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  3. The complete guide on how to write a federal resume (with examples)
The complete guide on how to write a federal resume (with examples)
Helen Oswald

Helen Oswald

The complete guide on how to write a federal resume (with examples)

Artwork by: Nelly Borisova

  • Don’t apply if you don’t qualify
  • How to write a resume for federal jobs: include vital contact information
  • Use federal formatting
  • How to write a federal resume: meet the job requirements
  • Key takeaways

Applying for a position with a federal government agency? Wondering how to jump through the hoops of the application process? Read our complete guide on how to write a federal resume with some helpful examples to get your started.

If you’re applying for a position with a federal government agency, you’ll probably notice right away that the application process is more stringent and formal than many of the jobs you’ve applied for in the past.

There are many important distinctions between federal job applications and the ones seen in the private sector. You can read up on those differences in our federal application guide blog post. But the most important difference is that federal agencies don’t offer wiggle room, and they don’t grant you many opportunities to show off your value.

In fact, for most federal agencies, your resume is 90% of your application. For these applications, if something’s not on your resume then in the eyes of the government it didn’t happen. This is why having a strong federal resume is crucial to landing a role with the federal government. 

In this article we explore the rules for creating and using a federal resume:

  • Don’t apply if you don’t qualify

  • Include important contact information

  • Use federal formatting

  • Meet the job requirements

Don’t apply if you don’t qualify

Seriously, don’t. You will just be wasting your time, which would be better spent on another application. Unlike private companies, the federal government is strict about their requirements and qualifications. These will be listed out clearly in the “Qualifications” section of the job announcement on USAJOBS. If you don’t meet 100% of these requirements, you will not be considered.

If you do meet the requirements, these need to be listed clearly on your resume because, again, if it’s not there then it didn’t happen.

How to write a resume for federal jobs: include vital contact information

Make sure you provide up-to-date contact information. At the minimum, most job applications require the following:

  • Address

  • Email

  • Phone Number

Check the small print on the job description for any additional contact details that may be required, as the devil is definitely in the detail with a federal resume.

Use federal formatting

A federal resume will ask for some information that you may not be used to providing, such as your number of weekly hours and your supervisor’s name and contact information.

This is because the whole evaluation process is different. For example, the number of hours is included because many positions require applicants to have a specific level of experience, and the hours are used to calculate that.

There’s also no limit on how long a federal resume can be, although many agencies prefer you keep it under five pages. With the extra space, you have plenty of room to list specific accomplishments that are relevant to the position’s qualifications.

Job descriptions in federal resumes should be in reverse chronological order only and written in past tense, starting from your most recent work and going backwards. Always list the details of your experience in bulleted lists or in paragraph form under the appropriate job title. That way the information can count toward your experience level. Here is an example:


Project Manager GS-123-45

February 2022 – Present

40 Hours/Week


- Experience/Accomplishment

- Experience/Accomplishment

This also means that you should NOT include a skill summary or a “highlighted achievements” section like you might in a private-sector resume. If you have achievements or STAR stories to share, then list them under the appropriate job.

You also don’t need to limit yourself to paid jobs. Feel free to include unpaid volunteer or internship work as a job description as well, if it is relevant of course.

Expert Tip

Ensure you use the specific terms from the job posting, and tick all the boxes in terms of qualifications that are required. For example, if the qualifications section states “MS Excel” as essential, use the exact words “MS Excel” on your resume.

How to write a federal resume: meet the job requirements

The easiest way to demonstrate that you meet all the requirements for a federal position is to simply use them as a checklist. 

You can literally copy and paste them from the job announcement into a separate document or into the window where you’re writing your resume.Then, using that list as a guide, you can make sure that the content of your resume is fully aligned with the exact requirements and qualifications needed for the job.

However, just showing that you meet the requirements isn’t enough to get an interview; you also need to demonstrate that you make or have made positive contributions. Include as many specific examples of your abilities as possible to prove how well you can perform the  tasks required for the job. Wherever you can, you should back up your achievements and accomplishments with numbers (percentages or dollars for example).


Improved document processing efficiency 25% over the previous year by designing and implementing a new filing system

Exercised robust management and control of the $15,000 budget

Eliminated a backlog of 200 order queries in a two-week period

Project managed a successful fundraiser that secured $30,000 in donations

Check your performance reviews, references, awards, and previous job descriptions as the source for your specific achievements. These accomplishments back up the skills being put forward and will position you as the right person for the job.



Have someone with a good eye for detail review your resume before you apply. Ask them to check that what you have written matches the job requirements.They can also check for any spelling or grammatical errors.

Use acronyms. If it’s an essential acronym, spell it out the first time and place the acronym in parentheses behind it. For example: “Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA)”.

Key takeaways

  1. Federal resumes can be tough and overwhelming at first, but with a little effort you’ll start to see they’re not that different from what you’re used to. 

  2. Ensure you follow the federal formatting guide to the letter or you won’t get an interview. Don’t include a skills summary section. Any achievements or STAR stories should be listed with the appropriate job.

  3. Your resume should clearly show that you meet all the requirements of the job using the exact wording from the job posting. Remember, if you don’t qualify then don’t apply.

  4. Whenever possible, back up your experience and qualifications with numbers, percentages, or dollars.

  5. Use our guide and the USAJOBS website to prepare a strong resume and you’ll be on the right track to securing a rewarding career in public service.

Helen Oswald

Helen Oswald

Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.

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