The federal government is one of America’s largest employers, with a little over 2.9 million people currently working there in some capacity. And there’s an ongoing hunt for more talented professionals who can play their part in keeping the country running.
That’s where you come in.
You’re interested in a federal role, which means you must go through a unique application process. Submitting a standard resume won’t cut it. What you submit must be tailored to the role—and formatted in the way that federal agencies like—if you’re going to get the job. With these tips, you’ll stand a better chance of getting an interview when stacked up against the thousands of people who apply for federal roles each year.
Tip 1 – Know What Not to Include
Bias is the enemy of the federal government. As a result, including anything in your resume that could be a source of bias, such as your age, marital status, religion, and any protected health information, is not advised when applying for a federal role.
That’s according to the National Institutes of Health, which also says that applicants should avoid including photographs of themselves when sending a resume or cover letters. Website links aren’t advised either – most government employees are trained not to click them because of the risk an unknown link contains.
Tip 2 – Choose an Appropriate Format
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are three formats your federal resume could take, with the best choice for you being dependent on your skills and work history:
These resumes focus on hard skills ahead of work history, though there will still be a rundown of previous roles. Still, skills are emphasized to showcase why you’re a good fit for the role even if your work history doesn’t include anything directly related to the job.
When to Use – Create this type of resume if the role for which you’re applying isn’t directly related to your past work history. It’s also a good format to choose if you’re new to the world of work or have switched positions or companies relatively frequently.
Considered by some to be the “standard” resume format, a chronological resume lists your past roles in reverse order. Starting with the most recent, you explain your entire work history and important duties conducted in each position to give a comprehensive overview of your career.
When to Use – This resume is ideal if most (or all) of your work history directly relates to the federal role for which you apply. It enables you to chart your progression through the role, with your most current position ideally highlighting that you’ve worked your way to being ready for the federal job.
By combining work history and skills, these resumes provide the most detailed overview of your career. Typically, they’re arranged in chronological format, though each work history listing will include specific skills you picked up alongside your responsibilities in the role.
When to Use – Think of this as the “middle ground” resume, as it allows you to cite jobs that may not be directly related to the role while still emphasizing useful skills you developed.
Tip 3 – Get Specific
The more specific the figures you can provide, the better your chances of landing a federal role. That’s according to USAJOBS – the government’s main application handling portal for these types of roles – which says these examples showcase your accomplishments in “concrete” terms.
For instance, avoid generic statements, such as:
“I managed a large team and oversaw a significant budget while working under tight deadlines.”
There’s very little substance to that statement because your definitions of “large,” “significant,” and “tight” and the definitions a hiring manager might have can vary. Instead, use a statement like the following:
“I managed a team of 30 people and oversaw an annual $10 million budget for work that was typically delivered under weekly deadlines.”
The specifics give this sentence much more substance and make you seem extremely impressive because of the scale of work that you undertook. The hiring manager gets more “concrete” information, too, meaning they get a better gauge of your abilities.
Tip 4 – Don’t Skimp on Details
The common practice with resumes is to keep them to between one and two pages. That makes sense in private industry – hiring managers spend an average of about seven seconds reading your resume – but it’s the wrong approach for a federal resume.
Detail is king at the federal level.
Beyond wanting to know about your skills, work history, and qualifications, a federal hiring manager needs more information about you for vetting purposes. So, your resume may include details such as security clearance or citizenship status. You’ll also add more information about the role itself, such as its identification number and the General Schedule (GS) grade assigned to it in the listing.
In some cases, federal resumes can be five or six pages long because of the extra detail required.
Write a Fantastic Federal Resume
You’ll spend more time on writing a federal resume because of the sheer volume of detail required. The four tips highlighted here get you started, but there are other aspects of federal resume writing that you need to know.
Take keywords as an example.
USAJOBS processes hundreds of thousands of applications per year, meaning you need to ensure your resume contains the appropriate keywords to pass through their ATS systems.
Expert Resume Pros Can Help Write Federal Resumes
We employ federal resume writers with at least a decade of experience to help you craft the perfect resume for a government role. When you pay to have us write a federal resume with us, we’ll guarantee you an interview within 45 days or your money back.