Writing an Effective Federal Resume

Learn More About Federal Resumes

Federal Resume Requirements

All federal resumes, whether for a civilian, a transitioning military member or Veteran, or even a candidate for the Senior Executive Service, must include basic information about the applicant. This includes job history, personal and contact information, references from past employers or supervisors, and specific information about certifications, degrees, awards, special accomplishments, memberships in organizations, publications, and other characteristics that make the applicant qualified for the position.

Standard resumes normally given to private-sector hiring managers should never be submitted for a federal job. Format, length, font, content, and structure of a federal resume differ tremendously from nonfederal resumes. In fact, a standard resume submitted to a federal agency will be rejected immediately, regardless of how qualified and competent the applicant may be. A non-federal resume is just not in compliance with federal application requirements.

View Federal Resume Samples

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7 Federal Resume Tips that Produce Interviews and Jobs

Writing a great federal resume is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It involves both art and science. Art and creativity is needed to turn a dry document into something that hiring decision makers find appealing, interesting, and readable. The science is more practical. It’s the specific information that indicates your qualification for the position to both machines (applicant tracking systems) and humans. It’s the intentional and thoughtful combination of the components – the way the puzzle pieces fit together – that gets your resume read and produces interviews that lead to job offers.

Like a jigsaw, creating a standout federal job application can be complicated and time consuming. With corporate resumes, there’s pressure to pack a career’s worth of information into a cramped space – two pages of 11 point type. It’s still necessary to be concise when writing a federal resume, but the challenge involves precision more than compression. There are lots of pieces to a federal job application and they must fit together in a fashion that’s coherent and makes your unique qualifications immediately evident.

The Devil is in the Detail

Anyone who has glanced at an opening on USAJobs knows that the position descriptions found there can be lengthy, with detailed qualifications that a candidate must meet to qualify for the job.

To be considered for the position, your experience, background, and credentials must meet the prerequisites which are detailed in the vacancy announcement. You’ll have to provide the details and the process is designed to weed out applicants that can’t follow instructions and/or who don’t demonstrate that they meet the minimum qualifications. If you don’t meet the criteria and include all of the specifics that are required, your federal job application will wind up in the digital trash.

Assuming that none of the components are missed and you meet the qualifications for the position, your application undergoes a second evaluation and is rated and categorized according to how closely it meets the criteria for the position:

  1. Best Qualified – Applicants with a background that closely matches the evaluation criteria (95% – 100% match).
  2. Well Qualified – Applicants with experience that satisfactorily meets the criteria (85% – 94% match).
  3. Qualified – Applicants with the basic qualifications, general knowledge, skills, and abilities (70% – 84% match).

It’s easy to guess which category is most likely to get an interview and receive an offer, so the obvious question is how to write an interview that is likely to receive a “best qualified” rating.

7 Steps to Produce a “Best Qualified” Federal Resume

How much qualitative difference actually exists between the top 5% of candidates and the top 15% or the top 25%? Some, but it’s equally likely that extremely well-qualified candidates may fall into the lower qualification levels simply because their capabilities aren’t clearly communicated. Getting the edge in a tight competitive field may come from the way your information focuses on the key requirements and how easy you make it for decision-makers to recognize your fit for the position.

What works? Here are 7 resume tips for government jobs to help you piece together the federal resume puzzle:

1.  Read the federal job announcement, then read it again

  • Make a list of the requirements for the position. Look through the body of the position description including the overview and the job requirements. Make sure to click the accordion boxes on the right to review application and document requirements. You’ll also want to take a look at links to any application forms or questionnaires that are required as part of the application. Make a checklist and review it before submitting your government job application.

2.  Analyze the keywords

  • The keywords used in the position description are your best clue for the words that will be used for automated selection by applicant tracking systems and for what human readers will be looking for. Again, make a list. You’ll want to use the most prominent keywords in your resume and application responses.

Keywords and phrases are pretty easy to recognize, but you can also use an online platform like textalyzer.net or tagcrowd.com to confirm your selections. Keep the list nearby as you compose your federal resume. Use the keywords appropriately and avoid “keyword stuffing.” Overuse of keywords probably won’t game the ATS systems, and human readers make the final decisions about interviews and federal job offers.

3. Customize your federal resume for the position

  • While it makes sense to work from a master resume that includes descriptions and stories that you’ve developed to emphasize your experience and capabilities, you’ll want to structure a new resume for each government job application. Use the online resume builder to write each federal resume. You’ll also be able to save and recall the resumes as needed to re-customize for other positions.

