What are the primary differences between a federal resume and a private sector resume?

The primary differences between a federal resume and a private sector resume are the length of the documents and the extent of detailed information. In general, most professional resumes should be no more than two pages in length, but a federal resume can extend to five pages or more. Additionally, federal resumes require more specifics in regards to character references, availability, and extended job descriptions and achievements. Also, federal resumes require stylistic attributes and exact phrasing that mirrors the language of vacancy postings on USAJobs.com. The federal human resources team reviews the resume and gives it a rating based on specific criteria. The more information they identify in the resume, the higher it is ranked—so the inclusion of details is critical.

Can I use a federal resume for a civilian job and vice versa?

Because of the stylistic and formatting differences between federal and private sector resumes, an applicant should create separate resumes if applying to both federal sector and private sector jobs. Additionally, there is specific information required for federal resumes that is not appropriate for placement on a private industry resume.

What are KSAs and what role do they play in the federal resume?

KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) are examples of the specific attributes required to qualify for federal jobs. KSAs must be incorporated into the federal resume. These appear within the vacancy posting as well as the accompanying questionnaire.

What is the preferred format for a federal resume?

As with a private industry resume, a federal resume is most impactful when it is organized and highly readable. A federal resume must be in traditional reverse-chronological order covering the last 10 years. Federal resumes use full phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to cover the informative descriptions and extensive details that support the job qualifications.

How do I leverage USAJobs to create my federal resume?

USAJobs is the US government’s official federal job posting website. If you are searching for a federal role, you likely used USAJobs to find the position you’re interested in. If you read through the vacancy posting, you’ll see a list of duties that accompany the role. Use keywords and phrasing that appear within these lists to frame how you present your career history in your federal resume.

What role does the questionnaire play?

The questionnaire is used to evaluate whether the candidate meets the qualifications necessary for the position. However, it can also be used by the applicant to identify keywords that are expected to appear in your federal resume.

What is Resume Builder?

Resume Builder is essentially an online resume-building tool presented by USAJobs that is required by some agencies and positions. HTML-based and text only, the process of entering resume data into the Resume Builder can be tricky. This is why it’s crucial to craft a federal resume that can easily be converted to builder-friendly text when necessary.

I’m about to make the transition from a military career to a civilian role within the US government. How do I translate my skills?

As a Veteran, you have applied a broad array of skills in serving your country. Translating this to civilian sector work can be challenging, but one strategy is to compile a list of KSAs and think about how your military accomplishments can be framed in those terms. For instance, some common KSAs across industries include communication and leadership, and these are two attributes that are necessary for successful US military service. Think about how your accomplishments have exemplified these key skills.

I was invited to apply for a Senior Executive Service (SES) position. What do I need to do to my existing federal resume to meet the requirements for application?

Your existing federal resume will be the backbone of your SES resume. The primary difference is that, at the SES level, there are five Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) that must be presented in your resume. Additionally, positions at the SES level require a 10 or so page document outlining how your experience and accomplishments align with the five ECQs. If you are applying to a technical position, there will be additional Technical Qualifications (TQs) that you are expected to demonstrate both within the resume as well as in a separate document of 1-2 pages per TQ.

I have substantial experience going back at least 15 years. I’ve read that I should limit discussion of these in my resume, but they are relevant to my desired position. What should I do?

With federal job applications, only the jobs within the last decade are relevant. Often, jobs past 10 years won’t even be considered for qualification. The best option is to align KSAs and keywords with your most recent experience. If older experience is crucial to qualifying, then the information can be added without specifying the exact dates. That said, announcements vary and while most job postings won’t consider anything past 10 years, there are a handful of agencies that want every job ever held listed with the chronological dates. Rule of thumb—always check the job announcement before writing or updating the resume and submitting your application.