Knowing how to write a federal resume is an important first step for anyone who wants a government job.
Now, we’re not going to tiptoe around it: finding a government job is hard right now. Government jobs have been disappearing since the start of the Great Recession.
At the local level alone, government employment has declined by 535,000 since September of 2008, according to the Department of Labor’s latest Employment Situation report. Just in September, our economy lost 34,000 government positions overall.
In this difficult environment, you need to make sure your federal resume looks flawless whenever you apply for a government position.
First, while you should certainly familiarize yourself with general resume writing guidelines, keep in mind that a federal resume requires much more specific information than a typical resume. In that sense, it is more like a CV-resume hybrid, although the focus is on specific government positions, not academic positions.
This article is the first of a two-part series on writing a federal resume. In this article, we will focus on how to write a header for a federal resume, describing all the necessary information that should be supplied and how it should be included.
1. Start with your full contact information.
This is basically the same information as on a regular resume, but it will be looked at closely, so it’s worth mentioning again. Your full contact information means your legal name, mailing address, zip code, and e-mail address, along with your daytime and evening phone numbers.
2. List the job for which you are applying.
You should clearly identify the job for which you are applying at the top of your federal resume.
The Applicant Guide for federal positions provided by the Agricultural Research Service recommends listing it under a “Job Information” section, with the following subheadings:
- Announcement Number: X#####
- Job Title: Title Goes Here
- Grade(s) Applying for: GS-##
The Federal Resume Handbook just recommends listing it all on one line, under an “Objective” heading.
3. Consider including your social security number if you are applying for a specific position. If you are posting your federal resume online, do not include it.
In the old days of paper resumes, the average worker had no problem putting their social security number on their federal resume. Now that a resume can be posted for millions of people to see in just a few seconds and identity theft is on the rise, things are getting more complicated.
Some federal employees still expect to see a full social security number at the top of each resume. The Federal Resume Handbook, the Agricultural Research Service Applicant Guide, the job application guide for the Library of Congress, and many other sources still advise disclosing your full social security number.
However, the federal job search engine USAJobs.gov asks that you do not place your social security number on your resume when you post it to their website.
If you are submitting your resume for a specific opening, you may want to call and ask if you should include your social security number. If you are posting the resume online, err on the side of caution and do not include it.
4. Include your country of citizenship and, if applicable, U.S. Visa status.
Including your country of citizenship on your federal resume is important because most government positions require applicants to be U.S. citizens. When you look at a federal job ad, you should see the citizenship or location requirement, if applicable, in a section marked “Area of Consideration.”
So, if you are a U.S. citizen, you should put “Citizenship: United States of America” at the top of your federal resume. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can write both…
Citizenship: (Your Country)
U.S. Visa: (Your Visa Status)
5. Mention your eligibility for veteran’s preference, even if you are not eligible.
Veteran’s preference refers to employment laws that prevent veterans from being discriminated against or punished for the time they spent in military service. According to the Federal Resume Handbook, your veterans’ preference will either be “5-point” or “10-point,” if applicable. In this case, you need to include a copy of your DD 214 paperwork, too.
If this doesn’t apply to you, just put “no” or “N/A” in front of the words “Veteran’s Preference” at the top of your federal resume.
6. Add the highest federal civilian grade you have held.
This should be listed along with the other items at the top of your federal resume, after the words “Federal Experience” or “Highest Grade.”
The Federal Resume Handbook advises giving your official job title, then your series and GS number. For example, you could put:
Highest Grade: Your Job Title Here, GS###-##
This could be a past position or a current position.
7. If applicable, write that you are eligible for reinstatement.
Reinstatement eligibility refers to regulations that allow former government employees to reenter the federal workforce without competing against the public. If you are eligible for reinstatement, this only applies to positions of equal or lower rank than the one you already held. You need to have your SF 50, Notification of Personnel Action, to take advantage of reinstatement eligibility.
Unlike with veteran’s preference, discussed above, you generally only need to mention reinstatement eligibility on your federal resume if it applies to you.
8. Add your security clearance, if applicable.
The three basic levels of security clearance in the U.S. are confidential, secret, and top secret.
Kathryn Troutman, federal resume expert and author of Ten Steps to a Federal Job, recommends listing your security clearance or the date of your last clearance up at the top of your federal resume, just after the words “Security Clearance.”
However, job hunt expert and creator of The Riley Guide, Margaret F. Dikel, says it may be safer to be discreet with this information. She recommends writing “Security Clearance: Yes” at the top of your federal resume, then being prepared to give details at the interview.
So, there are different approaches. Just remember that having a security clearance can make you more attractive to federal employers, since personnel with these clearances are increasingly in demand.
If you don’t have a security clearance, you can just not mention this, or you can put N/A, if it might be relevant to the job in the first place.
As you can tell, the heading for a federal resume must contain many specific items. By including them, you show that you are familiar with working for the government, or at least take the application seriously enough to do the research. If you don’t include this information, the individual in charge of hiring might just assume you aren’t qualified.
Stay tuned for the second part of this article, which covers the actual content of a federal resume.