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How to Write a Federal Resume

October 7, 2019

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If you’re applying for a position with a federal government agency, you may have to submit a specialized resume that includes several unique elements, in addition to traditional elements like education, work experience and contact information.

In this article, we explore what a federal resume is, what information to include in it and provide an example federal resume to help you write your own.

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What is a federal resume?

A federal resume is a comprehensive document used when applying for a job within a federal government. You need to provide more specific information both about yourself and your work experience than you would in a regular resume. The federal resume is tailored for federal hiring managers and human resources personnel and, like traditional resumes, still includes your qualifications, background and personal details.

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How to write a federal resume

Federal resumes require additional detail about your background and experience for vetting purposes. Unlike a normal resume that is one or two pages long, a federal resume is usually between four to six pages. It contains information such as citizenship status, federal salary grade and security clearance, among others. These elements help hiring managers to assess you for specific positions and the government entity you’re applying to.

You can also draw from the language used in the job description when describing your qualifications, skills and job duties. 

Here are the central elements to include on your federal resume and how to write them:

  1. Provide your contact information
  2. Include your citizenship status
  3. Identify your highest GS grade
  4. Mention veterans’ preference
  5. List your work experience
  6. Describe your education
  7. Consider other optional items

1. Provide your contact information

This section should include the standards you would find on regular resumes, including your full name, telephone number and email address. Your postal address is another necessary element that makes federal resumes different because it assists with the vetting process.

2. Include your citizenship status

Whether you are a citizen of that nation or another, include your citizenship status to help with the vetting and identification process. For positions in the U.S., you are not required to be a U.S. citizen to apply for many federal positions. Other positions or those in other countries might require certain citizenship statuses. The required status is often listed in the job description, so be sure to check whether you qualify.

3. Identify your highest GS grade

All jobs within the federal government are graded within the General Schedule (GS) to determine pay rate and job responsibility. The GS scale goes from 1 to 15 with 10 steps within each grade that have a pre-determined pay increase at each step. If you are currently employed with the federal government, include your highest GS grade and current salary range. 

4. Mention veterans’ preference

While disclosing your protected veteran status is not required, the U.S. government gives preference to veterans to promote fair hiring practices under The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). Veterans qualify for a certain number of points based on several factors including length of service and discharge status. Certain qualifying family members of fallen soldiers are also eligible for preference.

5. List your work experience

Federal resumes require a detailed accounting of your work experience over the last 10 years. Similarly to normal resumes, it is best to begin the body of your federal resume with professional experience, especially in positions related to the job you are applying for. If you are lacking significant professional experience, consider listing your education first and choose the most applicable positions that prove you are suited for the job.

To provide the most detailed account of your qualifications, include the following information when describing each of your work experiences:

  • Employer’s name and location: If a job is in a country different from the federal government entity you are applying to, be sure to list the city, region or state and country where applicable.

  • Job title: Be sure to use the correct job title assigned by that employer for consistency during the verification process.

  • Start and end date: This information allows hiring personnel to understand how long you’ve spent at each of your positions, which can help them determine your qualifications and suitability for the specific role. If you are currently employed, use “present” to indicate that you still work there.

  • Average number of hours worked per week: Federal HR uses this to quantify your experience. It is not uncommon for federal jobs to require a minimum of 52 weeks’ worth of experience.

  • Detailed description of daily responsibilities: Where appropriate, use key phrases from the job description to highlight your relevant experience and skills required by the position.

  • Awards or special recognition: If you are recognized for any achievements, you can include them in a separate section or as an addition to the respective job’s details. If applicable, use numbers and statistics to quantify your achievements. 

  • Supervisor’s name and contact information: This addition allows hiring personnel to reach out to your former employer to verify your employment, job title and other details necessary in the vetting process.

Related: Listing Professional Experience on Your Resume

6. Describe your education

Make sure to include each school you have attended and any degrees or certifications you’ve received. Homeschool curricula, study abroad experiences and completed programs and degrees are all acceptable additions. For each school, include the following information where applicable:

  • Years attended
  • Degree or qualification earned, including minors
  • GPA
  • Number of credit hours earned
  • Completion date
  • Any awards or special recognition received, including honors designations
  • Membership to professional or educational organizations, including professional societies
  • Relevant coursework, projects, presentations or papers

Read more: How to List Education on a Resume

7. Consider other optional items

You may also want to include the following:

  • Security clearance: If applicable, state your level of security clearance as a result of your current employment within a government entity.

  • Desired location: The job posting may list more than one location for which the position is applicable. State your preferred location to assist hiring personnel with their candidate selection.

  • Additional training: List any relevant coursework or special skill training outside of work experience or education.

  • Volunteer work: This experience can be a strong addition to showcase other skills and interests as well as highlight dedication to serving your community.

  • References: These are in addition to previous employers whose information you provided above. Give the name, contact information and relationship for each reference. Use professional references, such as former coworkers, or personal references, such as a mentor.

  • Languages: Fluency in languages other than the one native to the government entity for which you are applying can be essential in many federal positions.

  • Affiliations: List any organizations, professional or otherwise, to which you belong. These can include fraternities or sororities, charitable organizations or trade guilds.

  • Publications: Provide the titles, publications and publication dates of any articles you have written for recognized journals on subjects that are job-relevant.

  • Additional skills: In particular, list technical skills that fall outside of your work experience but may be useful in your next job.

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Federal resume example

In addition to the points noted above, your resume should include the job name, GS grade and job number for which you are applying. You should also include a brief professional profile to provide the person reading your resume a summary of your qualifications for the job. 

