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Searching for a federal job can be a daunting task. The stringent guidelines for both the application process and the formatting of required materials, including the federal resume, can seem overwhelming to first-time applicants and seasoned professionals. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the key steps in the application process, including successfully navigating USAJOBS the official job-search website of the US government , targeting vacancy postings, and crafting an effective resume that highlights your career accomplishments while aligning with federal resume-writing best practices.
The main differences between a federal resume and a private sector resume are the length of the resume and the detail involved. While a typical resume should be no more than two pages in length, a federal resume can extend to five pages or more.
In addition, federal resumes require more details in regards to references, availability, and expanded job descriptions and accomplishments. Also, readers of your federal resume will be expecting certain stylistic attributes and exact phrasing that mirrors the language of vacancy postings on USAJOBS. In the federal job arena, there is a highly specific and expected career progression and salary roadmap referred to as the GS pay scale, ranging from GS-1 through GS Applicants are required to meet clearly defined expectations for jobs at each level, and each progressive step includes a raise in salary:.
SES roles represent executive-level positions across management and policy. These also represent the highest-level positions below presidential appointments. Each of these qualifications requires specific language that will need to be incorporated into a federal resume aimed at landing an SES job.
We will discuss this at greater length later in this guide. HR specialists who review your resume will be looking for highly specific KSA phrasing, so your resume prose must be constructed to meet expectations and qualifications. Although this might seem limiting, the advantage of one all-inclusive resource is that it can make the process of applying to positions relatively straightforward once you understand the ins and outs of the website.
In addition to hosting the vast majority of government job postings, USAJOBS also has extensive resources available regarding the nuances of jobs within the government as well as a database of terminology and FAQs to assist the federal job hunter. The first step to leveraging USAJOBS is to create an account, ensuring that you fill out all of the required information, including the profile and preference sections. Resume Builder is a feature of USAJOBS that allows the user to build components of their resume online rather than providing a full document for submission.
After you establish the specifications most important to you, it will email you jobs that match your preferences. As with a private industry resume, you want to ensure that your federal resume utilizes keywords that are prominent in the vacancy posting.
However, as mentioned previously in this guide, there are stringent parameters regarding the presentation of keywords and phrases. In a federal resume, keywords usually appear as category titles for your bullets. Highly specific verbiage aligning the federal resume with the vacancy posting is expected throughout the document. Although the description of duties can be paraphrased while maintaining important terminology, KSAs must be verbatim. Before writing the resume, review the vacancy posting and applicant questionnaire and create a list of all of the necessary verbiage and KSAs that are required for the job.
Below are excerpts from a posting for a GS level Program Manager. You can add to this list by reviewing the questionnaire that appears with the job posting:. In addition to specific phrasing of expected abilities and accomplishments, you will want to identify the KSAs that are specific to the position.
Remember, these are expected to be written verbatim in a federal resume. With your list of KSAs and duty phrases in hand, ask yourself what five high-level responsibilities describe your current role in order to define the key knowledge, skills, and abilities you apply every day and how they align with the information you obtained from the vacancy posting.
If you are making a transition from military service into civilian service, you will need to translate your experience and accomplishments to align with the language of the vacancy postings. Using the posting language and KSAs as a guide, consider how your accomplishments within the military reflect the skills and abilities required for the position.
A good starting point for this information is your performance evaluations. As with a private industry resume, a federal resume is most impactful when it is organized and highly readable. A main point of difference between the two is that while a private resume can take many forms including functional or creative, the federal resume must be in the traditional reverse-chronological order covering the last 10 years. Private sector resumes use succinct career highlights and bullets with few details, whereas federal resumes use full phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to cover the informative descriptions and extensive details that support the job qualifications.
While a private sector resume is typically limited to 2 pages, a federal resume can average anywhere from 3 pages to 7 or more.
The federal resume presentation begins with your contact information. Following this is the Career Summary which should be crafted to align your experience with the vacancy posting of interest. Also list your citizenship status, current employment status federal or private sector , the highest GS level you have obtained if applicable , and any security clearances you have.
You can also use this space to describe any high-level awards you have received or technical skills that are relevant to your desired position. Again, while the private sector resume is intentionally two pages on average, federal resumes are more expansive and inclusive of details.
Following your summary and contact information is a section of bulleted areas of expertise. Again, focus on the keywords that align your strengths and abilities with the requirements outlined in the vacancy posting. Next, outline your work experience for each agency in chronological order. As stated previously, the federal resume is a chronological document that describes your work history in terms of an outline. This means that you should outline your progression of roles within that agency and follow the timeline with a skills-based resume-writing format.
