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Are Federal Resumes Drastically Different Than a Civilian Resume? (How To Pass USAJob System)

When you first log on to to apply for a government role, you’ll soon discover that your regular resume isn’t going to cut it. What you have likely doesn’t align with the more detailed information requirements of a federal role. So, you have to make some changes.

Those changes start by understanding the main differences between federal and civilian resumes. Once you know those differences – and why they matter – you’re in the perfect place to get a professionally written federal resume that’ll land you a government job.

Words on the image that says "What's The Difference?" "Civilian Vs. Federal Resumes

Difference 1 – The Length

While there’s some debate over the ideal length of a civilian resume – some say one page whereas others say two – the fact is that you won’t be going long when applying to the private sector.

That isn’t the case with a federal resume!

These resumes typically extend to four or five pages, with some being even longer, meaning there are more information requirements on the federal side. Beyond the basics, like your education and work experience, a federal employer will often ask for details about your security clearance and citizenship. There are even tweaks to information that you’d have in your civilian resume.

For instance, both will contain your personal details – such as your name and phone number – a federal resume will want it all. You’d likely get away with not giving your full address in a regular resume, but that’s essential information on the federal level.

In short, government employers want to know more about you, especially if they’re hiring for a sensitive position, meaning your federal resume will be longer.

Difference 2 – “Duties, Accomplishments, and Related Skills”

Both civilian and federal resumes require you to list your previous roles and provide information about the work you did in each role.

However, a federal resume usually has a section under each of your job titles where you go into further detail. Typically labeled “Duties, Accomplishments, and Related Skills,” this additional section is an invitation to provide more information about what you did in the role. So, rather than keeping the description to a couple of lines or a handful of bullets, as you’d do in a civilian resume, you get to talk more about what you actually did in the role.

This is a superb opportunity.

Use this extra section to relate your accomplishments in your prior role to the job for which you’re applying. You can write in either paragraph or bullet format, with your choice being dependent on the relevance of the prior role.

Image with laptop coffe and words that say "Federal Resume vs. Corporate Resume: Which One Is Right For You?".

Difference 3 – Keyword Usage

In a civilian resume, you’ll sprinkle keywords throughout the text to ensure that an employer’s ATS system picks up on the fact that you’ve read and understand the job description.

You’ll do the same in a federal resume with one major difference – placement.

Rather than sprinkling keywords throughout the document, focus them on headings and category titles, such as those you place above your bullet points. It’s also a good idea to place keywords at the beginning of paragraphs, rather than sprinkled throughout. The idea is to make the keyword the focus of a specific section that you cover, showcasing both your understanding of the role and your ability to explain what makes you a good fit.

Difference 4 – Additional Document Requirements

You rarely need to submit additional documents with a civilian resume.

Typically, the resume itself is enough, perhaps with a cover letter added that you use to introduce yourself and cover information that isn’t in the resume itself. Other than that, additional requirements are on a per-employer basis. Most don’t ask for more.

That’s not the case with federal resumes.

You’ll often be asked to provide supplemental information in the form of school transcripts, documents related to past military service, and contact details for any of your old supervisors. That information is all in service of the more detailed checks carried out on you by a governmental agency. Think of them as proof of the claims you make in your resume.

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Difference 5 – Specificity of Details

Let’s say that you worked as a pilot before applying for a new role.

In a civilian resume, you’ll note that you were a pilot and cover some of the basic duties you had in the role. Expansion of those duties will come at the interview stage because you’re trying to keep your resume fairly short.

That approach doesn’t work for federal resumes.

Governmental agencies run more detailed checks on their applicants, meaning they want to see more information about exactly what you did in each role. For the pilot example, that requires you to go beyond a simple list of duties and dig into numbers. Did you lead missions? If so, how many? How many people did you lead? What commendations – if any – did you receive for your work? The more specific you are with the details of your role, the greater your chances of landing a federal job ahead of the 18 million people who apply for 350,000 federal roles annually.

Difference 6 – Availability and Desired Location

Standard resumes don’t tend to include information about your availability and location. That’s all covered in the job description. If you’re applying for a part-time role in Denver, for instance, you don’t need to state your availability or location. It’s already in the job description and the employer will assume you’ve seen it.

For federal roles, you need to include this information. Note your preferred schedule, where you wish to work, and whether you’re looking for a temporary or permanent role.

Get Federal Resume Writing Right With Expert Resume Pros

The level of detail required for a federal resume often trips up those whose only experience lies in the private sector. Sadly, this sometimes results in highly qualified applicants submitting resumes that fail to showcase their skills to the degree needed to land a governmental job.

Don’t let that happen to you.

With Expert Resume Pros, you get access to a team of federal resume writing experts located in Denver that help overcome ATS software and lands you in prime position for an interview. With our 45-day interview guarantee – you get your money back if you don’t get an interview in 45 days – you can feel confident that we’ll help you to land a governmental role.

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