4. Keep your federal resume relevant

  • Emphasize information and narratives that meet the position requirements. Leave out activities that don’t clearly relate. Few agencies specifically require knowledge, skills, and abilities statements (KSAs) as part of the resume packages, but there may be questionnaires that require the same kind of information.
  • At CareerPro Global, we typically develop “mini-KSAs” that are included in the resume and in the Additional Experience section of the USAJobs resume builder. These short narratives reinforce questionnaire responses by integrating KSA information within the body of the resume. Keep the language relevant and clear, especially if you’re making a transition from the military. Avoid acronyms, jargon, and “resume speak.”

5. Keep your federal resume concise

  • Federal resumes can run 5 pages or more, but you’ll want to keep your information concise and easy to scan. Key information should jump off the page. If a decision maker can’t scan your federal job application in 10 – 15 seconds and quickly identify your capabilities, then you’ll need to make some edits and revisions. At CareerPro Global, we use a headline format that includes keywords and highlights your specialized experience and core competencies to make sure that decision-makers can quickly understand your qualifications.

6. Emphasize accomplishments, avoid descriptions

  • Traditional job descriptions don’t convey your contributions. You’ll want to use short narratives or stories that illustrate results and achievements. CareerPro uses a CCAR format that describes challenges, context, action, and results to link descriptive narratives to the capabilities and knowledge required in the position description.

7. Submit the federal application and all of the supporting documents on time

  • Double and triple-check the USAJobs description. Make sure that you submit SF-50 forms, transcripts, and other documentation listed as requirements. Also pay attention to the closing date at the top of the description. While faxed and mailed applications may be permitted, most agencies prefer online applications; so you’ll want to submit your resume, documents, and questionnaires online unless there are specific instructions to do otherwise.

To impress hiring managers and showcase your abilities to perform a government job, you will need to tailor every aspect of your federal resume writing to the employer’s needs. However, this process is more complicated than tailoring a private-sector resume. Resumes for government positions require precise formatting, sufficient content, keyword research and additional information you wouldn’t include on a standard application. CareerProPlus utilizes the HEADLINE FORMAT that leads off each paragraph in each job and matches the experience required or keywords in the federal job vacancy announcement.

Use the following guide as a starting point in crafting your federal resume’s formatting and content.

The Federal Resume Format

Federal resumes also known as USAJobs resumes can be entered in the online builder on USAJobs.gov. Deviating from the expected federal resume format and especially the important content which is critical in demonstrating you are qualified for the job in which you are applying are the essential elements to include an applicant’s federal resume. The following categories must be populated into your federal resume to ensure compliance.

  • Name
  • Address and day and evening phone number
  • Citizenship status
  • Veteran status
  • State or federal government experience

Other federal resume elements include a specialized experience to match the job vacancy, skills, experience, keywords and core competencies. This information can be wrapped around an accomplishment or story describing how you improved quality, reduced costs, came in under budget and the result of your hard work. Every resume has job descriptions, but it’s especially important in a federal resume to showcase your accomplishments. The level of experience you display on your federal resume will equate to the general series and grade in which you qualify. Our clients advise it’s the best thing they’ve ever done by hiring a professional service who is skilled and masters in applying for federal jobs.

As mentioned above, federal resumes follow a format far more stringent than that of a private-sector application. Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you format your resume to federal standards:

  • Length: Unlike traditional resumes — which typically do not exceed two typed pages — federal resumes should be about four to six pages long. You will need these extra pages to list your formal education, training and certifications. You may need an extra page to describe your college internships, publications, public speaking, second languages and volunteer work. Some federal job vacancies specify the page limit, such as many federal agencies hiring for the Senior Executive Service (SES). Follow the USAJobs Builder online.
  • Chronological Order: Federal job resumes must be written in reverse chronological order. Most current position first and it’s not necessary to go back more than 10 years. Sometimes adding your internships and volunteer work in a job section could be beneficial if they relate to and provide experience to the job in which you are applying.
  • HEADLINE FORMAT: While your federal resume will be multiple pages long, you should still keep individual sentences and sections concise. Big blocks of content are very hard to read and most likely will not be read. Using CareerProPlus’ signature Headline Format which federal hiring authorities approve of, make it much easier to breakdown your experience and quickly read your resume to determine if you are qualified.
  • Format: Using the online USAJobs builder to populate your experience is best practices, however sometimes you can upload your resume to USAJobs.

We recommend viewing several samples of federal resumes before beginning your application to make sure you include all the required sections and format them correctly.

The Federal Resume Glossary

Learn everything you need to know about federal resumes by checking out some of these resources:

Most everyone applying for a federal job must upload their resume to USAJobs. Learn more about how to craft a federal resume for USAJobs.