Here is an example to help you craft your own comprehensive federal resume:

IT Specialist (Customer Support) – GS-2210
HANNAH BROWN
1721 Pilots Lane
Chicago, IL 60616
Cell Phone: (555) 555-1234
Email: hbrown@email.com

Citizenship: U.S. Citizen
Veterans’ Preference: No
Highest GS Grade: N/A
Security Clearance: N/A
Desired Location: US-IL-Cook County-Chicago

PROFESSIONAL PROFILE

Motivated Information Technology professional with skills in application development and support. Proven experience with application upgrades, computer maintenance, troubleshooting and help desk support across a variety of environments including Windows and Linux. Works well in a team, able to take and give direction and used to high-pressure situations. Self-motivated and determined to see a task through to the end. Good time management skills, able to handle multiple projects. Excellent communicator, both orally and written. Twice recognized for outstanding customer support.

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

SYSTEM SUPPORT SPECIALIST, 40 hrs/week—04/23/2015 to Present
First American Bank, 123 Cherry Harvest Lane, Chicago, IL 60616
Manager: Brian Briggs (773) 555-5656. May contact.

Responsibilities:

  • Managing and maintaining software and applications used by the Auto Services line of business. 
  • Liaising with vendor support to troubleshoot and fix third-party software issues. 
  • Installing server and operating system updates. 
  • Monitoring for potential malware or other server attacks. Managing software upgrades. 
  • Managing, maintaining and repairing hardware (PCs, printers, and servers) used by the Auto Services line of business. Working with vendors to troubleshoot printer issues.
  • Designing and developing small productivity applications for the business using C# and Access. 
  • Interfacing with business partners, providing telephone and face-to-face assistance with their needs.

Accomplishments:

  • Received corporate recognition award for customer service in February, 2018.
  • Developed an application for performing special billing functionality not supported by the business’s third-party software.
  • Kept business going when the servers went down during peak hours. Re-routed traffic to back-up servers, traced the fault, fixed it and restored production servers within two hours.

SYSTEM SUPPORT ANALYST, 40 hrs/week—1/10/2013 to 04/23/2015
First American Bank, 123 Cherry Harvest Lane, Chicago, IL 60616
Manager: Brian Briggs (773) 555-5656. May contact.

Responsibilities:

  • Maintaining software and applications used by the Auto Services line of business. Installing operating system updates. 
  • Maintaining and repairing hardware (PCs, printers, and servers) used by the Auto Services line of business. 
  • Providing telephone and face-to-face assistance to our business partners.
  • Creating reports for management using Microsoft Word and Excel. Developing PowerPoint presentations for the monthly IT team meeting.

Accomplishments:

  • Received corporate recognition for customer service, 09/21/2014.
  • Consistently completed federal regulatory reporting ahead of schedule every month between 2013 and 2015.
  • Received MCSE Certification (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert), March 2015.

HELP DESK SUPPORT, 40 hrs/week—07/03/2011 to 11/10/2013
First American Bank, 123 Cherry Harvest Lane, Chicago, IL 60616
Manager: Julie-Ann Glover (773) 555-0902. May contact.

Responsibilities:

  • Providing level 3 technology phone support.
  • Assisting employees with software and hardware issues. Using screen-sharing technology to access employee workstations for enhanced support.
  • Logging help desk tickets and working through assigned tickets.
  • Maintaining and updating the help desk internal wiki page.
  • Creating weekly reports for management using Crystal Reports.

Accomplishments:

  • Successfully mentored 12 new hires to the help desk between 2011 and 2013.
  • Completed training in C# and advanced server maintenance.

TECH SUPPORT ASSISTANT, 40 hrs/week—06/22/2008 to 07/03/2011
FirstCare Hospital, 903 Surgery Street, Chicago, IL 60616
Manager: Terry Flynn (773) 555-8398. May contact.

Responsibilities:

  • Providing level 1 and 2 technology phone support.
  • Assessing and redirecting support calls for further assistance.
  • Helping employees with basic computer and software issues.
  • Logging support tickets into the help desk management system.
  • Generating reports from the help desk management system using Crystal Reports and Access.

Accomplishments:

  • Completed training in software support and computer maintenance.
  • Received the IT “Star Help” award for excellence in tech support.

EDUCATION

University of Illinois, IL 61820
Bachelor of Arts, Business, magna cum laude—2008
Concentration: Business technology; 128 semester hours
GPA: 3.6/4.0

Terrence B. Outhwaite High School, Chicago, IL 60007
High School Diploma—2004
GPA: 3.9/4.0

ADDITIONAL TRAINING

  • Visual Basic for Applications, Chicago Community College, 06/2004
  • UNIX Essentials, Chicago Technical College, 10/2013
  • Linux for UNIX Users, Chicago Technical College, 02/2014

PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES

  • C# (Proficient)
  • JavaScript (Proficient)
  • HTML/CSS (Proficient)

VOLUNTEER WORK

  • Animal Rescue Center, Downtown Chicago, IL
  • Tech4All, a community initiative to train disadvantaged kids to use and maintain computers, Chicago, IL

AFFILIATIONS

  • Phi Sigma Rho, 2004-2008

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Jobs that may require a federal resume

There are a wide variety of jobs available with the federal government that need a complete federal resume, including:

  • Law enforcement: Positions for police, criminal investigation, border security or national security often require a federal resume.

  • Legal: If you have legal training, you could consider a position as a public attorney, paralegal or judge.

  • International relations: You can apply your language skills as an interpreter or work in foreign affairs and other diplomatic positions.

  • Technology: If you have education and experience within IT, you can find work in programming, networking and other IT specialties within a variety of government agencies.

  • Engineering: Whether electronic, civil or general engineering, various government departments that often hire these specialties include Transport and Energy.

  • Business: Accountancy, management and marketing skills can be used working in commerce or the treasury.

  • Medicine: The federal government often hires doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians to fill roles in public health, research and healthcare policy.

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