Skip to main content

Tips for Creating a Federal Resume

A resume is your ticket to a job.  It must do two things; qualify you for a job, and impress a hiring manager enough to offer you an interview.

In general there are two types/usages of resumes:

  1. A private sector resume is typically limited to two pages, with concise information and plain language.  It includes bullet formatting that provides a brief synopsis of your work history.  This resume is preferred by many organizations that may not take or have the time to review a long comprehensive resume.  Recruiters may tell you that they prefer a private sector resume.  This type of resume is more commonly used when attending career fairs with no or very few federal agencies participating at the event.  Additionally, a private sector resume is popular with resume writing classes that are offered, many times at job fairs.  When competing for a federal job, a private sector resume limits your competitiveness against an applicant with a well-developed federal resume.
  2. A federal resume is typically several pages long with a high-level of detail and government keywords that demonstrates what knowledge, skills, and abilities you possess that align with the requirements listed in a federal job vacancy announcement.  This type of resume is more difficult to create and includes sentence and paragraph structure.  It requires you to read the job announcement closely to ensure the government keywords are included and addressed in your resume.

If you have multiple skills, it is advantageous to create more than one resume on

General information on how to enhance your federal resume:

  1. The easier a resume is to read and the more focused it is on the job vacancy requirements, the faster it is for human resources (HR) staff and hiring managers to evaluate and determine if you qualify for a position.  Remember to include the month and year of previous employment when listing your employment history.
  2. You should focus your qualifications on the knowledge, skills, and abilities and job requirements listed in the vacancy announcement and provide your professional background as it relates to the needs of the federal agency.
  3. Use titles or headings that match language found in the job announcement.  In the federal application process, a “one resume fits all” approach is not appropriate.  Employers often make quick decisions while scanning resumes.  Furthermore, your resume should highlight the most important and relevant information about your experiences, skills, and education that relate to the job.
  4. It is important to “civilianize” your resume while effectively communicating your military skills and education.  HR staff and hiring managers often have little or no experience in the military and may not be familiar with common military language.  Moreover, many standard military acronyms are also not understood and you should limit its use whenever possible.  Have someone who has no military experience read your resume, and if they have questions or do not understand something you have listed, chances are HR staff and hiring managers will have the same questions.
  5. Using numbers, statistics, and quantifiable data to describe achievements and skill sets can improve how well you compete for a position.  If you can demonstrate that you have saved an organization money, streamlined a process to increase production, or improved efficiencies in an operation, it is easier for a hiring manager to favorably rank you against other applicants.  Additionally, it enhances your resume when you can highlight significant accomplishments or show the impact you have had in a previous occupation.
  6. It is a common practice in the military, especially on evaluation or fitness reports, to make a list of the duties you perform and to use words such as responsible, assist, coordinate, etc.  However, consider using the power words and active verbs below to describe your accomplishments to convey your skills:













7. Creating a federal resume can become more difficult if you have multiple skill sets that you need to exhibit.  To help develop your resume, research multiple federal job announcements that you believe you are qualified to apply for, review each one from start to finish, and make sure you note all of the requirements, duties, and responsibilities of the position.  Next, highlight the key words and sentences from each announcement and use a search engine (Bing, Google, Yahoo!, etc.) to request information on the job titles listed on the announcement (Program Analyst, Program Manager, Program Specialist, etc.).  This will provide you with generic information on the types of responsibilities that are common to that job title (usually in civilian terms).  Finally, compare the words and sections that you highlighted on each job announcement and the generic list from the search engine, and see if you have a large number of those items already listed in your resume.  If those words do not appear and you possess those skills, add them to your resume.  Remember, for a federal position you are trying to create a comprehensive, well-written resume that is relevant to the job.

8. Information that should not be identified on your resume:

  • Age
  • College fraternities/sororities
  • Gender
  • Health status
  • Hobbies
  • Marital/family status
  • Photos
  • Race
  • References (use “references available upon request” to ensure they are current)
  • Religion
  • Social Security numbers
Updated February 25, 2016