How to Create a Compelling Federal Resume

If you’ve ever thought about applying for a job in the federal government, you probably noticed right away that it’s not your standard job search. You can’t simply submit your regular resume and expect to get results. In order to pursue a career working for Uncle Sam, you need something special: a federal resume.

Standard resume vs. federal resume
There are countless ways to create the standard resume you send to private-sector employers. You can select which format you’d like to follow—chronological, functional or a hybrid—and which skills and experience you’d like to highlight. A standard resume typically runs a page or two, and everything on it was selected to showcase your most relevant assets for your dream job.

On the other hand, a federal resume is a highly prescribed document that must be completed exactly as directed in order for you to be considered for a given position.

“The federal resume will be evaluated and scored to see if you make the “best qualified” list and receive an interview,” said Rhoda Smackum, UMUC Career Services Advising Specialist. “A federal resume will provide the reviewer with very specific details about your education, background and work history while serving as an official application for an open position that you desire.”

Getting started on your federal resume
The first step in applying for a federal job is to read its Job Opportunity Announcement (JOA) thoroughly. Hiring agencies provide the requirements for a position in its JOA, and you must take a careful look at it to determine if you are even eligible for the position in question.

Then, you must and follow the directions exactly as written in the JOA.

“It is important to follow the directions in the JOA. Not doing so could automatically disqualify your application,” Smackum adds.

If you have any questions about the JOA, you can direct them to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Human Resources. The agency contact information can be found in the JOA.

If you are looking for a little guidance, you can use the USAjobs.gov resume builder. Whether you are new to the federal hiring process or a current federal employee, creating your resume on the site’s builder will ensure that you have the most up-to-date format. In addition, you can be certain that you do not leave out any necessary components that may not typically be included on a private-sector resume, such as your employers’ complete street address or the number of hours worked per week.

Federal resume best practices
While the content of your federal resume may be dictated to you, there are still some measures you can take to ensure you are putting your best foot forward to prospective hiring agencies. First, be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to complete your application, as it may take a while to gather the necessary information needed to build a strong federal resume.

Next, it’s important to demonstrate your abilities beyond the required qualifications outlined in the JOA. Expand on your duties with details to illustrate how your experience aligns with the qualifications listed in the job announcement. Although doing so may push you beyond the length of a standard resume, don’t worry. The average federal resume can be three to five pages long, if not more, given the length of your work history.

It is important to showcase your knowledge, skills and abilities. Use key words and phrases throughout your document and be sure to address every requirement in the job announcement.

As you’re drafting your federal resume, keep in mind that recruiters will be cross-referencing your responses with your resume. You should do the same, using the JOA’s occupational questionnaire as your checklist as you go.

Don’t forget to include any volunteer experience that enhances your resume. Recruiters account for all relevant experience, whether paid or unpaid, so it pays to detail your philanthropic work. Be sure to format the description of your unpaid experience in the same way that you would for a paid job to provide valuable insight on competencies, knowledge or skills that you have demonstrated.

For more tips on how to create a compelling federal resume, click here to view a webinar on the topic from the Partnership for Public Service (use the password keytoresume15 to access). You can also access UMUC’s additional career tools and resources by visiting CareerQuest today.