Federal resume tips

Federal resume tips

Federal resume tips

Learn the steps to write a resume that meets the particulars of federal job applications.

Get started with the USAJOBS Resume Builder

USAJOBS Resume Builder is formatted to ensure that you include all the information required by federal agencies for your application. USAJOBS also allows you to upload your own document to your account.

Get more information and a tutorial on the USAJOBS Resume Builder.

Federal resume overview

  • This is your best marketing tool, emphasize your strengths.
  • Highlight relevant knowledge, skills, and attributes where you may not have directly relevant experience.
  • State the facts. Avoid belief or judgment statements.
  • Customize your resume to each job.
  • Focus on areas where your previous experience or education overlaps with the experience or education described in the Job Vacancy Announcement.
  • Provide sufficient detail but use concise language. Avoid information that does not add substance.
  • Use headings to guide the reader.
  • Federal resumes are typically longer than the 2-page private sector resume.

Steps for building an effective federal resume

1. Understand the job

Know the job you are applying for, and type of work you'd perform. Understand what hiring managers consider when determining whether candidates are qualified for a job.

Gather job information:

Obtain the Job Opportunity Announcement at www.USAJOBS.gov and analyze the Duties, Requirements, and Qualifications sections; the locations, security clearances, physical demands, and the organization’s website.

Pay attention to keywords:

You could be the most qualified person for a job, but be lost in a sea of applicants without the right keywords. Before starting your resume, study Job Vacancy Announcements to determine important keywords. Review several job announcements and their questions for your ideal job. Find knowledge, skills, experience, education and other credentials important in your career field.

2. Consider your qualifications

Your qualifications will be evaluated in three primary ways:

  • Your previous experience (paid and unpaid)
  • Your level of education
  • Training

So before you start writing the resume, think broadly about all of the things that might make you qualified for a job.

Look to sources such as your:

  • Job descriptions of jobs you've held previously
  • Supervisory reviews and feedback
  • Transcripts
  • Course feedback
  • Military honors
  • Awards and recognition
  • Customer acknowledgements
  • Survey results

Think outside the box and include experiences such as:

  • Leadership roles in social settings
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Projects
  • Professional/academic
  • Challenges/successes
  • Special assignments
  • Travel experiences

3. Use the USAJOBS Resume Builder

This is the preferred method since federal applications require more information than the private sector 1-2 page resume.

4. Create the basic outline and write job and personal information

Write the Job Information section and Personal Information section.

5. Write your experience

The experience section should demonstrate the quality of your experience, the complexity of work you performed, how independently you worked, the extent that your experience is related to the target job, and any outcomes, awards and recognition you received.

Write your experience clearly and simply. Make it easy to understand exactly what you did. Focus on quality and substantive content, rather than length. 

Best practices - experience section:

  • Use outline with headings
  • Show specialization
  • Include accomplishments
  • Highlight special projects
  • Use plain language
  • Focus on quality

Pitfalls to avoid - experience section:

  • Text blocks with semicolons
  • Generic task list
  • Too short/too long
  • Acronyms
  • Complex sentence structure
  • Focus on quantity

Think in terms of outlining your major work activities and then get more specific. The process is broken down into three steps:

Step 1: Outline the major work activities

Step 2: Fill in tasks and skills associated with each work activity to show what you did, keeping it simple and to the point

Step 3: Integrate accomplishments to show results

  • Who was affected as a result?
  • How significant was the impact?
  • What were the cost savings?
  • Did you exceed deadlines?
  • Did you receive awards or recognition?
  • What changed?
  • What improved?

6. Write your education section

Several considerations influence how you present your education on a resume:

  • How important is education to your career field or the target job?
  • What is the major or field of study and highest level of education required?
  • Are you a new graduate or do you have many years of work experience?
  • Is your experience closely related to the target job?
  • Is your education closely related to the target job?

If you have minimal education beyond high school:

  • Emphasize the courses completed, specialized training, on-the-job training.
  • List high school coursework that is relevant to the job.
  • List any courses completed through community college, technical or vocational schools.
  • Include education, training, professional development, or continuing education and consider organizing by topic area.

If you have some college completed:

  • Emphasize coursework completed toward a degree and number of credits completed.
  • Include honors, significant courses, major papers.
  • Consider listing other training in the education section.

If you have a college degree:

  • Emphasize your college degree.
  • Include honors, awards, scholarships, GPA, significant courses, major papers or thesis, and assistantships.
  • Separate formal education from professional development or continuing education.
  • College graduates with experience should balance education and experience. Consider what is most related to the target job.