6 Tips For Creating Your First Federal Resume

Whether you’re transitioning from the military or simply interested in reaping the many benefits to federal employment, your first stop in your federal job search may be USAJobs.gov. Most federal agencies will be posting their job vacancies on USAJobs, but this website is also a fantastic resource for new federal job seekers.

You’ll notice quickly that job announcements on USAJobs.gov are more in-depth than most corporate job postings, so it should come as no surprise to you that your resumes for these jobs need to be more in-depth as well.

If you have never created a federal resume before, these federal resume tips will get you started and heading in the right direction.


6 Tips For Creating Your First Federal Resume | Resume Tips from Off The Clock Resumes


1 | Don’t Use Any Resume Templates

When it comes to writing a federal resume (or any resume for that matter!), a flashy template is not what will help you stand out. The top rule of thumb when writing a federal resume is to start with a clean Microsoft Word document and focus on what you’re writing.

You won’t be trying to conquer Applicant Tracking software, but you will be trying to conquer the 100-point test that an HR Specialist will perform on your federal resume. Resume templates may distract the HR Specialist and make it more difficult to find the details they must find in your resume to move you forward in the application process.

Don’t jeopardize your chances by using a graphic resume or resume template to improve the look of your federal resume.


2 | Start With USAJobs Resume Builder

If you’re unsure which details must be included in your federal resume, start by using the USAJobs Resume Builder. While this resume builder creates a boring outline of your work history and other qualifications, it will identify which details you need and which are not required by helpful to add to your federal resume.

Once you have created a resume with USAJobs, you can download the resume as an outline to add to. You can then add more detail to your work experience (You get 2,000 characters per job… Use them!), stylize your headings, and make the document look more like a resume.


3 | Don’t Skip Any Compliance Details

This is a fatal mistake for most new federal job seekers. If you don’t use the USAJobs Resume Builder, you may skip or forget to add certain compliance details that are required for federal job applications. Some of these compliance details include the average hours you worked at each job, your salary at each job, your supervisor’s name, and his or her contact information.

These details are required on federal resumes. If you’re uncomfortable listing the average hours you worked or your salary at each job, understand that these details are used to assess your level of experience and responsibility. If you’re uncomfortable listing your supervisor’s contact information, you can (and should) also indicate whether or not he or she may be contacted. A simple yes, no, or contact me first will suffice.


4 | Organize Your Experience By Keywords

This is how you will make your resume stand out. You get 2,000 characters per job on your federal resume. It’s important that you use them to showcase that you have the minimally required Specialized Experience, Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs), and other requirements that are listed in both the Application Questionnaire and the job announcement.

Since your federal resume needs to conquer the 100-point test conducted by an HR Specialist, using the keywords found in the Application Questionnaire and job announcement to organize your experience will make the HR Specialist job easier. Simply create a short paragraph for each keyword and describe how you demonstrated that experience or KSA for each job you held.


5 | Create Stories To Showcase Achievements

Make your Specialized Experience and KSAs jump off the page by creating stories that show how you applied these experiences and skills to achieve something. Employers (especially federal employers) love measurable achievements, so do your best to quantify your achievements.

Start by answering these questions:

  • Did you increase sales, by how, much and how?

  • Did you save the company money, how much, and how?

  • Did you handle or manage money? If so, how much and how?

  • How many people did you assist on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

  • How many new customers did you secure or how many customers did you retain?

  • Did you improve customer service ratings, by how much, and how?

  • Have you improved efficiency or accuracy by creating a new process/procedure or streamlining an existing process/procedure, by how much and how?

  • How many people reported to you or did you hire, supervise, or train?


Don’t just identify your achievements. Create stories that describe what your contributions were and why your efforts were necessary.


6 | End With Your Branding Statement & Skills

Unlike a corporate resume, the first page of your federal resume needs to highlight your most recent work experience. Your Branding Statement and Skills should be listed at the end in an Additional Information section. Make sure that your Branding Statement aligns with the agency’s mission and presents the unique value you offer to employers.

Your Skills should mirror the keywords found in the job announcement and are already easy to find if you organized your experience as I advised. Instead, use your skills section to describe additional computer or equipment skills that are important for the job you’re applying for.

Never apply to a federal job announcement with the same resume you apply for corporate jobs with.