Picture this: you’re a talented professional armed with a wealth of experience and a trusty standard resume that has served you well in the private sector. However, as you delve deeper into the federal realm, you quickly realize that it’s a whole different ball game and that you need a federal resume to play it.
Suddenly, it feels like your once-precise document is sorely inadequate. Fear not, dear reader, because the core concepts are still the same. Your federal resume—like all other comparable documents—is there to highlight your skills and experiences.
The difference is that this time around, the rules and regulations are a bit more strict. But by the time you’re done reading this article, it’ll all make perfect sense, and you’ll know how to craft a federal resume worthy of Uncle Sam’s attention. Let’s get started!
Federal resumes are different from conventional resumes in that they usually need to be much more detailed, 4–6 pages long, and often accompanied by additional documentation.
You should use the chronological resume format and make sure you’ve included contact information, resume summary, work history, and education sections.
The work experience section is generally the most important and should feature details about past employers, a description of your responsibilities, and a list of achievements.
You can stand out from the crowd by including optional sections with additional details about your skills and accomplishments.
What Is a Federal Resume?
As the name suggests, a federal resume is a specialized document designed specifically for applying to positions within the federal government. Therefore, it should feature detailed information about your skills, qualifications, and accomplishments.
However, there are certain differences from private sector resumes that make federal resumes a bit more challenging to write. These discrepancies range from length to writing guidelines and formatting requirements.
So, before we delve into the specifics of writing a federal resume, let’s check out in what ways it is different from corporate resumes.
Federal Resume Vs. Private Sector Resume
First off, there are many similarities between federal and private-sector resumes. If you have some experience writing private sector resumes, then you have a head start when it comes to learning about federal resumes. Both should follow specific formatting while featuring details about your skills, experiences, and education.
On the other hand, there are some differences to consider in the federal resume vs. regular resume comparison, which you can examine in the following table:
What is the Right Format to Use for a Federal Resume?
The best format for your federal resume is the chronological one. It showcases your work history in reverse-chronological order, putting your latest employment first. This orderly structure makes this format preferred by recruiters and hiring managers, and it’s one of the best formats to pass the ATS scan.
Other popular options include functional and combination formats.
The functional format puts your skills front and center, making it a smart pick for entry-level candidates.
The combination format has the features of both chronological and functional formats. It can be a good choice for industry veterans or those who switched careers and have transferable skills to highlight.
In addition to the format, you also want a professional layout, so here are some dilemmas you may encounter on this journey and the answers to them:
How long should a federal resume be?
As mentioned above, because of the amount of detail your federal resume should have, it should be at least four pages long. If you follow the guidelines for a conventional resume and make it one page long, you can come off as lazy and uninterested in the job.
How do I create an adequate layout?
A federal resume is a business document, so you should treat it as such. That means you need a strong layout with a professional font with 10–12 pt size, 1-inch margins, and 1.0-line spacing. To keep it clean, avoid adding unnecessary colors and graphics—simple black text on a white background will do fine.
Should I use a template for my federal resume?
Due to its length and complexity, we highly recommend you use our federal resume builder. It will significantly cut your writing time while ensuring you’ve included every important detail in the optimal order. Whether you need an entry-level federal resume template or a senior one, we have it all, along with a number of customization options and user-friendly features.
Federal Resume Contents
All the information in your federal resume should be split into distinct sections for easy access. Mandatory sections are:
Relevant Skills and Training
Depending on your skills and experience, as well as the position that you’re applying for, you can include additional information. You can put that information in optional sections, such as:
The more valuable details you include that are relevant to the job that you’re applying for, the higher the chances that you'll stand out among the competition.
Federal Resume Contact Information
A contact information section for a conventional resume should feature the following details:
However, when applying for a federal job, you need to include a lot more information in the header of your resume, such as:
Other Essential Information
In addition to all the essential and optional details you should add to the contact information section, here’s what not to include in your federal resume:
What Not to Include
A personal photograph or a video
Sensitive details, such as your age or date of birth, religious affiliations, marital status, etc.
