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Federal resume writing tips

Tailor your resume to the job announcement

You may be tempted to submit your standard resume to a wide variety of positions and ultimately become frustrated when you don’t advance in the hiring process. However, if you tailor your resume to a specific job description, your chances of moving to the next stage in the application process will drastically increase.

To customize your resume, carefully review the position description. Focus on the ‘duties,’ ‘qualifications’ and ‘requirements’ sections and include keywords and phrases in your tailored resume. Make sure that you demonstrate how you have developed the specific skills required by the agency. Your final resume should be tailored so that it mirrors the language used to describe the position.

The federal resume is becoming even more important as agencies try to simplify their applications. Emphasize and re-emphasize areas where your previous experience or education overlaps with the duties and qualifications listed in the job opportunity announcement.

Numbers impress hiring managers

Use the duties and accomplishments section of your federal resume to highlight your performance metrics. Percentages, numbers and data can be a great way to describe the specific impact you had in a particular job. Listing actual measures will go a long way with hiring officials. Be sure they are accurate and that you can back them up in an interview.

Sell yourself and your achievements

Don't be shy about showing your knowledge, skills and accomplishments in your federal resume. Give the agency representative a reason to make you one of his or her top candidates.

Include the skills and achievements that go beyond your work experience and education. Think about all of your activities that might qualify you for a job, such as: involvement in social or religious organizations, volunteer experiences, unique projects or interests, awards or certificates and subjects mastered.

These items may set your resume above the rest, especially if they correspond to the qualifications for the position.

Check your spelling and grammar

One of the biggest complaints from federal agencies is that applicants frequently do not edit their work and often have spelling and/or grammatical errors in their federal resumes. Use a word processor or ask a peer or professional to check your spelling and grammar. Doing so may help you avoid being overlooked when it comes time for an agency to select candidates for an interview.


Keep a copy of your private-sector resume

Some agencies use third-party application systems that are not USAJOBS.gov and may require a different kind of resume. If you have any questions about what documents to send, contact the agency’s human resources representative for clarification.

Be concise

Provide as much detail as possible, but be concise. Wordy or irrelevant information will only confuse the reader. When tailoring your resume, delete education or experiences that do not relate to the position.

Do not assume the reader is familiar with organizations in your resume. Provide context when appropriate, and avoid acronyms. Omit unnecessary details. You should provide enough information to demonstrate your qualifications, without overwhelming the reader. Remember: the quality of the information is more important than the quantity.