UPDATED ON JUNE 22, 2017: Original article published on March 13, 2015.
Your resume needs to communicate your qualifications, display that you can provide immediate results, and ultimately needs to be tailored for each job you apply to. Not unlike typical targeted resumes, your federal resume should be targeted toward the specific job announcement.
Remember, this is your first and only impression; so make it count.
Your Resume Must Be Formatted Correctly
Federal resumes will be collected, stored, and sorted by Applicant Tracking software, but federal software tends to be far more strict regarding formatting. Your federal resume should have a basic format with standard font types, standard font sizes, a left-aligned and one-column design with no tables, and no graphics whatsoever.
Unlike typical targeted resumes, your federal resume has no page length limitations; In fact, they are typically 5-7+ pages long. Your federal resume likely is short on critical information if it is less than five pages.
Your Resume Must Target The Job Announcement
Job announcements (or the federal job postings) will include the job description of duties, qualifications, applicable evaluations, and often a questionnaire. You must meet all of the job requirements listed in the job announcement or you will not be considered. When preparing to write your federal resume, start by:
- Reviewing the job announcement and making sure you understand the requirements.
- Identifying and highlighting important keywords and phrases to include in your resume.
- Naturally integrating these keywords and phrases that reflect your personal experiences and achievements.
Your Resume Lists Your Experience First
Like typical targeted resumes, your federal resume should be in reverse chronological order listing your most recent experience first and working backwards. Include this section before a summary, list of skills, or education/training. Make sure you include both paid and unpaid experience to give federal employers a chance to consider all relevant experience.
Also avoid using acronyms. If you must use them, spell it out first and then include the acronym in parentheses.
It’s important to include both the amount of experience, the level of experience, and the achievements made within the experience. Unlike typical targeted resumes, make sure you list your daily tasks. Repetition is okay when writing a federal resume; federal employers need to know you can do the job. Describe your experience by summarizing your skills and describing your experience in a 4-6 line paragraph.
"CUSTOMER SERVICE AND CLIENT RELATIONS. Manage relationships with 25+ clients to deliver project updates and execution of timelines. Schedule internal and external meetings in support of active projects for staff and client development. Update and maintain customer and product database using Infusionsoft, providing clients with accurate and compatible information at all times."
Take advantage of former job descriptions, supervisory reviews, transcripts, course feedback, military honors, awards and recognition, and survey results to refresh your memory on tasks and contributions. You can also include leadership roles in social organizations, volunteer experiences, projects, professional/academic challenges/success, special assignments, and travel experiences if they are relevant to the job.
Your Resume Must Identify Your Achievements
Like a typical targeted resume, your federal resume should be results-oriented and highlight your achievements. When describing achievements, consider the following:
- Who was impacted?
- How significant was the impact?
- What were the cost savings?
- Did you exceed deadlines?
- Did you receive awards or recognition?
- What did you change or improve?
Your Resume Must Use Action Language
Like typical targeted resumes, it’s important to use action language to excite and engage the reader. Which statement do you find more engaging?
“Responsible for planning, executing, and coordinating special operations mountain and desert training. Served as primary instructor for all new soldiers in training.”
“Introduced, developed, and executed numerous sensitive and realistic training courses for nearly 1,500 personnel annually. Rated as the number one instructor over 20 peers on last three annual performance reports.”
Your Resume Must Include Details About Your Education
Make sure to list your degree and major, university or institution, its location, and graduation year. You’ll also want to provide your GPA, how many credits you earned, your honors, and any relevant coursework that is vital to the job position.
You’ll also want to include any job-related training, language skills, and references if prompted in the job announcement or questionnaire. Do not include any additional information that is not specifically relevant to the job you are applying for.
Your Resume May Include A Career Summary & Skills
Only after your experience will you want to include a Career Summary that highlights your knowledge, skills, and experiences as it related to the specific job. Use short sentences to paint a picture that pulls your resume together and incorporate important keywords or phrases identified in the job announcement.
A Career Summary or Skills section is not required which is why you should list your Experience section first. Federal employers are more interested in real-life examples of these skills in action than in a subjective summary.
- Use simple, not specialized, terminology
- Include your specialized experience
- Spell check everything
- Pay attention to Closing Dates, and apply early!