How to Write a Federal Resume

Last Updated on 01/17/2024

It is crucial to follow the rules of the game to find the offer in the federal job market. To understand how to make a federal resume successful and eye-catching, start by going into further depth about what qualifies you for the target role. Your market research matters a lot — it will provide you with significant hints on what keywords and details the recruiter wants to see in such documents.

Whether you are making your first steps as a federal worker or want to upgrade your approach, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, let’s discuss helpful insights about how to organize the information you have to tailor your resume for government jobs to the insider market requirements. Mind the gap!

Need help in writing a resume? Take a look at the best federal resume writing services and military to civilian resume writing services reviews to consider.

What is a Federal Resume?

A federal resume is a kind of resume suitable for a federal job application. Whether you want to enter this labor market in the USA or seek another career opportunity as a current federal employee, customizing this resume for every role you consider is essential.

What Does a Federal Resume Look Like?

Compared to one-page resumes typical for private sector jobs, federal resumes commonly resemble a self-representation story. Given how much in-depth information such a file can provide, underlining and italics in formatting are welcome. It will remind you of an article or a unique type of academic article if you wish.

Please ensure your copy has clear and clean formatting. It is better to prefer a few typefaces for the entire document — one for headings and another for text parts. Say “no” to horizontal lines, images, infographics, and bold fonts. Such files have to be readable and scannable, which is why plain formatting styles are preferable.

Private vs. Federal Job Resumes: What’s the Difference?

Analogically to how private sector and federal sector jobs are distinctive phenomena in the US labor market, requirements for a resume for government employment and in the private workforce won’t be the same. Moreover, it is a huge mistake to underestimate the importance of such peculiarities — your application for a certain position can’t become a universal tool for other offers too. You will only lose scores in your candidate rating and miss out on dream professional opportunities.

Let’s take a closer look at what aspects distinguish a government style resume from its “opponent” in the market. Check the table below for an in-depth insight.

FormattingYou are allowed to be creative and choose more eye-catching ways to be noticed among the crowd. You don’t typically have to follow a strict formatting format and can customize the template the way you see it.In-depth details that are relevant to the target position are essential to highlight. Concise facts are always a win-win, but you can also use text paragraphs instead of bullet points only.
LengthLong resumes won’t help you win. One-page formats are the most classic solution, regardless of the private sector’s niche.Neither do you have to write memoirs, nor it will be enough to provide a one-page document.
The level of detailYou can describe your duties and non-job-related skills in detail.It is better to focus on skills and experiences that match the target job offer. You can back up your story with more facts — instead of good management skills, mention how many people you supervised.
KeywordsThey can be pretty general from position to position, including time management and teamwork proficiency.That’s when more specifics will pay off. For instance, AutoCAD skills and project management will be essential for a civil engineer position.

Whatever federal job you have in mind, the target company’s HR specialists have a certain list of criteria that applications must satisfy. By ignoring the distinctive features between federal and private resumes, you are automatically self-excluded from the lucrative job-hunting pool you want to join.

Unlike the case of resumes in the private sector, you won’t be able to take one file and send it to dozens of companies at once. Without a doubt, the governmental resume is the key tool for communicating your experience in the field, as well as your skills and education. Contrary to private resumes, a federal resume is better not to transform into an enlistment of academic certifications and accomplishments.

How to Write a Federal Resume

A federal resume often includes more information than does a civilian resume. Like all resumes, professional job history and education are mandatory components of a federal resume. A federal resume should also include:federal resume checklist

  • any military experience
  • relevant training and certifications
  • publications or presentations related to a federal job
  • list of languages
  • information about technical proficiency and association memberships
  • list of managers, mentors, colleagues or managers willing to act as references.

One of the most important components in a federal resume is the opening paragraph. This paragraph highlights the candidate’s qualifications, achievements and experiences in an attempt to sell the employer by presenting arguments on why hiring the candidate would be in the company’s best interest.

Finally, a federal resume might also include personal information that is often not included in a civilian resume, such as social security number and salary information.

1. How Format a Federal Resume

You are free to choose whether to represent the information in chronological or reverse chronological order, but the latter is more common. When it relates to structural peculiarity, don’t hesitate to compare different ready-made templates — it will be easier for you to locate one that matches your experiences and skills this way. The basic federal format resume boils down to the following.

The federal resume outline format is a prevalent style accepted by most government agencies. It features:

  • Small paragraphs
  • Few bullet points

To make your accomplishments stand out, list them as one or two sentence paragraphs so that nothing gets overlooked.

