Formatting Federal Résumés

Robin Shlinger ImageBy: Robin Schlinger, CARW, CFRW, CPRW,
Owner, Robin’s Resumes®

The format and content of résumés to apply for United States federal jobs differ from those written for the private sector (corporate) workplace. Following is an overview of the components of a federal résumé.

• Formats: Federal résumés require specific formats depending on the federal agency, federal department and vacancy announcement. The specifics could include types of information, order of presentation, page length requirements and fields, and character counts. Many require online formats and submission, which can be confusing, complicated, time consuming and difficult to comply with due to space limitations and the number of fields to fill in.

• Required information: Federal résumés require specific information such as social security number; job start and end dates, month, year and sometimes day; employer addresses; salary information; number of hours worked; supervisor names and phone numbers; college GPA and graduation dates; high school education; all training, including course name, date and number of hours; and other information typically not included in corporate résumés. If this information is specified in the vacancy announcement as being required but is not provided in the résumé, the application might be rejected.

• Length: Federal résumés (3–15 pages) are typically much longer than corporate résumés (1–2 pages in general). Federal résumés require detailed descriptions of duties for each job and, as in corporate résumés, accomplishments. Some of these duties and actions might be repeated in the description of other jobs if applicable. Ideally, to avoid rejection of the application, one should specifically spell out how the applicant meets all requirements listed in the vacancy announcement and give examples of past performance of most of the duties in the job description.

• Additional documentation: Many federal announcements require answers to essay questions that demonstrate an applicant’s Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs). KSAs are 1–2 page statements in response to vacancy-specific KSA questions that convey detailed examples from an applicant’s experience related to the job announcement. There may be several of these statements per application. In addition, federal résumé announcements will often ask applicants to mail, fax or upload additional information such as transcripts, evaluations, personnel information forms, demographic information forms or military service forms.

Additional questions: Many federal vacancy announcements present multiple choice questions that relate to an applicant’s experience. If the applicant cannot answer in the affirmative to most of the questions, it is not likely that the applicant would be selected for the job.

• Who can apply: Each federal announcement will list the criteria for “who can apply.” Some of these criteria might be United States citizen, current federal employee, veteran, bilingual speaking and writing, etc. Most federal announcements require an applicant to be a United States citizen.

• How to apply: Each announcement specifies how to apply for that job and gives a closing date. If an applicant does not follow the directions exactly or does not meet the closing deadline, the application will generally be rejected.

Must meet all requirements: If an applicant does not meet all requirements listed in the announcement, by LAW the applicant will not be offered the position.

• Veterans Preference: If an applicant is a veteran, the applicant may be awarded preference (5 or 10 points) depending on an applicant’s service and disability status. In addition, disabled veterans may get additional consideration based on their status.

• Selection: Applications are typically scored based on the contents of the submitted material, provided the requirements for that position are met. After adding veteran’s points, applicants earn the rating of Best Qualified, Highly Qualified, Qualified or Not Qualified. In general, the top 3 applications are forwarded to the hiring manager, who can then choose one of the 3 candidates based solely on the résumé submission and related application documents or after conducting candidate interviews.

©Robin Schlinger, 2009


Robin Schlinger, owner of Robin’s Resumes®, is a recognized Résumé Writing Expert. She has earned three key certifications—Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), Certified Advanced Resume Writer (CARW) and Certified Federal Resume Writer (CFRW). She is a member of four of the top career industry organizations, National Résumé Writers’ Association (NRWA), Career Directors International (CDI), Career Management Alliance (CMA) and the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). You can reach Robin via her web site, www.robinresumes.com or by phone at 404-875-2688.