel whose resumes will be submitted. Often, the bidding organization may build a team of subcontractors. In these cases, initiate resume writing as each candidate is identified, rather than waiting until the entire personnel list is complete.
Special considerations for U.S. federal procurements
U.S. federal agencies often assign the personnel volume of a proposal a large percentage of the RFP Section M evaluation criteria. Keep in mind that some agencies, including many from the U.S. Air Force, use an automated software tool to score resumes. This makes using appropriate key words particularly important.
A typical federal RFP will have no more than 25 key positions (also known as labor categories). Most often, an RFP requests 15. Sometimes, a federal RFP requires position titles and specific experience for the entire staff—which can mean as many as 500 resumes.
Use of headshots with resumes
When digital photography became readily available, many organizations began to include thumbnail-sized photos on resumes as a standard practice. In continental Europe, both suppliers and buyers prefer the use of personal photos to create a personal relationship.
In the United States, in contrast, the trend has fallen somewhat out of favor. The perception is that taking a business-appropriate, high-quality photo takes time that might be better spent on strengthening resume content. In addition, you cannot be sure that evaluators will not make judgments based on your personnel’s appearance rather than their qualifications.
Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions
Failing to tailor resumes to a proposal
Standard resumes used when applying for a job, or “street resumes,” are not the same as proposal resumes. Proposal resumes are customized to the RFP and written to respond to the customer’s needs in a concise manner. Much of the content that appears on candidates’ “street resumes” may be irrelevant to a proposal. Include only the experience and qualifications specified in the RFP.
- A resume database can help organizations easily access and update resume content
- While proposal teams should work with candidates to gather and verify resume information, a dedicated writer should draft resume content
- Proposal resumes are different from “street resumes.” Rather than listing all of a person’s work experience, they should be tailored to specific RFP requirements.
- Use a standard, compliant, easy-to-scan template to present resumes
- Resumes should emphasize accomplishments, not responsibilities