You will do this for each applicable agency. Next, use the list of duties and KSAs that you compiled from the vacancy posting as a template to describe how your career duties and accomplishments demonstrate your success in those areas. Looking at the example below, you can see how the resume entry has been customized to reflect these lists:. These should describe both what you accomplished as well as how you did it. You will go through this process with every agency within your career history, ensuring that you continue to frame your accomplishments and work history around the list of phrases and KSAs that you obtained from your review of the vacancy posting.
It is also customary to list your supervisors as references under each position in your job history. You should also specify whether the HR specialist reviewing your resume can contact them. After outlining and describing your career history in a way that aligns with your desired position, you will list additional information that is important and relevant, including education, certifications, job-related training, professional affiliations, and publications.
This is also where older employment information is listed without specific dates. Some higher-level applicants in particular in the GS and GS range have exhaustive lists of publications that would significantly lengthen the document. In this case, it is perfectly acceptable to present a selected list of representative publications. As previously discussed, SES jobs represent the highest-level federal positions second to presidential appointments.
Although the same general rules of writing a strong federal resume apply, SES jobs have more expansive requirements for application. Depending on the vacancy posting, there are three kinds of SES applications:. The same procedures apply to an SES resume as with a general federal resume, but the scope is larger and the requirements more specific.
If you have followed the general federal resume-writing practices outlined in this guide, then the process of converting to a Resume Builder-friendly format is fairly straightforward. Text styling such as italics, bolding, underlining, or bullets also do not register with Resume Builder, so these will need to be adjusted when converting your document. Additionally, you will need to remove detailed information about each position that will need to be entered manually, such as employment dates, hours worked, and pay grade.
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with helpful information regarding the complications, nuances, and time involved in creating an effective federal resume. Whether you are a private sector employee looking for government work, a military service member seeking a transition to civilian work, or a federal employee looking to advance, we invite you to speak with one of our career advancement specialists so that we can optimally position you for your next challenge.
Enter your information to request your free consultation and receive our email series on the secrets to a successful career change. Skip to content. Table of Contents. Introduction to Federal Resumes Searching for a federal job can be a daunting task. How a Federal Resume Differs From a Private Industry Resume The main differences between a federal resume and a private sector resume are the length of the resume and the detail involved.
Applicants are required to meet clearly defined expectations for jobs at each level, and each progressive step includes a raise in salary: GS-1 through GS Entry-level positions — If you have recently entered the workforce and have at least a high school diploma and a few months of work experience, you qualify for positions up to GS If you have more than a few months of general experience, you qualify for GS-3 and GS-4 levels.
Following this GS-5 and above , positions require at least 1 year of specialized experience to be considered. Graduates within a specific career field are eligible for GS-5 jobs and qualify for GS-7 if they attained certain grades, test scores, or other criteria while in college. In lieu of a degree, acceptable candidates can qualify with at least 12 months of experience at an equivalent grade level.
GS through GS Senior managers, high-level technical specialists, physicians — Positions in this range are typically reserved for top professionals holding advanced degrees. Candidates must be able to demonstrate relevant job experience.
How Do I Use It? Strategies for Writing a Successful Federal Resume Define Your Core Skills With your list of KSAs and duty phrases in hand, ask yourself what five high-level responsibilities describe your current role in order to define the key knowledge, skills, and abilities you apply every day and how they align with the information you obtained from the vacancy posting. Stylistic Rules As with private-sector resumes, some general stylistic rules apply to optimize the document: Most jobs will have four to six paragraphs, and each should represent a KSA, if possible.
Avoid exact repetition, and paraphrase when possible. Nouns are preferred, but verbs can also be used if that is the language reflecting the vacancy posting. Military, Soldier, Veteran, Marine, etc. All acronyms, except those that are obvious, should be spelled out.
This is especially important to elucidate department or industry-specific jargon. Font size and spacing should remain the same, except for paragraph spacing. Jobs more than 10 years in the past will still be listed but will be presented in the Additional Information section, with the number of years listed instead of dates.
Work Experience Next, outline your work experience for each agency in chronological order. Additional Information After outlining and describing your career history in a way that aligns with your desired position, you will list additional information that is important and relevant, including education, certifications, job-related training, professional affiliations, and publications. Depending on the vacancy posting, there are three kinds of SES applications: Traditional Method: page ECQs in the proper format, technical qualifications TQs separate, and federal resume.
Accomplishment Record: Resume and narratives responding to specific guidance for each submission. Federal Resume Sample. Your Federal Resume — The Next Step Hopefully, this guide has provided you with helpful information regarding the complications, nuances, and time involved in creating an effective federal resume. Free 1 on 1 Consultation. I accept terms and conditions. What is your current title or position level? This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.