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Federal Resumes: How They Differ From Private Sector Resumes - FederalPay.org

Federal resume

Are you a veteran who has completed active duty military service and considering applying for a federal job? Are you working in the private sector and would like to pursue federal employment? If so, it is crucial that you understand the difference between private sector resumes and federal resumes.

Hiring managers for federal job applications expect a resume to have more detail and length than private sector resumes. When creating a federal resume, you must include targeted keywords. Taking some time to understand the differences between federal government and private sector resumes can help give you an edge when applying for federal jobs.

What’s a Federal Resume?

A federal resume, as the name implies, is the one you need to use when applying for federal positions in the US. It’s similar to the private sector resume in how you detail your experience. You include the mandatory sections in your resume, and narrate your skills and experiences. There are, however, some differences between a federal resume and a conventional one.

Key Difference between Federal Resume and Private Sector Resume

The differences between the two types of resumes are as follows:

Federal Resume Private Sector Resume
Resume Length 4-6 pages 1-2 (tops)
Level of Detail It requires lots of detailed background information on previous roles to obtain a comprehensive understanding of your character. Not that detailed. A private sector resume needs to include only the most notable achievements andexperiences.
Documentation You might need to submitadditional documentation likeschool transcripts, militaryservice documents, contactsof past supervisors, and more. You don’t need any documentation, but you can provide references if requested.
Requirements When applying for federal roles, you need to meet all the requirements from the job ad in order to be hired. When applying for civilian roles, you can get hired even if you don’t meet certain criteria.
  1. Federal Resumes Need to be Longer

One of the most obvious differences between private-sector and federal resumes is the length of the resume. Private-sector resumes are generally one to two pages long. Creating a long resume in the private sector can be detrimental to your job application process. On the other hand, federal resumes need to be three to five pages in length. Federal human resources department employees who review resumes will be looking for detailed information regarding your knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Specifically, a federal human resources specialist may want to know specifics about how many people you managed at your previous or current job. Instead of using a few bullet points to describe your work at each of your previous jobs, you should write a paragraph of three to four sentences describing all of your significant skills.

  1. Federal Resumes Should Include All of Your Contact Information

When creating a private sector resume, you typically do not need to include your full address and all your phone numbers. However, the federal application should contain all of your contact information. You also need to include all of your former supervisors’ full names and contact information. The detailed contact information of your supervisors will also serve as your references. It is important that the information is accurate because federal hiring managers almost always call references as you advance throughout the job application process.

  1. Desired Location and Availability

Most standard resumes do not include information about an applicant’s availability and desired location. Federal resumes should consist of the type of job you are seeking, whether temporary or permanent. You should also include your desired work schedule, including full-time or part-time. If you would like to work remotely and are unwilling to work in person, you should also have that information.

  1. Include More Details

Many people write private-sector resumes by including three to five bullet points discussing responsibilities and achievements at each position. Most private-sector hiring managers will only spend three to five seconds glancing at a person’s resume. On the contrary, federal hiring managers take time to review each applicant’s resume carefully. Federal managers are concerned with an employee’s skills.

They must ensure that each applicant meets specific skills before moving the applicant on to the next round of hiring. As a result, federal job resumes should consist of at least three to four sentences of detail describing each of your major skills. You may want to create a list of your job skills and describe them in detail. When applying for a federal job, you can include your descriptions of the skills that fit best with the specific job requirements on the job posting.

  1. Educational Information

Many private-sector resumes do not include detailed information about a candidate’s educational background unless the applicant is a recent graduate. A short, private-sector resume’s goal is to describe a person’s work quickly. Providing details regarding your educational background is more important in preparing Federal resumes. When creating a federal resume, you should include the institution you attended, your degree, and your major.

Additionally, you should include the month and year in which you obtained your degree or degree, your GPA, the number of credits you have earned, and details about the relevant licenses, certifications, and coursework you completed. Many federal jobs require specific types of degrees or evidence that you have completed particular classes in undergraduate or graduate school to be considered.

  1. Job-Related Training

You should list your accomplishments on your resume if you have taken specific professional development courses as part of your previous employment or outside of the workplace. Be sure to include the name of the institution, the specific course name, and the dates of the course. You should also list any other types of job-related training you have obtained.

  1. Including Additional Information

Most private-sector employees are used to cutting out information that is not critical from the resume to shorten it. You should take a different approach with a federal resume. You can include your volunteer work, language skills, and any important affiliation you have. If you are on a charity board or work as a volunteer, be sure to include that information. You can also add your technical skills, any workplace awards you’ve received, and a career profile that summarizes all of your skills and increases critical keywords in your resume.

  1. Keywords are Critical With Federal Resumes

Keywords are essential when you apply for a federal job. Recruiters receive a high number of resumes for federal positions. As a result, you must put your keywords at the start of every paragraph in your federal resume. Instead of using the same resume when applying to every job, you should consider adjusting and tailoring each resume to the specific job. Doing so can include keywords on your resume that are listed in the job description.

How to Write a Federal Resume

Step #1. Start With a Trusted Format

There are 3 typical resume formats you can pick from:

  • Reverse-chronological: this one’s the standard and it lists your experiences from the most recent to the oldest one.
  • Functional. This one doesn’t include work experiences and focuses solely on your skills.
  • Combination, a mix of the other 2 formats.

