A Federal Resume is Necessary to Obtain a Federal Job

Federal Resume Writing Tips

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The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) offered a webinar on “Writing an Effective Federal Resume.” Based on that webinar, I’ve compiled a few tips that will help you write your federal resume. 

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  • A resume is used as your federal application
  • It is the best way to market yourself to employers
  • Conveys your qualifications for the position
  • Shows you can provide immediate results
  • Your first, and possibly only, impression
  • Used to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications

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  • It is important to use plain language. Avoid jargon such as the following:
    • AWOL: Absent without leave
    • SQDN: A squadron
  • Use a basic font in size 12 print
  • Explain acronyms and use them sparingly
  • Highlight relevant experience and education
  • State the facts: do not exaggerate your experience
  • Explain what you did and how it made a difference
    • Did you leave the job better than when you started?
  • Clearly explain how you meet the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for that position
    • Keep it brief
    • Paint a picture
    • Include your security clearance, if applicable
    • List all of your relevant experiences and accomplishments
  • Consider having multiple resumes that are based on the extent/variety of your abilities
  • Do not include any personally identifiable information
    • E.g. Social Security Number
  • Do not include any photographs
  • The USAJOBS Resume Builder can provide information that must be included on your
  • Carefully review for any spelling and grammatical errors

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Private Federal
Length of the resume 1-2 pages Unlimited (unless the agency specifies an amount)
Do you qualify for the position? They have more flexible qualifications You must meet all minimum qualifications
Accomplishments Less detailed and more generalized They want you to be extremely specific in how you made a difference

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  • Functional
  • Reverse chronological
    • List most recent work experience first and then work backwards
    • Use relevant experience
      • It is okay to use experience from years ago as long as it is relevant to the position
    • Include unpaid/volunteer experience as long as it is relevant

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  • Are sufficient in length to show all qualifications
  • Demonstrate specific and relevant experience
  • Clearly show accomplishments and the results
  • Reflect possession of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position
  • Are free from spelling and grammatical errors
  • Explain acronyms and avoid jargon
  • Provide the agency with the needed information to be considered best qualified
  • Support the answers from the occupational questionnaire with genuine descriptions of accomplishments

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Consider the following:

Sources of information

  • Former job descriptions
  • Supervisory reviews and feedback
    • Appraisal or Performance Reviews
  • Transcripts
  • Course feedback
  • Military honors
  • Awards and recognition
  • Customer acknowledgements
  • Survey results

Be creative and do not forget to add:

  • Leadership roles in social/civil organizations
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Projects
  • Professional/academic challenges or successes
  • Special assignments
  • Travel experiences

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Utilize the Job Opportunity Announcement (JOA) sections that will help you craft a better resume:

  • Duties
    • Responsibilities
  • Qualifications
  • Occupational Questionnaire
    • Linked from the JOA
    • The duties summary and responsibilities

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  • Write experience this way:
    • Amount of experience:
      • “Managed an 8 person team over 15 years..”
    • Level of experience:
      • “Routinely advised and briefed organizational senior executives on…”
    • Repetition is OK
  • Explain why this experience is important
    • Accomplishments explain why you should be selected compared to others

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When determining which accomplishments to use, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who was impacted?
  • What were the cost savings?
  • Did you exceed deadlines?
  • Did you receive awards or recognition?
  • What changed or improved?
  • Did you leave the job better than you found it?
  • Quantify whenever possible

Accomplishments example

  • Before: Responsible for planning, executing and coordinating special operations mountain and desert training. Served as primary instructor for all new soldiers in training.
  • After: 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 3 annual performance reports.

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  • Review the job opportunity announcement to understand the requirements and description of the work to be done
  • Break the requirements down into easy-to-understand, short statements or bulleted items
  • Compare work experience from past positions to the job’s requirements to find similarities
  • Write your experience by matching your personal experiences and accomplishments with the language in the requirements
  • Text font – Source Sans Normal, 11

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  • Optional
  • Do not reiterate items on your resume
  • Highlight particular experience you want to spotlight
  • Use compelling language
  • Draw attention
    • E.g. If you want to be considered for a special hiring authority

Special considerations – Veterans

If veterans want to be considered for special hiring authorities, they should emphasize it in their cover letter by using the following tips:

  • Avoid military jargon
  • Compare your military skill set with comparable civilian position duties
  • Request consideration for special hiring authorities for veterans
    • Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA)
    • Veterans 30% or more disabled
    • Veterans Employment Opportunity Act (VEOA)
    • Disabled veterans who completed U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs training

Special hiring authorities

The Federal Government offers other special paths (hiring authorities) to help hire individuals that represent our diverse society. Request to be considered for any special hiring authorities for which you are eligible. If you are eligible, add your eligibility to your cover letter. For example:

  • Schedule A for individuals with disabilities
  • Military Spouse
  • National Service
    • AmeriCorps VISTA
    • Peace Corps
  • Review USAJOBS Hiring Paths for details

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Example of translating military experience, titles, and general terms to civilian terminology

  • Military Position ​- Led an infantry platoon in combat operations, providing tactical and technical guidance to subordinates and professional support to both officers and subordinates. Led, supervised, and maintained military equipment.
  • Translation ​- Supervised and trained 150 personnel in the areas of weapons, military vehicles operations, and maintenance. Provided guidance to ensure their safety and survival while in combat situations. Advised upper management on matters related to overall company operations, which included supply levels and status, human resources and budget matters. Evaluated and counseled staff on performance and conduct matters. Oversaw inventory of over 2,000 line items and material assets, valued at over $50 million.

*This person may apply for Logistics and Management positions based on skills used in the military position.

Examples of military job titles to civilian titles:

Military Title Civilian Title
Medic/Corpsman Health Care Specialist
Commanding Officer/Commander Senior Manager/Director
Resource Advisor Budget Analyst
Senior NCO Supervisor
Executive Officer Deputy Director
Supply Sergeant Supply/Logistics Manager

Examples of general military terms to civilian equivalent:

Military Term Civilian Term
Troops/Sailors/Airmen Staff or Employees
Medal Award
Squad/Platoon Section or Team
Subordinates/Services Members Employees
S3 Training and Operations
Reconnaissance Data Collection and Analysis

Examples of transferable skills:

  • Leadership – indicate whether you supervised or led staff
  • Technical – stress specific skills such as computer programming or contracting
  • Negotiation – show how you can convince someone to do something or to accept your ideas
  • Problem-solving – describe situations where you had to resolve a conflict or work issue
  • Communication – stress your ability to write and verbally communicate effectively

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This webinar was very informative and helpful, especially since I am in the process of applying to federal jobs. Personally, I found the resume writing tips and the section regarding the differences between federal resumes and private sector resumes most helpful. I had been given conflicting advice about how to write a federal resume, so the tips that were given cleared up the confusion. I think that it is great that OPM offers these webinars because they can be beneficial for applicants seeking federal employment.

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