On a final note, double-check the job posting before including any links to personal websites or social media profiles.
Now let’s see all that in an example:
Citizenship: U.S. Citizen
Veterans’ Preference: No
Highest GS Grade: GS-10
Security Clearance: N/A
Desired Job Type: Human Resources
Desired Location: US, Texas
Federal Resume Summary
A summary is one of the shortest yet most important sections of your federal resume. It’s the first part of your resume that recruiters are going to read, and its purpose is to grab their attention.
Recruiters often have dozens or hundreds of resumes to go through. As a result, they often skim through them until one catches their eye. That’s why you want a highly-impactful introductory paragraph that puts your key strengths forward.
Give the reader a hint of what you’re capable of, and they’ll keep reading to find out more. To achieve that, you want a brief and concise resume paragraph that has a lot of information packed into 2–4 sentences. Use that space to include the amount of experience you have, some of your most prominent skills, and a couple of notable achievements.
Check out this example of a federal resume summary:
Human Resources Generalist with more than 10 years of experience in the field seeking the role of a Human Resources Director. Past experiences include managing all aspects of performance monitoring with an 8% boost in productivity organization-wide. Adept at recruiting, scheduling, and providing training. Looking for a GS-10 to GS-11 position.
If you’re an entry-level candidate with no professional experience, you can write a resume objective instead of a resume summary. The difference is that you’d focus on highlighting your skills, motivation, and education instead of your accomplishments.
How to Write a Federal Resume Work Experience Section
The work experience section of your federal resume is the central, usually the biggest, and often the most important one. That’s the part of your resume that most accurately describes your ability to do the job. As a result, recruiters will spend most of their time examining this part of your resume.
For starters, you want to list your past jobs in reverse-chronological order. Focus on those roles that are relevant to the one that you’re applying for, and make sure to go into detail about your responsibilities and achievements.
Unlike conventional resumes, the complexity of the work experience section for federal resumes makes it a two-parter.
#1. Essential Information About Past Jobs and Employers
For each previous job, you want to start with the following details:
Important Details to Include
Employer name and location
Dates of employment
Working hours per week
Supervisor and their contact information
Whether it’s OK to contact your supervisor
Here’s what that looks like in practice:
Human Resources Manager
U.S. Department of Labor
Pay Grade: GS-10
Average Hours Per Week: 40
Supervisor: Laurel Lambert (559-361-5217)
Yes, you may contact the supervisor.
#2. Describe Your Responsibilities
Once you’ve included the essentials, you want to give an in-depth description of all the responsibilities that you had within the role, along with a couple of your most impressive accomplishments. If you had multiple jobs for the same employer, you should emphasize each role and write separate descriptions for each.
Check out the following example of a well-written part about responsibilities:
Oversaw personnel operations within the Department of Labor (DOL). Handled recruitment processes, conducted candidate screenings, coordinated interviews and assessments, collaborated with hiring managers to define staffing needs, and more. Responsible for leading employee relations initiatives, developing performance management systems, and contributing to organizational effectiveness and workforce planning, resulting in an 11% increase in performance and a 9% increase in employee satisfaction.
Now let’s compare that to an incorrect example, which, while sufficient for a regular resume, is inadequate for a federal resume:
Led a company-wide talent acquisition and recruitment process for 2 years that resulted in more than 50 new full-time hires.
#3. List Your Achievements and Results Obtained
The final part of the work experience section involves listing notable results and achievements in the form of bullet lists. This is where you want to focus on concrete and prominent accomplishments that show you’re more than someone who handles basic responsibilities.
This part gives you one of the best chances to stand out among the crowd—especially since many candidates blandly talk about their everyday tasks and regular activities. By including an information-packed collection of outstanding achievements, you’ll show that you’re a competent candidate who excels at their work.
