How to Write a Federal Resume in 2021 [3 Free Templates]

May 25
9 min read

Creating a federal resume is a lot trickier than a conventional one.

For starters, you need to make it way more comprehensive (3-4 pages instead of the usual 1-2).

You also have to add very specific details, such as your GS rating, clearance, and more.

Want to learn how to create/build a federal resume the easy way?

Read on to find out:

  • What’s a Federal Resume & How Does It Differ From a Conventional One
  • How to Write a Federal Resume in 6 Easy Steps
  • How to Look for Federal Jobs

And more!

So, let’s get started.

What’s a Federal Resume?

A federal resume, as the name implies, is the type of resume you need to make in order to apply for US federal positions.

It is similar to the conventional resume in the way you describe your experiences. You include all the must-have sections in your resume, and describe your skills and past experiences.

There are, however, some differences from a conventional resume that make creating a federal one a bit trickier.

Federal Resume VS Conventional Resume - Key Differences

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

Sounds a bit complicated, right?

Worry not - once you’ve gotten the hang of it, writing a federal resume becomes a child’s play.

And you’re about to learn just how you can do that!

How to Write a Federal Resume [6 Easy Steps]

Step #1. Start With a Trusted Format

There are 3 typical resumes formats you can pick from:

  • Reverse-chronological: this one’s the standard and it lists your experiences from 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.

  • How Long Should a Federal Resume Be?

While a traditional resume is 1-2 pages max, the federal resume provides you with a LOT more freedom.

As we highlighted above, a federal resume includes a lot more detail than the conventional one. So, if you aim for 1-2 pages, you’ll just come off as lazy (and most likely unable to list all the information you need to land the job).

  • Which Format Should You Use ForYour Federal Resume?

Unless the job ad specifically asks for a specific format, we recommend you stick to PDF.

A PDF resume maintains its original formatting and will look just like you intended regardless of which computer you open it with.

The same, however, can’t be said for a Word resume format. 

  • Should I Use a Federal Resume Template?

Yep - if you use a resume template, your resume is going to be a lot more noticeable and at the same time, easier to create.

You can pick one of our hand-crafted CV templates and get started with yours in minutes!

federal resume template

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:

For a federal resume, also include the following essentials:

Here’s how this would look like on a real-life federal resume:

John Smith

202-555-0101

doe.john@gmail.com

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 & 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

Here is a real-life federal resume summary example:

Correct Example:

  • 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.

Let us teach you how to do both: 

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 & State
  • Salary
  • Hours Worked Per Week
  • GS Rating (If Relevant)
  • Supervisor’s Name
  • Supervisor’s Contact Information
  • Whether It’s OK to Contact Supervisor

Here’s how this would look in a real-life resume entry:

Supervisory Security Specialist

National Nuclear Security Administration

04/2015 - Present

Washington, DC

Pay Grade: GS12

Average Hours Per Week: 40

Supervisor: Michelle Doe (202-555-0180)

Yes, you may contact the 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.

Correct Example:

  • Oversaw the Office of Defense Nuclear Security (DMS). Handled HR processes including classification, recruitment, training, workforce management, and more. Responsible for developing NNSA policies and guidance, as well providing guidance to NSSA headquarters, NNSA field organizations, and NSSA contract organizations.

Incorrect Example:

  • Exceeded sales KPIs by 20% for 3 months in a row
  • Responsible for outbound cold calling, doing up to 100+ calls per day.

How to Write a Convincing Work Experience Section

Now, let’s talk about part 2:

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.

So, instead of saying:

Incorrect Example:

  • Managed 3 projects from start to finish over the last year.

Say:

Correct Example:

  • Helped implement a cutting-edge project management solution organization-wide, improving employee output by 20% for the year.

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:

Correct Example

Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service

Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, United States

08/2014 - 05/2018

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

And here are some practical examples:

Awards

  • Won first place in the Google Code Jam competition.

Certifications

  • Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Science (2019)

Languages

  • English - Native
  • French - Intermediate

Technical Skills

  • C++
  • Java
  • Javascript

Federal Job Search Resources

There are a ton of useful internet resources to help you get a job in the federal government. Here are some of our top favorites:

And finally, in addition to USA Jobs, you can find federal work on the following websites:

Other Federal Resume & Job Search Tips

At this point, your federal resume should be ready.

But before you go and start your job search, here are some of our top tips to help you succeed in landing your next job!

#1. Tailor Your Federal Resume to the Job

If you’re applying to several different types of jobs, make sure to tailor your resume to each of them.

A very common mistake job seekers make is that they create a single resume for dozens of positions.

This is effective at times, but it very rarely works for the type of job you’d LOVE to have.

So how do you tailor the resume? it’s pretty straightforward. Look up a job you’d like to apply for, and read the responsibilities and skills required in great detail.

Then, cross-reference it with your resume.

In many cases, you’ll see that you DO have a lot of the required experiences , you just didn’t mention them because you didn’t have space, or because you thought other types of experiences were more important.

Now all you have to do is add the relevant information to your resume, and you’re good to go!

#2. Mind the Additional Documents

Federal positions will commonly ask you for additional documents other than your resume.

If you miss one, chances are, you’re going to get disqualified (even if you have the most eye-catching federal resume in the world).

So, carefully read about the job you’re applying for and ensure that you have all the right documents.

Some documents required for federal jobs include:

#3. Are You Still Struggling? Hire a Federal Resume Expert!

If you’re still struggling with building an effective federal resume, you can always hire an expert to give you a helping hand.

Check out some of the best career coaches in 2021 here.

Federal Resume FAQ

Do you still have some lingering questions on how to build an effective federal resume? We’ll answer them here!

#1. What should I include in my federal resume?

In your federal resume, include the following sections:

  • Contact information
  • Resume summary
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Optional sections like skills, languages, etc.

#2. What format should my federal resume follow?

Definitely reverse-chronological.

The other 2 resume formats (functional and combination) are nowhere near as popular and are more likely to ruin your chances to land the job if the hiring manager isn’t familiar with them.

#3. Should I include my picture on my federal resume?

No, you should not include a picture in your federal resume.

You should also avoid adding any sensitive personal information (age, date of birth, marital status, religious affiliation, social security number, etc.), as well as links to any websites.

#4. How long should my federal resume be?

Your federal resume should be around 4 to 6 pages long, as opposed to the conventional resume which is 1-2 pages.

The reason for this is that federal resumes require a lot more background information about you than the traditional ones.

Key Takeaways

Phew, that was a lot to take in!

Now, let’s recap all the key points we’ve covered about creating a federal resume:

  • A federal resume should be 4 to 6 pages long.
  • It should be very detailed and include all sorts of essential information, such as GS codes, citizenship, hours worked per week, and more.
  • In a federal resume, include the following sections: contact information, resume summary, work experience, education.
  • If you have additional space left, you can also add things like volunteering experience, certifications, skills, etc.