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Federal Resume Tips

View Video on How to Write a Federal Resume

Myth or Fact?

Résumés have to be one page.

Myth - In the government, résumés are often longer than one page because of the detailed information applicants must provide to be considered.

As a recent graduate, your educational experience can not qualify as specialized experience.

Myth - Many of the assignments, committees, or extra-curricular groups students participate in can be used as experience on an application as long as it corresponds with the job duties and KSA’s of the position. For example, Katie was the head of the finance club where she worked on sample projects with a consulting firm. She can describe that experience when applying for a Financial Analyst position.

Social security numbers (SSNs) are a common addition on a résumé.

Fact - Many résumés need SSNs for identification purposes, however, NIH advises applicants not to include their SSN on paper résumés or in the body of an electronic résumé.

Using bullets is a great way to describe job duties on a résumé.

Fact- Although not always common on federal résumés, bullets make it easier to read job duties.


There are many different styles of résumés, however, a Federal résumé should include the most relevant work experience and educational information at the beginning of the résumé. This is best displayed in a short summary or a brief autobiography. You should include information such as skills, competencies, major accomplishments, training or any information that is required or related to the job announcement. If there is something specific you want to convey, place that information up front.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Keywords are very powerful words that can enhance a recruiter’s understanding of your qualifications and experience. For example, when a recruiter reads the keyword "analyst," he or she might assume you have experience in collecting data, evaluating effectiveness, and researching and developing new processes.

Keywords are most likely action verbs. When constructing your explanation of previous experience, you should use action verbs to act as descriptions, expressing how you performed that function and with what result.

Photo of two men collaborating on a document

If the job announcement uses keywords to describe the duties such as "develops" or "implements," these words are representative of independence in work assignments and the range of responsibility for the available position. You should include your experience "developing" or "implementing" to demonstrate your previous independence.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Enhance your résumé by adding numerical results. Numerical results can increase appeal with recruiters because it provides a description of the responsibility level that may relate directly to the duties of the position. For example, an individual who was in the budget field has "worked with disseminating budgets for small projects." But when the applicant describes her experience with numbers, her description is more relevant as "disseminated the budgets for small projects amounting to $450,000." Numbers can be a great way to describe the responsibility, pressures, and accomplishments of your previous endeavors as they relate to the position you are applying to.

The Long vs. Short Struggle

Federal résumés are much longer than a résumé created for the private industry, but how long is too long?

The Long of It

Federal résumés are usually longer because they should be more descriptive and detailed. When writing your résumé, it is very important for you to include all information related to the position so that recruiters are able to determine if you qualify for their position. Leaving this information off in the interest of shortening your résumé can exclude you from being considered "best qualified."

The Short of It

Although federal résumés need to be detailed, there should be some discretion when there is too much information. All information that relates directly to the position should be included on the résumé but information that is only indirectly related can be excluded if the résumé begins to grow. Many applicants are proud of their work experience and want to list it all, however, information such as work experience or education that happened a very long time ago and is not a requirement of the future position can be omitted. Use your best judgment to decide what the recruiter needs to know for this specific position.

Did you Know?

  • As a best practice, you should include salary information on a Federal résumés. This information can be pertinent to help determine current salary requirements.
  • Update-to-date contact information is imperative so that the Human Resources Specialist is able to contact you at any point in the application process.
  • Federal résumés require up-to-date employer information (addresses, phone numbers, and supervisor names). The Human Resources Specialists use this to verify references as well as for a background investigation, if necessary for the position.


  • Make sure to list all dated information e.g.., Work Experience and Education in chronological order except when it is more appropriate to list the most relevant work experience first.
  • Make sure that each job announcement is read thoroughly and that your résumé reflects experience with the required skills and knowledge. Research the agency that you are submitting résumés to and create specialized résumés for each job highlighting the reasons you are a good fit for the job, the mission, or vision of the organization.
  • Prepare cover letters to accompany your résumé. Recruiters receive many résumés and cover letters are a great way to make yourself memorable. Letters can be sent electronically through the Additional Information field in the USAJOBS résumé.
This page last reviewed on September 14, 2016

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