Federal Resume vs. Corporate Resume: Which One Is Right For You?

There are several solid benefits to working for the government.

Federal, state, and local government agencies are regarded as some of the most stable and reliable employers. Federal employment also boasts more competitive benefits such as health benefits, family leave, and flexible hours. There's also a strong sense of pride in the organizational culture, tons of opportunities for transfers and promotions, and training opportunities that are not often available at private sector companies.

Getting your “foot in the door” can be an obstacle because federal resumes are vastly different than corporate resumes.

In fact, you will quickly discover that you won’t be receiving much feedback (if any) from government agencies if you’re applying for government jobs with the same resume that you’re using to apply for corporate or private sector jobs. But what’s the difference between a federal resume and a corporate resume?

We will cover the top differences between federal resumes and corporate resumes as well as indicate how you can determine which resume is right for you.


Federal Resume vs. Corporate Resume: Which One Is Right For You? | Off The Clock Resumes


Page Length

A federal resume must be 4-5+ pages (or 3+ pages if you are a student or recent graduate) in length. While that seems daunting or maybe even impossible, keep in mind that federal resumes need to have far more detail about your experience and skills than a corporate resume. A federal resume needs to describe how you have used each Knowledge, Skill, and Ability required in the job announcement as well as your accomplishments for each job you have held.

A corporate resume is typically 1-2 pages (or sometimes 3 pages if you are are pursuing executive leadership roles) in length. Corporate resumes need to showcase your most recent skills and experiences that relate to the job you want to apply for. Instead of focusing on detail, your corporate resume should focus on job-related achievements.



A federal resume needs to show that you are minimally qualified by describing how you possess and have demonstrated the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities listed in the job announcement within each of your previous jobs. There is no leniency in this matter because the federal government has strict regulations regarding its hiring policies.

A corporate resume has far more flexibility regarding qualifications. Hiring managers will often consider candidates who possess most or even some of the qualifications if they can’t find a candidate who possesses all of them. For this reason, job seekers can focus on transferable skills when making a major career change and still stand a chance when applying for corporate jobs.



A federal resume is like a 100-point test. Your federal resume will be physically read and graded by a Human Resource Specialist at the government agency that you are applying for a job at. You will be graded on how well your federal resume demonstrates the required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities listed on the job announcement. Treat these KSAs like keywords and make them easy to find on your federal resume.

A corporate resume will first need to get through the Applicant Tracking software used by the company you are applying for a job at before it will be read by a hiring manager or Human Resources. The secret to conquering this software is to naturally integrate the right keywords, which are typically the qualifications and skills listed in the job posting, throughout your resume.


Design & Layout

A federal resume should have minimal to no design elements. A flashy federal resume is not going to help you stand out. A federal resume that is easy to visually scan and find that you are the best qualified candidate will make you stand out.

There are far more possibilities with corporate resumes. You can add conservative color to your name and headings, get creative with capitalization and other font styles, and add some design elements such as borders and spacing adjustments while staying compatible with Applicant Tracking software. As long as you’re not uploading them to job applications, you can even create graphic resumes for networking events and interviews.

Additional Information

A federal resume must have certain additional information for each job you have held for the last ten years including the company’s address, the average hours you worked per week, your supervisor’s name, and your supervisor’s phone number. A federal resume should also include additional sections that support each of the qualifications including Specialized Experience and KSAs. For example, you should include detailed volunteer experience if it demonstrates any of the qualifications or KSAs even if you have solid work experience demonstrating the qualifications and KSAs.

A corporate resume should give a snapshot of your qualifications and skills rather than provide additional information that is not directly relevant to the job you are seeking. For example, you should summarize volunteer experience if you have solid work experience or transferable experience that presents you as a qualified candidate.


Which One Is Right For Me?

You need a federal resume if the job you want to apply for is posted online at USAJOBS.gov or a government agency website. You will notice several details on a federal job announcement that you won’t find on a corporate job posting including Pay Scale and Grade, the “This job is open to” or Who May Apply section, Promotion Potential, Required Documents, and Application Questionnaire.

You need a corporate resume if the job you want to apply for is posted online on a company’s website or a general job board like Monster, Indeed, or ZipRecruiter. These job postings will provide information about the company, general duties for the job, qualifications, and how to submit an application or resume.

Stop applying for both federal and corporate jobs with the same resume, and create a federal resume that demonstrates the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities listed each job announcement.