5 Tips for Writing a Federal Resume

Mary Barrett
February 18, 2022

Your resume is an essential part of your job search. For federal positions, having a professional federal resume is even more imperative. While you will apply for most federal jobs through USAjobs.gov, for federal employment, your resume is the most important part of your application.

However, the federal resume is one of the most challenging resumes to write effectively. From the drafting process to the format and design, everything on a federal resume is different from a private sector one.

There are a few vital facets of federal resume writing that you’ll want to know about from the very start. We’ve listed some tips and tricks below for writing your federal resume that will make it easier for you to complete this task.

Woman wearing glasses looking at laptop screen and biting pencil

1. Make Sure You Meet the Minimum Qualifications

Even before you begin to write your resume for a federal job, you need to ensure that you will be able to prove your credentials you have listed on your resume sufficiently.

Read the whole job announcement very carefully. Check the “This job is open to” and “Who may apply” sections to see the eligibility conditions or the hiring paths the job is listed for.

Once you’re sure you meet the eligibility requirements, go on to the “Qualifications” section to see whether you meet the minimum qualifications in the type of work experience, years of work experience, skills, knowledge, education, and any other sections.

2. Follow the Federal Resume Format

You’ll notice that a lot of supplementary information is required on your federal resume that’s not usually provided on a civilian resume. Here are some examples of the types of information you may be required to include on a federal resume:

  • Citizenship information
  • Security clearance
  • GS grades of your previous federal positions
  • Availability
  • Disability
  • Veteran’s preference eligibility
  • Other special hiring authority
Laptop, pen, and clipboard with bulleted paper reading my resume

Note that it’s important to follow the federal resume format to list this information on your resume.

However, don’t forget the importance of tailoring your federal resume to the position you’re applying for. Keep in mind that submitting the exact same resume for all the jobs you apply for is simply a recipe for disaster.

Use the job announcement to discover any important skills and other qualifications that should be given distinction on your federal resume.

Be sure to pay attention to the keywords related to those skills, accomplishments, certificates, and other qualifications, and incorporate those keywords in your federal resume.

Your resume will be scanned with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) before the hiring authority checks it manually, so using keywords correctly is absolutely crucial. Keywords are the magic components that will increase your chances of your resume getting through the systems.

3. Use Measurable Examples

Another important thing that you should keep in mind while writing your federal resume is the use of data and numbers to count your accomplishments. Using numbers makes your accomplishments tangible.

It is easier for those reviewing your resume to visualize the impact you have made when you add specific figures to your federal resume.

Make use of notable data and metrics whenever possible in the job experience section; education section; and Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) statements. The following extract from a federal resume experience section gives us a good example:

“Responsible for 150 new graduate medical professional students annually. Formerly responsible for ~200 New Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) recruits per year.”

Without solid data, there’s no context about the total volume of work you completed, but the numbers make your experience stronger and more notable.

Two men in dress attire shaking hands while sitting at a table

4. Make Your Specialized Experience Descriptive

Your federal resume is probably going to be much longer than a private sector resume. However, this does not mean that you have the luxury of including every single detail of your career on your federal resume.

Aside from having the flexibility of space, you’ll want to be choosy about your professional skills and past experience. It’s important to know what you should give prominence to and what you should pull back from.

The job announcement will be your guide. Write and organize the sections of your federal resume depending on the required experience and skills listed in the job announcement.

A prerequisite for several federal jobs is to have specialized experience in certain fields. If you have specialized job experience, training, or certifications that are needed for the position, be more descriptive while composing those sections.

However, you should only briefly mention any previous experience not relevant to the desired position; just a short paragraph or a handful of bullet points should do.

5. Know How to Answer the Federal Self-Assessment

More and more federal job applications use federal self-assessment questions as part of the process. The assessment can be very extensive, as it usually contains anywhere from 10 to 80 questions.

Unfortunately, many federal job applicants make the mistake of going into the application process without properly preparing for these questions.

The federal self-assessment may contain true and false or yes and no, multiple-choice, and “check all that apply” questions. Some of these questions may also ask that you rate your skills on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest rating.

Closeup of a person taking a written test

The federal self-assessment helps to sort out the applications based on job duties, responsibilities, specialized experience, and other credentials required for the position. Your answers should replicate what is listed on your resume.

Under the job requirement section, there should be a section that says, “How you will be evaluated.” In this tab, you may find a link to a sample questionnaire containing the kinds of questions you are going to be asked during the application process.

You CAN Write a Federal Resume

Writing a federal resume can be confusing and a bit of a chore. You may not get everything right the first time you try. However, with preparation, planning, and determination, everything will eventually start to fall into place.

Here’s a quick review of the tips we discussed above:

  • Make sure you can show you meet the minimum qualifications.
  • Follow the federal resume format, but be specific.
  • Use measurable examples with numbers and pertinent data.
  • Be descriptive when adding specialized experience.
  • Learn how best to fill out the federal self-assessment queries.

Hopefully, these tips will simplify your journey towards federal employment. You could even seek out a professional resume writer who focuses on federal resumes, if you need to.

If your federal resume is well put together, and you feel that you have been passed over for federal employment despite being the best qualified candidate for the job, as the result of some discriminatory practice or attitude, contact the highly experienced federal employment attorneys at Melville Johnson, P.C.

Give us a call or contact us by filling out the form below to set up your consultation today.

This blog and web site published by Melville Johnson, P.C. should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this blog or website without seeking professional counsel.
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