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Navigating through USAJobs can be confusing. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of frequent questions and answers to help you familiarize yourself with the USAJobs interface.

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In order for your resume to be considered, you’ll need to explain why you’re qualified for the position in a certain format on your resume. Learn more about how to develop your executive core qualifications.

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The federal government has an established process to hire employees. Read more about the steps of this process and how to navigate the federal hiring landscape.

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Crafting a federal resume on your own is tough and may hurt your chances of getting hired by the federal government. Industry experts Barbara Adams and Lee Kelley have developed the perfect resource to help you write a stellar resume.

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One thing many people forget to consider is how long a federal resume should be. Read this resource to learn more about how much you need to write on your resume.

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This federal agency is hiring now; read more about the job opportunities available to you through Customs & Border Protection.

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If you have military experience, you may be eligible for special Veteran’s preference when applying for a federal position. Learn how to craft the perfect military-to-federal resume that will land interviews.

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Federal resumes are often compared to private sector resumes. Learn more about the differences between the two and what makes them unique to their application.

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A Federal Resume Writing Service Featuring Top-Caliber Writers

CareerProPlus gives you access to almost four decades of experience and a writing team holding certifications such as Master Military Resume Writer, Master Federal Resume Writer™, and Master Career Advisor. We ensure that your resume is not only well written, but also relevant to the types of jobs you are seeking. You will be assigned a dedicated Master Federal Resume Writer™ who will consult with you throughout the resume writing process. Our writers benefit from a comprehensive initial training program, ongoing refresher training, an abundance of in-house support and resources, and a skilled support network.

CareerProPlus has developed a comprehensive Quality Management System with detailed processes as part of our best practices. We’ve developed a signature Headline Format style for our federal resumes that has been welcomed by government Human Resources professionals because of the how easy it makes it for them to match candidate qualifications to job vacancy requirements.

When you choose CareerProPlus, you’ll partner with a career management service that offers:

  • The experience you need to gain access to top-level federal jobs, including Senior Executive Service positions.
  • Expertly trained federal resume writers who earn and update certifications in federal, military, and corporate resume writing and who will package and promote your skills and experience into a compelling application.
  • Federal jobs experts who know how to secure General Schedule and Senior Executive Service jobs as well as how to compete in the private sector.
  • Superior attention to detail that includes customized services such as one-on-one coaching and collaboration during the challenging federal application and interview process.
  • A free consultation and customized quote tailored to your individualized needs and career objectives.
  • Special programs for members of the military, including job coaching and training for Veterans who are unsure of how to enter the federal job marketplace.

We provide federal resume writing services for people seeking employment at all levels within the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of State, Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Internal Revenue Service, Forestry Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Social Security Administration, and all other agencies. We prepare federal resumes each and every day and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the federal hiring landscape.


Get the Interviews and Offers You Deserve

The federal resume writing service offered by CareerProPlus can provide you with the tools you need to hold your own in the highly competitive federal job market. Since 1986, CareerProPlus has proudly served candidates for jobs in both the private sector and federal government, military personnel seeking post-service employment, and current federal employees seeking a promotion or career change. Our professional federal resume writers have written more than 70,000 military, civilian, and federal resumes, resulting in many of our clients landing interviews that lead to job offers. If you’re having trouble getting through the application process, CareerProPlus can refine your federal resume and get you in the right place at the right time.

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Our Services Come With an Iron-Clad Guarantee

Our goal is to help you reach your career goals. To ensure you are completely satisfied with our professional resume writing services, we offer a 5-Point Guarantee. Our resumes are proven to succeed because they are not cookie-cutter but custom, content-rich, and strategically developed to deliver a fast return on your investment. Additionally, we offer world-class customer service, as evidenced by our 99.6% customer satisfaction rate.

Are you tired of

  • Applying for federal jobs, but never receiving interviews?
  • Wondering how to develop your federal resume and KSAs?
  • Performing in your current role, but ready to transfer to another federal agency?
  • Getting passed over for promotions because you’re not sure how to write your federal resume?
  • Wanting to apply for a federal job, and getting sidetracked by USAJobs?
  • Being “Qualified” yet never “Best Qualified”?
  • Wondering how to navigate the challenging Senior Executive Service (SES) application process?
  • Trying to launch complex career transitions only to remain stuck in your current role?
  • Never hearing back from your federal resume submission?

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Learn More About Federal Resumes

For a personalized consultation or to learn more about creating a federal resume, call CareerProPlus.com today at 833-684-1520 or click the link below.

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