Stop using your private industry resume to apply for government jobs on USAJobs

Stop using your private industry resume to apply for government jobs on USAJobs

As a federal career consultant and federal resume writer, I consult with many federal job applicants who have submitted 100 to 400 government job applications to by uploading their private sector resume.

If you want to get the best qualifications for a federal position and hopefully get referred to a supervisor, you need to write a very specific style, content, and format of a federal resume.

Applying for a federal job — like any business with the government — is complicated. Of course, a federal resume is NOT the same as the 2-page resume one uses to apply for a job in the private sector.


1. LENGTH: Most federal resumes are 4 to 5 pages. Mid-career professionals with 15 to 20 years of experience will have a 5-page federal resume. A 2 page resume for private industry WILL NOT WORK.

2. MORE DETAILS: You should include more details about your duties and achievements in your last position or the most suitable position. A typical private business resume will have 8 to 10 bullet points of information for each position. The duties section of a federal resume describes what you have done, usually in complete sentences. The position best suited for a federal position can be a full page long.

3. FORMAT: Make sure your resume is readable to HR professionals, who have hundreds of resumes to review to determine who is most qualified for their positions. Many resumes in the private sector consist of short statements with bullet points. Many current federal employees write their resumes in a giant block of font based on position descriptions. The best format is a summary in reverse chronological order. The Outline format includes the best skills required for the position. For a public relations professional, the best skills might be: media specialist, writer-editor, researcher/analyst, media event coordinator.

4. FONT TYPE: Present the best skills in ALL CAPS so the busy HR reviewer can find the skills they’re looking for.

5. KEY WORDS: Add language and keywords from the job posting Duties and Specialized Experience to your federal resume. You can find the keywords by searching for words that are repeated many times in the ad; these can be technical terms or phrases that describe specific skills.

6. PROVE YOUR EXPERIENCE: You’ll see USAJOBS job postings that will tell you they want to see one year of specialized experience in a specific field on your resume. The post will also offer types of examples that can help you prove your expertise.

7. 10 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: Federal HR professionals typically read/scan the last 10 years of experience on your federal resume. Years prior to 10 years can be added to the resume, but keep this information brief.

8. NEW AND RELEVANT: HR professionals will look for recent and relevant experience in your work experience section.

9. MONTH, YEAR AND HOURS OF THE WEEK: It is imperative that you add the month and year and the hours per week for your jobs. Because they need to see that you have a year of specialized experience in positions and levels that are similar to this job, you’ll need to add that information to your resume.

10. SALARY: The federal summary in asks for your salaries for the last 10 years. They need to see your paychecks to see your experience and gauge the extent to which you might be qualified for a government position.

11. COVER LETTER: You can add a cover letter to your USAJOBS account now, following federal hiring reform. We recommend a cover letter to highlight your specialized expertise and the most relevant training or experience for the position.

12. RECENT AND SUITABLE WORKS: You do NOT need to add every job in your USAJOBS resume builder. If you have short-term positions that were taken to make money against accounts, you can leave it. Yes, it will leave some free time, but the HR professional is really looking for specialized experience.

13. 5 USAJOBS RESUMES: USAJOBS will allow you to upload 5 resumes. Create multiple versions of a resume for each message. Your original resume can be slightly modified to match a few keywords for each new message.

14. FEDERAL ABSTRACTS SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON PROFESSIONAL SERIES WITH DIFFERENT KEYWORDS: If you are looking for a Software Analyst position, use the keywords and skills for the position. Keywords for the program analyst will be: analyst, research, studies, efficacy and effectiveness, quantitative and qualitative analysis, briefings. If you are also looking for an administrative officer position, your keywords will be different: operations, budget management, supervision, customer service, project management.

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