It may not be a law, but keeping your resume to a maximum of two pages is a best practice of modern resume writing. For individuals who work in law enforcement, this task can sometimes seem impossible. Although many of the same writing tips apply for a police officer’s resume, and the same formatting strategies are available for you to leverage when presenting your law enforcement career, length of service and the number of assignments you’ve had can make creating a two-page resume very difficult.
The good news is that many law enforcement agencies do not put as much emphasis on the length of a police officer’s resume as businesses in the private sector. In fact, it shouldn’t be surprising at all that most police departments are far more interested in collecting all of the facts about a candidate. This means you can breathe a sigh of relief if you were stressing about how to fit a 30-year law enforcement career onto two pages.
Just because length doesn’t need to be your primary concern doesn’t mean that you can let yourself ramble on or include a lot of “fluff” and “filler” on your resume. On the contrary, you still must exercise discipline and treat your resume as a marketing piece—keep the reader interested and get as much information across in as little space as possible.
However, there are a few common elements of a law enforcement career that can make this difficult. It’s not uncommon for police officers to serve in a number of different capacities, which has the potential to generate confusion if not presented clearly on the resume. An exhaustive list of police officer training can also pose problems when it comes to minimizing length and maximizing readability on a resume. Similarly, participation in professional affiliations and community organizations can become challenging to include if there are numerous items and roles to cover. Read on to learn about best practices and strategies for each of these police officer resume problems.
Members of larger departments are often selected for wide-ranging projects—from undercover investigations to community policing initiatives—while officers at smaller departments may need to wear numerous hats due to the reduced workforce. Whichever situation applies to you, the most important thing to keep in mind is to strive for clarity when presenting your previous experience.
The best strategy for highlighting a number of different roles with the same organization is called the “umbrella” format. Not only does this approach save space by eliminating the need to list an employer multiple times, but it also groups positions in a logical format that demonstrates career advancement.
Police officer training is a critical element of any force, and specific credentials may be prerequisites for senior positions, but displaying this information on a law enforcement resume can take up a lot of valuable space. Depending upon how many different training courses you need to highlight, you may choose to only include recent professional development (from the last five years) or you may decide that every class you have completed deserves to be included on your police officer’s resume.
Regardless of whether you choose to identify all of your police officer training or a specific selection, there are a few tactics that can be employed to make better use of the space available to highlight the education you’ve received throughout your law enforcement career.
For instance, you can go the traditional route and list your training courses along with the sponsoring organization, location, and year:
Or, if you completed all of your professional development with the same organization, you may decide to lump these classes together to avoid repetition:
If space is really tight, you may even need to include multiple police officer training courses on the same line. This can be done by utilizing symbols to separate the individual classes:
The higher up the chain you go in your law enforcement career, the more important your professional affiliations and community involvement become. Senior leadership for larger metropolitan policing organizations are fully expected to act as liaisons with the general public and top-ranking personnel for smaller departments are required to bridge the gap between their police forces and the citizens they protect and serve. Needless to say, the individuals who hold roles such as sheriff or police chief are literally the faces of their law enforcement agencies and, as such, they must have a significant presence within the local community.
Displaying the details about the organizations you’re involved in and the capacities in which you serve the public outside of your law enforcement responsibilities can pose similar police officer resume problems as presenting training. If you participate in many extracurricular groups, you may find yourself dedicating a significant amount of space to this information. As shown above, however, there are formatting strategies that can be used to minimize the space needed for your affiliations and volunteerism.
The most traditional way of presenting this information is by simply listing each organization on a single line:
If you’ve held any leadership positions, you’ll want to be sure to tout that experience:
Highlighting membership in a few groups can only take one or two lines:
Similar to the approach used for professional development, if space is at a premium, you may choose to list numerous organizations on as few lines as possible by using symbols to separate them:
No matter where you are in your law enforcement career, whether you’ve held numerous roles, completed dozens of police officer training courses, or maintained active involvement in multiple organizations, there are no police officer resume problems that can’t be solved with a little bit of creativity. Although writing a law enforcement resume is a bit different than resumes for the private sector, many of the same basic principles apply.
If you would like to learn more about resume writing in general, read up on the key elements of a modern resume (the title and summary, core competencies, professional experience, and supplemental sections), or find out about common mistakes and pitfalls that can sabotage your resume.
To view a resume sample created by the iHire team, visit the iHireLawEnforcement Resume Services page.