Building Your Resume with USAJobs

by Barbara Adams, CPRW, CEIP, MFRW, MMRW, MFCA/T

What Is USAJobs?

USAJobs is the federal official employment site. It’s a job board designed for U.S. government agencies across the country and around the world. It connects qualified applicants to more than 500 agencies and organizations, posting more than 20,000 job openings every day in over 147 countries. When you establish an account, USAJobs provides a secure online environment to access and apply for these opportunities.

As the federal government’s official source for job listings, application information, and employment opportunities, USAJobs has attracted more than 17 million applicants since its inception.
USAJobs 3.1 screens applicants’ responses to questionnaires found in most vacancy announcements in support of the level of experience you claim for specified questions. This step and your responses will determine if you qualify for the specific position. The responses to these questions and your experience, skills, education, training and accomplishments must be specified throughout your USAJobs resume.

The USAJobs online Federal Resume Builder has its own limitations and requirements. That means your information on USAJobs resumes must meet the required format, keyword criteria and characters permitted. USAJobs hosts many thousands of job applications for a variety of federal job openings in the U.S. and around the world.

Online formats tend to be restrictive and each has different format requirements. If not written correctly with the required USAJobs resume format, your application may end up being automatically rejected. This is why it’s incredibly important to learn how to write a resume for USAJobs correctly.

Let Us Write Your USAJobs Resume Correctly

Why is a USAJobs Resume is Important?

USAJobs announcements often attract dozens—and sometimes hundreds—of applicants. The USAJobs application process is designed to weed out candidates who cannot follow precise instructions and who don’t present experience that qualifies them for the position. Your application and your resume need to be crafted to clear this first hurdle.

The application process includes questions that address your level of experience. The catch is that your answers to those questions have to be supported by the body of your USAJobs resume. It’s important that your resume is crafted in such a way that it backs up your responses and presents to the hiring agency a highly knowledgeable and skilled candidate. It’s all too easy for otherwise qualified candidates to make simple errors or omissions and accidentally eliminate themselves from consideration early in the hiring process. As the leading USAJobs resume writing service in the industry, CareerProPlus can help you develop the application package that will get your federal resume seen and reviewed.

What Makes USAJobs Resumes Unique?

If you’ve worked in the private sector, you’re probably familiar with resumes that are one or two pages, but it’s different for federal government jobs. The USAJobs resume format is the most widely used style for federal hiring, and it includes much more information than you’d typically put on a corporate resume. CareerProPlus has developed a Headline Format for USAJobs resume that has been well received time and again by the Human Resources (HR) personnel of federal agencies. We are able to help you ensure the most compelling, impactful, and relevant parts of your federal resume stand out to HR when it matters most.

In addition to writing a USAJobs resume that accurately captures your experience and skills, we can also help you to flesh out and integrate the responses to the assessment questions that frequently accompany each posting, improving the chances that your application package will be reviewed.

woman with a federal resumeEncoding Specific Keywords for USAJobs Resume Database Searches

Now that USAJobs is searchable throughout all federal agencies looking for qualified candidates, it is important to build USAJobs resumes in the federal resume builder instead of uploading your resume. This will not harm your chances if you just upload your USAJobs resume as an attachment for the specific job you are applying for, but when you apply for a vacancy using the online federal resume builder it will display specific keywords in custom data base searches when other agencies are seeking job candidates with your experience.

Creating a federal resume is a very detailed process, and it is very important that you know exactly how to code or write your USAJobs resume to generate a hiring authority’s interest in you. There are a different set of keywords for every job. Sometimes building your USAJobs resume can be overwhelming because they are much more comprehensive than applying for private-sector jobs. Unfortunately there is no reference book on keywords, but if you look at the job duties and specialized skills on each vacancy announcement you will find the keywords populated within the wording.

The bottom line is that the federal government now can search resumes on the USAJobs system by job-specific keywords. If your USAJobs resume is not populated with those words, it does not have a chance of being flagged for consideration for other positions that may become available. So don’t miss the chance to have your USAJobs resume searched for other federal job opportunities.

Why You Should Tailor Your USAJobs Resume for Each Position

Have you ever noticed the way your word choice varies, depending on whether you’re talking to your current boss, your significant other, your friends, or your family? This reflects a natural human desire to connect by using the most effective language in a given situation. You should think of your federal resume the same way. It should aim to use the most targeted language possible to convey a seamless fit with the hiring organization. One of the ways you can achieve this with a USAJobs resume is to update it to meet the specific experience requirements and keywords of each job posting.

Successful applicants also incorporate elements from their federal resume into the answers on the accompanying occupational questionnaire for the vacancy. By creating a consistent connection between the resume and the accompanying questionnaire, you will be able to communicate with HR more effectively and will be more likely to earn an interview.

All USAJobs vacancy announcements should be read and interpreted prior to applying. This is essential to ensure your USAJobs resume addresses all the specialized experience and assessment questions.

Effective USAJobs Resumes for Military Veterans

For military personnel, it is important to translate complex military terminology into terms more commonly used in civilian government agencies and the private sector. This is often one of the more difficult tasks for military personnel who attempt to write their own resumes, and it is something that the professional Master Federal Resume Writers at CareerProPlus have been helping Veterans with for more than 36 years.