Since you’re making a federal resume, though, you need to go with a reverse-chronological format.

It’s the most common format in the US and is recognized by every single federal recruiter.

Step #2. Include a Detailed Contact Information Section

Once you’ve picked your federal resume format, you should create a contact information section at the top of your resume.

That’s where you include the typical information you’d put on a standard resume:

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address

For a federal resume, also include the following essentials:

  • Citizenship.
  • Mailing Address.
  • Highest GS Score.
  • Veterans’ Preference (0, 5, or 10). Find yours here.
  • Disability. Learn
  • Clearance (if any)
  • Desired Location (if relevant)


Adam Smith


[email protected]

Citizenship: United States

Desired Job Type: Security Specialist

Highest Federal Pay Grade: GS-10

Desired Location: US, Massachusetts

Step #3. Create an Attention-Grabbing Resume Summary

Federal or not, a resume summary is essential.

Picture this: you’re a hiring manager and you’ve got 1,000 resumes to go through for a single position.

Are you going to 1) go through them in detail, one by one, and read them cover to cover?

Or 2) glance through them, find the ones that are relevant and give them in-depth attention.

You’d probably pick #2 (and so do hiring managers).

This is exactly where the resume summary comes in.

A resume summary is a short, 2-4 sentence paragraph that goes right on top of your resume (under contact information). As the name implies, it’s used to quickly summarize your work experience and give the hiring manager a snapshot of your application.

If you get the resume summary right, then you can rest assured that the hiring manager is going to read your resume start-to-end.

Federal Resume Summary Example

A well-written federal resume summary contains the following information:

  • Your title and objective (i.e. the job you’re applying for)
  • 2-3 of your most noteworthy achievements or key responsibilities
  • 2-3 of your top skills
  • Your areas of expertise


Maintenance and Management professional with 10+ years of experience seeking the role of a Production Planning Manager. Past experience includes equipment maintenance and repair, policy enforcement, transportation coordination, and more. Seeking a GS-10 to a GS-11 position.

Step #4. List Your Past Work Experiences in Detail

Your work experience section is going to make or break your federal resume.

At the end of the day, this is what hiring managers really care about, while the rest of your resume is supposed to “support” this section.

Creating a convincing work experience section for a federal resume is a 2-parter:

First, you need to make sure that you include all the relevant work experience information.

Then, you need to present your path responsibilities, and achievements in the most convincing way possible.

What to Include in a Federal Resume Work Experience Section

For each entry in your work experience section, start off with the employment information. This includes:

  • Employer name
  • Position
  • Dates
  • City and State
  • Salary
  • Hours Worked Per Week
  • GS Rating (If Relevant)
  • Supervisor’s Name
  • Supervisor’s Contact Information
  • Whether It’s OK to Contact Supervisor

Then, in plain text or in bullet points, describe all your responsibilities and achievements right underneath each work experience.

If you had several roles for the same employer, bold out each role and put the corresponding responsibilities and achievements underneath.

Here, It’s important to note that you want to be as detailed as possible, compared to when compiling a conventional resume.

For the latter, you’d list out 4-6 bullets of your top achievements and responsibilities and call it a day. With a federal resume, you need to include more information.

How to Write a Convincing Work Experience Section

How do you effectively communicate your past achievements and responsibilities?

The key here is to be as achievement-focused as possible.

Most job seekers, when writing about their past work experiences, tend to talk about their former responsibilities.

While this is OK (and will land you a job here and there), it doesn’t help you stand out much.

The hiring manager can probably figure out what your past responsibilities were – they’re hiring for your role, after all.

What they’re really interested to learn about you is how you excel compared to the rest of the job-seekers.

Step #5. Add Your Educational History

Next up in the federal resume is your educational history.

This one’s pretty straightforward – all you need to do is mention the following:

  • College name
  • State
  • Zipcode
  • Majors
  • Type of degree
  • # of years attended (or semesters completed)

If specifically requested, you might also need to include the same information for your high school or GED.

Here’s what your education section would look like on your federal resume:

Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service

Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, United States

08/2018 – 05/2022

Major: International Relations

Minor: International Business

GPA: 3.9

Graduated Magna cum laude

Step #6. Top It Off With Optional Sections

If you have space left on your resume, you can add some of the following common resume sections to help you stand out:

  • Awards and Accolades
  • Certifications
  • Languages
  • Projects
  • Professional Associations
  • Skills
  • Relevant Training
  • Volunteer Experience


Won first place in the Google Code Jam competition.

Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Science (2019)

English – NativeFrench – Intermediate

Technical Skills
C++ Java Javascript

Do Not Ignore the Important Differences

Applying for a job can feel like a full-time job in itself. It is easy to pass over some key differences between the private sector and federal resumes to save time. Nonetheless, ignoring the differences between private federal resumes can lead to you being rejected from federal employment. Remember, most applicants need to apply for multiple federal jobs before receiving an offer, even when highly qualified. Submitting a correctly formatted resume that fulfills the unique requirements of a federal resume will increase your chances significantly.

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