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Tips for Writing a Federal Resume

Creating a federal resume that brings your qualifications to life and shows that you are a perfect fit for the job can be a challenge. Be sure to demonstrate how your skills, experience, training and education match the employer’s needs. Avoid misspelled words and bad grammar. Following are a few ways to make this easier.

Prepare

Consider what positions you are interested in and review what qualifications or experience they require by reviewing different types of jobs and job opportunity announcements on USAJOBS. Gather information and begin to build out a description of your knowledge, skills and experience to add to your resume. How you present your skills and experience in your resume will help determine whether or not you are invited to interview for a job.

Veterans:  Attend job assistance training prior to departing the service. Contact your Transition Assistance Center as soon as possible and sign up for a Transition Assistance Program Workshop. If you are not near a Military Transition Center, you may use the services at Transition Assistance Offices operated by the other military services. Use your transition counselors. They have the tools and knowledge you need. If available, get their help in creating your first resume or filling out a draft application. Ask them to critique your work and then make the changes they suggest.

Tailor

One size never fits all. As you apply for jobs, tailor your resume to the position’s requirements. Study the job opportunity announcement and emphasize the parts of your work history that match the qualification requirements listed there. It is important to portray your knowledge and skills as a match to the requirements of the position and demonstrate the ability to do the job. This is easy to do when you include your results, achievements and accomplishments. Minimize the use of technical jargon or specialized terminology (e.g., military abbreviations) in your resume.

Format

Resumes are generally presented in one of three formats: chronological, functional or a combination of both. Which format you choose will depend, in part, on the type of work you have performed and whether or not you are going to continue in the same field.

  • Chronological resumes list work experience according to date, with the current job appearing first. Chronological resumes work well if your career has been progressive and you plan to continue in the same line of work.
  • Functional resumes are organized by the skills you have used on the job. Functional resumes work well if you are contemplating a new career, do not have a lengthy work history, or have held a number of different positions because they sell your abilities based on the skills you have acquired throughout your career. Be sure to include relevant volunteer experience.
  • Combination resumes both describe your work experience and highlight your skills. Combination resumes usually provide the most comprehensive overview of your career.

Content

Unlike resumes used in the private sector, federal resumes required additional information. For each past job, give the standard information found in most resumes. Your federal resume should include the following:

  • Job announcement number, job title, and job grade of the job for which you are applying
  • Your full name, mailing address, day and evening phone numbers and home e-mail.
  • Country of citizenship, if different from U.S.
  • Special Hiring Authorities
    1. Veterans – Ensure that you attach or upload supporting documentation (e.g., DD214 or Statement of Service if still on Active Duty; SF-15, Application for 10-point preference; and Disability Rating Letter of 30% or more from the VA, if applicable). 
    2. Peace Corps / AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers – If you are a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, you will need to provide your Description of Service (DOS) to claim non-competitive eligibility for federal jobs. AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers need to provide a copy of yours Service Letter to apply for non-competitive positions. 
    3. Persons with Disabilities (Schedule A) – To verify eligibility for employment under the Schedule A hiring authority, you must provide proof of disability issued by a licensed medical professions, a licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist, or any federal agency, state agency, or an agency of the District of Columbia, or U.S. territory that issues or provides disability benefits. Contact the Department’s Selective Placement Coordinators for help with hiring and accommodation requests.
  • Education - Include: college name, city, state, zip code, majors, type and year of degrees held or number of semester hours completed, and high school name, city, state, zip code, and date of your diploma or GED, if requested.
    • Veterans – Keep in mind that your military training may count towards qualifications. Use your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) document (DD Form 2586) to document your training and education.
  • Work experience – When writing your federal resume, be sure to include all relevant experience. It is common for federal resumes to be longer than average, so do not cut out important details to try to fit your resume to one to two pages. A good federal resume should clearly outline your key work, volunteer experiences, academic accomplishments as well as extra-curricular activities. It should also highlight the unique skills that set you apart and make you uniquely qualified for the position.

    Study the job opportunity announcement and emphasize the parts of your work history that match the qualifications listed there. Remember, human resources specialists might not be familiar with your career field. To help them understand how your experience matches what is required for the vacant position, make sure that you describe your experience in laymen’s terms. Most importantly, describe job duties and accomplishments in a way that demonstrates how you are qualified.

    • Begin with your current position and list all other positions held in chronological order.
    • State the job title, starting and ending dates (including month and year), prior employer's name and address (or write "self-employed," if that applies), and major duties and accomplishments. Include any positions temporarily held.
    • Show the average number of hours worked per week or simply state "full-time"; salary or wage earned; supervisor's name, address and telephone number; and whether your most recent supervisor may be contacted.
    • Include the occupational series numbers and the starting and ending grades of the federal government positions held. Include any relevant volunteer or National Service experience.
      • Veterans - Avoid using military job titles or occupational codes. Instead, look at what you did using your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) as a starting point. Employers prefer proven performers, so make sure you know what employers are looking for in comparison to your military work experience.
    • Indicate if your current supervisor can be contacted.
    • Job-related training courses (title and year).
    • Job-related knowledge or skills - Showing how your skills fit the company's requirements starts with an extensive inventory. Skills fall into three categories:
      1. self-management skills refer to the way you manage yourself on the job (e.g., dependable, resourceful, etc.);
      2. functional skills are the skills you use on the job or have used in previous jobs (e.g., operate equipment, supervise, analyze, etc.); and
      3. technical skills relate to specific skills required to perform a described task (e.g., computer programming, accounting, sales, etc.)
  • Current job-related certificates and licenses - Make sure you understand the licensure and certification requirements for your job objective.
  • Job-related honors, awards, special accomplishments, leadership activities, memberships, or publications.

Appearance

Once you have spell checked your resume, take a good look at its overall appearance. Is it appealing and easy to read? Is there enough white space? Are the margins appropriate? Have the headings, font and formatting style been used effectively? Keep in mind that your resume is an employer's first impression of you. Make sure it makes the best one possible.

Remember
  • Review the job announcements carefully for key words.
  • Use verbs and adjectives (e.g., managed, implemented, created) that match key words identified in the job announcement.
  • Eliminate military lingo (use words such as personnel instead of squad or platoon).
  • Include your accomplishments; do not be shy, be truthful.
  • Focus on the mission of the agency and translate your experiences.
  • Your positive attitude and genuine enthusiasm goes a long way.

 

Last Published Date: November 3, 2014
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