Let’s check out an example of a well-written bullet point:
Led a company-wide talent acquisition and recruitment process for 2 years that resulted in more than 50 new full-time hires.
Here are a few tips that can help you make your achievements pop:
Achievement Section Tips
Having at least 4–6 bullet points for each previous job is the sweet spot.
Use numbers and percentages to quantify your achievements, give them measurable value, and make them concrete.
Take advantage of memorable action verbs and power words to make the whole section pop.
Federal Resume Education Section
The education section of your federal resume is a simple one. It’s often enough to briefly list these details:
College name and location
Years attended (or semesters completed)
This is what that looks like in practice:
Bachelor of Arts in Human Resource Management
University of Texas, Austin, TX 78705, United States
Major: Human Resources
Minor: Organizational Psychology
You should pay attention to the requirements in the job advertisement, as you might be required to include information about your high school or GED as well. Moreover, you can include additional impressive details in your education section, such as a high GPA, extracurricular activities, relevant coursework, and more.
Federal Resume Optional Sections
The purpose of your federal resume is to single you out as the best possible candidate for the job. One of the easiest ways to achieve that is to include valuable bonus information in your resume through optional sections.
As long as the added details are relevant to the position you’re applying for, you should consider some of the following sections:
Awards represent substantial recognition of achievements. They demonstrate that your work has been acknowledged and appreciated by peers. Moreover, listing notable awards on your federal resume is a great way to highlight your knowledge and capabilities.
Certifications represent proof of a certain level of knowledge and expertise in a particular area. For some positions, they may also be a mandatory part of the job application. Additionally, certifications add credibility to your skills and diligence.
Language skills are particularly important in federal roles that involve international relations, such as diplomacy or translation, and can also be required by the job ad. Moreover, federal agencies are increasingly recognizing the importance of linguistic diversity, making these skills invaluable on a federal resume.
Projects allow you to showcase relevant experience and highlight your problem-solving and analytical skills. This section is all the more important for entry-level candidates with no work history. They can emphasize personal projects to show how they put their knowledge to practical use.
Professional associations give candidates opportunities to network and develop professionally. By adding them to your federal resume, you can also indicate collaboration and leadership tendencies.
Volunteer work emphasizes a candidate’s dedication to community involvement and public service. It also shows initiative and proactivity.
Relevant skills and training can show that you meet the job requirements, demonstrate your competency and expertise, indicate your efficiency, and more.
Additional Documents to Submit With Your Federal Resume
It’s not uncommon to be required to submit additional documents with your federal resume. Pay close attention to the job description, as missing any of them can result in instant disqualification.
Some additional documents to include with your federal resume are:
Additional Documents to Incude
Expert Tips for Creating a Federal Resume
Before we bring this comprehensive article about writing a federal resume to a conclusion, let’s check out a couple of final expert tips:
You can always find a random Word template for a federal resume online that can help you speed up the writing process. Still, you should use it cautiously and double-check if it has all the necessary sections. Ultimately, we still recommend you use our resume builder and submit a PDF example of your federal resume.
You shouldn’t leave anything up to assumptions. Don’t leave hiring managers guessing how many hours you worked per week, what your tasks and assignments were, whether you have necessary certifications, and more. You want to be as thorough and descriptive as possible.
You should never lie on your federal resume. On the one hand, you shouldn’t overestimate your skills and accomplishments. On the other, you don’t want to be overly modest and diminish your competence.
As you embark on the quest to conquer the federal job market, keep in mind that perseverance is key. The road ahead may be challenging, but now you have the right tools and knowledge for it.
We hope this article helped you hone your skills in deciphering the complex federal hiring process. You know the power of tailoring your resume and meeting all the requirements; you’ve learned how to strategically utilize keywords; and you can properly demonstrate your accomplishments in ways that resonate with hiring managers.
All that stands between you and your bureaucratic greatness is one good interview. The world of federal employment awaits!