Another federal government resume format looks more like a traditional resume. It will use:

  • Bold headings in a larger font
  • Larger blocks of narrative text to describe work history
  • More bullet lists

2. Candidate Data

Aside from personal information about your name and date of birth, please add your citizenship status. It would be great to mention your role in the Armed Forces, especially if you want to get the most out of veterans’ preference in the federal job market:

  • Citizenship — one of the first steps of how to create a federal resume is to specify whether you have it or are going to apply for a job under the Work Visa roof.
  • Federal experience — indicate any state government, federal, or military position.
  • Clearance — if the target position requires access to restricted databases, this status will come in handy. Even if it’s not active at the moment, it will be beneficial to mention the level you reached.
  • Special hiring authority — it defines special opportunities for people with disabilities to get better offers in the job market. There are several criteria to check and see whether you are a truly eligible candidate for the deal. If you see a special icon on the hiring platform, it means this paragraph will be a nice bonus. Make you get acquainted with the agency’s clarification about their eligibility ranges.
  • Objective — specify your interest in a full-time or part-time position and provide information about the federal and sub-agency behind the offer.

3. Skills Summary

This part isn’t as brief as in a standard job application:

  • The introduction — that’s where you enlist all the specific skills for a role you are applying to. Don’t forget to use and highlight keywords to make it more meaningful and attention-grabbing.
  • Body — in the second paragraph, complement your introduction with good examples of these skills have helped you perform your duties in practice.
  • Acquired sets of talents — here you can describe what other skills you find relevant and will let you establish a nice employee identity in the eyes of potential recruiters for the target role. It is a must to back up your story with excellent examples — be specific with dates and numbers.

4. Work Experience

This part of the government formatted resume provides details about your years of service, position, title, employer, and GS level. Some agencies may also ask you to mention your salary for those positions.

In the Work Experience section of a federal resume, it is important to include several components for each job descriptions or work experience listed:

  • The start and end dates, including the month and year.
  • The level of experience (e.g. manager, supervisor, etc.) and how long the experience was at each level.
  • The average weekly number of hours worked.
  • Relevant accomplishments and achievements.
  • Related experience and particular experience that addresses the required qualifications.
  • In many cases, salary information should be included.

An example of an entry in the Work Experience section of a federal resume is as follows:

Program Manager 
June 2003 — December 2018
Hours per week: 40
Salary: $56,000 per year.
• Experience #1
• Experience #2
• Accomplishment #1
• Accomplishment #2

Technology enthusiast certified in multiple programming languages with previous security clearance at the Department of Defense desires participation in the vital scientific mission of NASA by executing strategic contract initiatives.

The applicant’s military career information can also be included in this section of a federal resume.

5. Education

High-paying federal jobs vary in terms of education requirements. While some positions are pretty easy to get started, e.g. postal clerks and court reporters, others are more specific about your background as a prospective candidate for several positions in international relations, public administration, science, and other fields. Here you are supposed to write about your college, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree. Specify the years of studies, state, city, and university you graduated from.

6. Additional Training

It is good to mention you have been a regular visitor of online courses, webinars, and offline seminars. To make your statement more confident and convincing, state the center whether these activities took place (like the institute), the number of hours in training, and your accomplishments during the studies.

7. Professionals Associations

Once again, another bullet list will be straightforward and concise enough for an applicant to include in the government resume. For instance, those could be:

  • ADA;
  • AFCEA;
  • ACES.

8. References

Don’t write

  • “References available upon request”


  • A list of qualified supervisors, managers, or mentors that will provide information about the candidate’s qualifications, dependability, work ethic and skills.

9. Language Skills

Individuals with high levels of proficiency or fluency in languages, except English, should include this information in their federal resume. This includes the American Sign Language and any spoken language.

10. Volunteer Work and Community Roles

Employers and hiring agencies often prefer candidates with a variety of relevant experience. However, this experience does not only have to come in the way of paid employment. Relevant volunteer work and community service experience can provide valuable experience and demonstrate the skills, which are necessary to do a job. Community roles can also include being a member of the Board of Directors, leading community initiatives or participating in the local government.

11. Professional Publications

Finally, a federal resume should include the titles of any professional or academic publication that the applicant has written or contributed to, including the date of publication.

View a Federal Resume Sample

We have crafted several federal resume samples, approved by hiring managers and certified writers. Take a look and get inspired.

Government Skills for Resume

Provide as much detail as possible. Unlike a private sector resume, you aren’t restricted to a one-page format. If you have a lot of experience to describe, go for it. However, please don’t get it wrong — it doesn’t mean you have to write a poem instead of following the steps of how to build a federal resume. Keeping the data provided concise, coherent, easy to perceive, and in a readable format is crucial.

