Private Industry vs. Federal Resumes: What’s the Difference in Formatting?

If you’re sending out the same resume with federal government job applications and private-sector job applications, you may be missing out on your dream job. If you’ve been applying for government jobs and not getting the results you want, it’s time to determine if your resume is costing you your chances.


Why You Can’t Use the Same Resume for Both

There are several key differences between private sector resumes and federal resumes:

1. Length
Private sector resumes are meant to be short. Recruiters may be company owners or someone working at a small Human Resources (HR) department, and they don’t have time for a long resume. With government jobs, the opposite is true. Most good federal government resumes average about four to five pages.

Federal resumes should give plenty of detail about your qualifications, skills, and education. Federal government jobs are also extremely competitive—some positions attract 100-500 applicants—which means that the federal government spends the time and effort needed to look for qualified applicants. These resumes are reviewed by HR specialists, so don’t summarize or shorten a trait that deserves an in-depth explanation.

2. Formatting 
With a private-sector resume, the goal is to communicate as much information as quickly as possible. You want your resume to be eye-catching as well as easy to scan. For this reason, you’ll generally create a resume with lots of shorter bullet points. Depending on your industry, you might also include some innovative design elements when formatting your resume.

With a government job resume, you want to communicate with as much depth as possible with your resume formatting. Rather than using bullet points, you’ll want to use paragraphs of about four sentences or more to explain each position or skill that makes you qualified for the job.

3. Keywords
One of the big differences between federal resumes and private sector resumes comes down to keyword use. With federal government job resumes, you’ll want to use more keywords and place those keywords at the beginning of paragraphs. On your federal job resume, don’t disperse the keywords throughout your resume—place them at the front of specific sections or paragraphs, and capitalize keywords to make them stand out.

4. Detail
One key difference between federal and civilian resumes comes down to the level of detail involved. In a resume for a private-sector job, you might describe your duties as a pilot, for example. However, with a federal job, you’ll need to include more facts. Numbers are especially good. If you led a mission, note how many people you led. If you were chosen for a commendation or attained another accomplishment, feature it. Since these jobs are far more competitive, you will need to show specific skills and real results that will help highlight your qualifications.

Don’t Ignore the Differences

Ignoring the differences between private and federal resumes can lead to more rejections than you deserve, especially considering many applicants apply for multiple federal government jobs before getting an offer. In many cases, they’re highly qualified and only face negative results because they’re not sending in the resumes that HR specialists want to see.

Get the best results from your federal job applications by submitting a correctly formatted resume. If you need a professional to look over your resume and craft a personalized strategy for you, contact CareerProPlus. With more than two decades of experience and over 55,000 military and federal resume written, we understand how to help Veterans put their best faces forward when it comes to job applications.

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