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How to Fill Out a Federal Government Resume

March 09, 2023

There are several differences between private-sector resumes and federal government resumes in the United States. It’s important to be familiar with standard conventions for a federal resume to highlight how your work experience is relevant to the government position to which you are applying. By tailoring your resume to these specific standards, you establish a sense of credibility by showing that you understand the language and expectations of the federal workforce.

Some key differences to note between federal government and private industry resumes include length, detail and accomplishments:



While a private industry resume is typically one page, federal resumes often span 3-5 pages because they include more descriptive details about your experience.



Private sector resumes usually outline the potential employee's work history in bullet points, whereas resumes for federal positions require additional information regarding your past experiences. When filling out a federal government resume, job seekers should include a brief paragraph (at least four sentences) describing each major skill with specific information. Impressing the hiring manager will likely hinge on the detailed information you are able to give regarding your prior work experience.



Another reason, related to detail, that a resume for the federal government is longer than a private-sector resume, is the inclusion of accomplishments. Private industry jobs do not typically include or feature accomplishments on resumes. However, resumes for federal jobs should feature any special accomplishments received in your experience to be ranked highly in the hiring process.


The US Department of Labor offers several tips on compelling resume writing as a potential federal employee. Here are four resume tips to keep in mind for crafting a federal government resume: 


1. Specificity

You should tailor your resume to the specific position to ensure it stands out in the job search. A good federal resume for one position may not necessarily characterize how you're suited for another. Your first step should be to view the job posting carefully to understand the duties, requirements and qualifications of the position. Then, make a list of the keywords and language used in the job description. When describing your experience, use those same words and phrases in your resume to tailor it specifically to that federal work posting.


You should also refer to the job posting to gauge the amount of experience that is most relevant to the position. You don't need to include every job you’ve ever had–just the background information that is most relevant to the job requirements. One pro-tip is to have a "master resume" that includes all of your critical information and experiences, for your own reference. Then, you can choose which experiences are most relevant for different positions.


2. Format

When writing, you should also note typical expectations for the federal resume format so your application is compatible with the federal government's hiring system. Resumes for federal government jobs should follow a specific format called the USAJOBS resume format. You can access an online resume builder, such as the USAJobs resume builder, to help format your resume.


3. Content

The actual content of your federal government resume is perhaps the most important element in your job applications. While formatting and tailoring your resume will strengthen your application, your descriptions of your experience and any required qualifications you’ve received will ultimately be the information that sways a hiring team member. Some specific tips for reviewing your resume content are to use numbers to quantify your accomplishments and use plain language to ensure your achievements are clear to others (i.e., avoiding acronyms or technical jargon).  Use reverse chronological order to list your experiences (your most recent experience first), be concise and keep paragraphs short.


4. Appearance

Finally, your resume will stand out in the federal government application process if you take the time to review your grammar, spelling and overall appearance. You should always proofread your resume for grammar mistakes, and it can be a good idea to ask someone else to review it before submitting. Make sure your resume is free from errors and is easy to read. If you're uploading your resume online, be sure to preview your download to ensure your resume submission is free from any technological issues as well.


For more information on how to write an effective resume with military experience, check out our blog on "Writing a Strong Resume". Remember that a resume is a hiring manager's first impression of you. Give them a good one!