NB. Check the position’s requirements first and include your education and experience that match an ideal candidate’s qualifications.

Another crucial detail is that you can add any experience you find important to the list of skills. Your task isn’t to boast of your potential but to advertise your expertise in the target field to people who don’t know you and how cool of a specialist you might be.

A good government job resume should inform the recruiter about must-haves and unique skillsets you have. The right strategy will let you ensure your identity and qualifications in the eyes of the company’s HR specialist:

  • Accountant — problem-solving, critical thinking, accounts payable, cash flow monitoring, financial needs planning, fixed assets impairment assessment, and so on.
  • Medical officer — public health, disease examination and diagnostics, direct patient care, internal medicine, hypertension, etc.
  • Registered nurse — record keeping and paperwork, attention to patients’ worries and requests, empathy, clinical procedure knowledge, and counseling.

Keywords for Government Resume

This guide on how to write resume for federal government jobs would be incomplete without tips on including and arranging keywords. It is better to avoid overly stereotypical notions if they don’t match the qualifications this or that position requires. 

You have to ensure HR specialists will be able to perceive crucial facts from your resume quickly and without difficulty:

  • Don’t hesitate to capitalize them whenever needed.
  • Think about how you distribute keywords in the text. Try to use them as a focal point at the paragraph’s beginning.
  • It isn’t compulsory for every part of the resume to be filled in with the targeted keywords. Make their use purposeful and avoid overwhelming the copy with cliche constructions.

There is no universal list of keywords for government resumes. The best practice is to check what terms are relevant for human resources specialists, mechanical engineers, customs officers, etc. individually. Let’s illustrate a few federal jobs and matching keywords for a resume to include:

  • Accountant — detail-oriented, forecasting, budgeting, financial reporting, auditing, etc.
  • Medical officer — board certification, medical records, clinical research, and healthcare management.
  • Patent administrator — patent litigation, intellectual property, patentability, legal writing, and so on.

How Long Should a Federal Resume Be?

On average, three to six pages long will provide you with enough room to write about all the job-related information. How many pages should a federal resume be? There are no strict requirements for the size of such documents. A lot may depend on your overall career and expertise in the target field.

At the same time, nobody asks you to create a dissertation — no need for ten pages and above. This way, you won’t showcase your expertise qualitatively. More likely, it will seem like you are far from a model employee because of your inability to submit well-structured and revised resumes to federal agencies.

How to Write a Federal Resume for USAJOBS: Dos and Don’ts to Know

It is better to avoid drastic experiments with your approach to resume writing for government jobs. To stay on the safe side, create the right resume format for USA jobs with the USAJobs’ Resume Builder. Here are some considerations to take into account to improve the quality of your government resume:

  • Don’t use a passive voice to talk about your past experiences. Once the draft is complete, edit and proofread it to avoid any grammar and other mistakes. With online tools like Grammarly, for example, it won’t be a daunting task for non-experts.
  • Your resume writing for government jobs has to be as detailed as possible. You don’t have to stick to the jobs and experiences you were financially rewarded for. The primary goal is to prove your qualifications, so any volunteer positions, college, or sports activities.
  • To make things simpler, you can categorize your skill sets and diversify your hard, soft, and language skills.
  • Boost your education summary with other qualifications, including leadership activities, honors, publications, training courses, and more.

Common Mistakes When Writing a Federal Resume

When writing a federal resume, it is important to avoid making the following common mistakes that can hurt the candidate’s chances of being hired:

No: Using the same resume or opening summary for every job.

Yes: The opening paragraph should sell the applicant and be filled with accomplishments, experiences, awards, certifications and skills the applicant possesses that are directly related to the specific qualifications listed in a job announcement.

No: Including irrelevant or outdated work experience.

Yes:  Job experience should go back a maximum of 10 years, with a focus on more recent experience.

No: Applying for jobs but not meeting the qualifications.

Yes: Emphasize your transferable skills.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, preparing a successful government resume depends on how thorough your preparations, data analysis, and market research are. Review job announcements in detail to ensure your application will cater to the target agency’s and position’s specifications. The level of information transparency and quality will also help you get ready for an in-depth questionnaire in a federal job interview. Although the scope of work is demanding in terms of time and other resources, your diligence will surely pay off.

Check Out the Related Articles: 


Share this Post
Professional resume writer Daniella HendersonDaniella Henderson

Daniella knows all ins and outs of the federal hiring process. She is excellent at job hunting strategies, starting from federal resume writing to the final stage of interview conduction.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *