Effective Federal Government Resume


A Federal résumé is similar to a private sector résumé, with much more detail. The Federal résumé is one of the documents that can be used to apply for Federal jobs, although most opportunities are now applied for online via USAJOBS and other federal agency websites.

The Audiences:

There are a minimum of four main audiences that will be reading the résumé:

  1. The computer scanner, also known as the applicant tracking system (database),
  2. Human Resource personnel,
  3. The hiring manager.
  4. The background investigation team will also use your résumé and other documentation to verify employment, education, and qualifications for security clearance purposes, after the candidate is selected for the position. Some of the verification process is also done before selecting candidates for interviews as well.

Key Sections:

Using a well-constructed Federal résumé gives the candidates a greater opportunity to sell themselves to the employer by incorporating categories that would typically be seen on a traditional private-sector résumé, such as Qualifications Summary and Core Competencies—both of which should include keywords and requirements from the job announcement. This strategy is the key element in an effective résumé.

In these two sections, keywords, requirements, and qualifications can be showcased in order to ‘sell’ the candidate to the employer.

It is critical to use the same verbiage used in the description of the opportunity. If the qualifications in the announcement specify “procuring supplies,” the résumé should use exactly the same terminology. Do not change the words on your résumé to “purchasing supplies” even though the tasks are the same. Using exactly the same keywords in the description are critical to the effectiveness of the résumé.

What information must be included on a Federal résumé?

It is important that the Federal résumé include all the information required by the announcement. Otherwise, the candidate could be disqualified. Planning ahead is essential to ensuring all the information is accurate.

Contact Information
Name, middle initial, last name, address, city, state, zip, day and evening phone numbers, Social Security Number, veteran’s preference, country of citizenship, highest Federal civilian grade held, reinstatement eligibility, and email address. Some agencies are changing to using the last four digits of the social security number due to the increase in identity theft.

Job Information
Announcement number, job title, series, and grade of the position.

High school name, city, state, zip, diploma or GED; colleges or universities, including name, city, state, zip, degree or major, three to four relevant courses, number of semester hours completed, GPA, and the date graduated.

Name of training course, name of institution, and month and year completed.

Military Service
Branch of military, rank, location, and depending on what the candidate is applying for, the responsibilities and accomplishments could be a short list or a long list.

Work Experience
Job title, name of employer, street address, city, state, zip; supervisor, supervisor’s phone number, may or may not contact; starting and ending salary; number of hours worked per week; starting month and year to ending month and year; key responsibilities; and key accomplishments.

Name of certificate, institution issuing the certificate, and month and year.

Name of award, institution issuing the certificate, and month and year.

Published work, related or not, and month and year.

Presentations given on relevant or non-relevant topics, and month and year.

Volunteer Service
Role, name of organization, month and year (paid or non-paid experience).

Three references of individuals who can verify work ethic, character, and performance.


The format of the Federal résumé varies depending on the writer. However, it is critical that the above information be included on the résumé. Some people create only a text version (.txt) of the résumé that can be used to copy and paste into the online builders. Therefore, the format and order of the categories would not matter in this case because the information would be copied and pasted in order on the builder.

With that said, I suggest creating three versions of each Federal résumé so the candidate has the proper tools for each situation:

  1. Word document (.doc or .docx) for generating the initial résumé;
  2. Text file (.txt) for copying and pasting into the builders—this version does not have graphics, bold, or shading, only plain text so it transfers to the builder without odd characters being substituted;
  3. Portable document format (.pdf) for printing. This allows the candidate to print the résumé on any printer without having to repaginate the document to meet individual printer settings.


There are many strategies I use in positioning a candidate for a Federal job. Similar to any other traditional résumé, the candidate’s strongest attributes that are the most relevant to the position should be listed toward the first part of the résumé. For example, if the candidate does not have a degree, then the Education category should be listed toward the end of the résumé. However, if the candidate has many relevant training items, those could be listed toward the first part of the résumé. Each candidate has a different background, education, talent, knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Bottom Line

It is important to take time to strategize. Read the announcement thoroughly. Identify keywords and requirements, and use them throughout the résumé where appropriate.

Camille Carboneau RobertsAbout the author…

Job-Hunt’s Federal Job Search Expert, Camille Carboneau Roberts, established CC Career Services in 1989 to provide total career management services to help clients land jobs faster. Expert services include federal resumes, private sector resumes, military-to-federal resumes, and social media resumes and profiles. Contact Camille via email at [email protected], through LinkedIn, Twitter (@CamilleRoberts), or Facebook (CC Career Services).
More about this author

Don't forget to share this article with friends!