In addition to following the established rules and detailed instructions of a job posting, it is important to ensure that the resume immediately communicates your eligibility. To help address this, we developed our signature Headline Format back in 1995, when the federal government phased out its Application for Federal Employment form (also known as the SF-171). This Headline Format has proven popular with federal HR offices because it places desired keywords at the beginning of each paragraph, allowing HR professionals to quickly and easily locate specialized experience and other requirements related to each U.S. government job vacancy announcement.


Keeping Your USAJobs Resumes in the System and Up-to-Date

You can upload as many as five USAJobs resumes and keep them in your account for as long as you need them.

Of course, everything changes over time, and that includes the USAJobs system—sometimes without warning. This can render earlier resumes unsuitable for further use. Since successful candidates aren’t just well qualified but also well prepared, we recommend periodically connecting with a career coach to ensure that your USAJobs resume and credentials are up-to-date. Professional career coaches help focus applicants toward the opportunities that make the most of their training, experience, skills, and competencies. That’s why well-coached job applicants who have taken the time to receive the necessary training are often better positioned to secure a federal job than candidates with similar qualifications.

Do All Federal Agencies Use USAJobs?

An overwhelming majority of federal agencies use USAJobs. While some positions periodically get filled without being listed on the site, USAJobs is by far the best opportunity for most applicants to find and apply for federal government jobs. If you are seeking a certain position, or a position in a certain agency, our career coaches will work with you to devise a strategy that maximizes your visibility and competitiveness for your desired job.

Why is Federal Hiring Automated?

As a skilled individual with leadership experience, you know how important personality, attitude, and work ethic are to a successful career. While federal agencies also understand this, there are over 2 million full-time federal employees.

The U.S. government is actually the largest employer in the country. That means the sheer number of entries in the USAJobs application system makes it nearly impossible for all federal resumes to undergo a manual review.

This is why the federal employment process has been partially automated, streamlining the process to select only the USAJobs resumes that most closely match the qualifications requirements for a given position.

Who Can Use USAJobs?

USAJobs is a federal government job board available to any U.S. citizen. It provides tremendous opportunities for those already in the federal system to move up the ladder.

And if you’re interested in starting a career with the federal government, this is the first stop to make in your search. CareerProPlus can help you with your military-to-federal resumes or civilian federal resumes.

How Can USAJobs Help Me?

If you’re looking to improve the breadth of your job search, then USAJobs is the place to start. Here are just a few ways using USAJobs can help you with the next step in your career:

  • It can act as a resume and document repository, with the ability to keep up to five uploaded resumes in your account and ready for action.
  • You can perform an advanced search using keywords, location, or job category. You can even search by agency.
  • You can set up customized job alerts and other notifications by setting USAJobs to run job searches automatically and send you results via email daily, weekly, or monthly.
  • USAJobs lets you monitor your application status and see updates provided by the hiring agency.
  • USAJobs includes a comprehensive help section and provides resources such as FAQs, tutorials, and best practices for using the site.
  • USAJobs maintains a social media presence, so you can follow or like USAJobs on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and YouTube for the absolute latest.

How Do I Get Started With USAJobs?

The only requirement to establish a USAJobs account is a valid email. Simply click on “Create an Account” and follow the steps to complete the process. Once registered, you can complete your profile, build a resume, or upload an existing resume in a variety of compatible formats, including Word documents and PDF. The important thing to remember is that USAJobs requires a specific format for submission and has restrictive character counts in different parts of the resume.

You can begin your job search immediately upon registration using a variety of criteria, including agency name, job type, location, and even desired salary. Remember that thousands of new jobs are added to the USAJobs website every day!

What Else Should I Know About USAJobs?

The process of applying for a federal position on USAJobs can sometimes be a bit daunting, from understanding the terms used at various agencies to knowing exactly how the application process works; it can be very different from agency to agency and sometimes only slight changes can affect how you submit your resume and application. Keywords and accomplishments are also critical to building an effective resume for USAJobs.

It’s generally not a good idea to submit any old resume you have lying around to USAJobs. There is a specific format for a USAJobs resume that has proven to be most effective. If you aren’t sure how to proceed confidently, then it may be worth considering the services of a professional Master Federal Resume Writer™. CareerProPlus has mastered the fine art of the USAJobs resume—including through the use of our “secret weapon.”

If you’d like to deploy this secret weapon but aren’t sure where to begin, you can get started right here.

Get Started With Your Resume

(Source: USAJobs Help Center)

Barbara Adams, President and CEO of CareerPro Global (CPG), has been a member of the careers community for the past 25 years. Ms. Adams holds five prestigious industry certifications. CareerPro Global is the only ISO 9001-2008 Certified Career Service in the industry, as well as one of the fastest-growing Military, Federal, and Civilian Resume-Writing and Careers-Coaching companies. The team of Certified Professional Federal and Military Resume Writers at CPG assist thousands of clients in applying for and gaining employment each year. We can help you land your military to civilian job.

Learn More About Federal Government Jobs & Resumes

Page Updated May 26, 2022

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