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Federal Resumes – How They Differ from the Private Sector

I personally reviewed and rated hundreds of federal applications during my 35-plus years of federal service and participated in many interview and selection panels. I was also a rating official for select occupations for our organization and can tell you from first-hand experience that many highly qualified applicants never made the cut because they didn’t devote the time or effort to properly complete their application packages.


Federal resumes require more information than a typical two-page civilian resume, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the hiring arm of the federal work force. Applicants must include detailed educational and work experience, job titles, salary, employment dates, duties and accomplishments, and describe how their past experience and education relates to the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) [2] in the job announcement. Uncle Sam’s federal resume must include specific data or it may be rejected.

I can’t stress enough the importance of tailoring your federal resume to the job announcement’s key duties, responsibilities and specialized experience. If you tailor your resume to the job announcement [3] you will improve your chances of being referred for interviews. Everything is about showing rating officials, through your detailed work descriptions, that you deserve to be placed in the “Best Qualified” group.

Unlike private sector companies, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides detailed Federal Qualification Standards [4] for applicants that list qualifying work experience and education. These documents, along with the job announcement, will help you determine whether or not you meet the basic qualifications for a desired position.

Applications are accepted online and each job announcement provides links to APPLY and complete an online application and resume. Search for job vacancies [5] in your local area that are compatible with your background and education.

Use our Federal Resume Guide [6] to walk you through the process. We provide a federal resume sample [7] for you to use as a template for your application.

I suggest writing your detailed job descriptions and collecting key data for your federal resume offline using a word processor. You will be able to spell check your federal resume and compose coherent work histories tailored to the job announcement or position description without time limits. To submit your application online simply copy and paste your draft into the online résumé builder.

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Last 5 posts by Dennis Damp