Our website recently ran an article on how to write a header for a federal resume. Today, we continue our discussion by covering the actual content that one should provide on a federal resume.
As we said last time, although a federal resume requires more specific information than a resume for the private sector, knowing how to write a resume in general is still helpful. The federal resume is, after all, basically a more detailed variant of the standard resume.
Now, in addition to standard resume advice, here are tips that are more specific to the federal resume:
1. Aim for about 3 to 5 pages.
While a typical resume is only one or two pages long, a federal resume is often three to five pages long, according to the Federal Resume Handbook. That’s because, unless you don’t have much relevant experience yet, you will have a hard time fitting all the mandatory details into a one or two page document.
You’ll see what we mean as we begin to list the items that are necessary on a federal resume.
2. Stick to a chronological format.
The public sector is still quite bound to tradition, and the classic reverse chronological resume format is certainly the most traditional.
According to the Federal Resume Handbook, federal “resumes should be developed in the ‘chronological’ resume format. The Federal staffing specialist who reviews the resume for initial qualifications must know where, when and how long you were at the position mentioned, along with a lot of other information.”
So, a chronological format is the safest choice.
3. Include your past 10 years of experience, if applicable to the job for which you are applying.
The Federal Resume Handbook advises covering your past 10 years of employment history. Unlike a resume for the private sector, which is designed primarily to get you an interview, The Federal Resume Handbook says that the point of a federal resume is to show your qualifications so that human resources personnel can clearly determine whether you are qualified for the available position. That often means providing a detailed employment history.
And again, since a federal resume is expected to be three or more pages, you have room to elaborate.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go into detail about positions which are not relevant to the job posting. According to The National Archives and Records Administration’s Federal Resume Guide, you can move positions which are not related to the job opening to an “Additional Information” section that doesn’t get prime real estate on your resume. Or, if they are completely unrelated, you do not have to mention them at all, although this approach could lead to what appear to be gaps in employment on your federal resume.
4. In addition to normal job details, include your employer’s address, your supervisor’s name, your supervisor’s phone number, your hours per week, your starting salary as well as ending salary, and whether it is OK to contact your supervisor.
If you were writing about your last job on a general resume, you would include basic details, such as your job title, your employer’s name, your employer’s city and state, the date you started the job, and the date you ended the job. For start and end dates, you could include years and months, or just years.
Obviously, you would also include your job duties and accomplishments, hopefully with numbers to back up the latter.
A federal resume would need to include all of the above, plus:
- Your employer’s full address
- Your supervisor’s full name
- Your supervisor’s phone number, with area code
- The number of hours you worked per week
- Your starting salary
- Your ending salary
- Whether it is appropriate to contact your supervisor—write either “may be contacted” or “do not contact”
Yes, you need to include both your starting and ending salary! This would be considered a big resume mistake in the private sector, but is completely expected on a federal resume.
For federal jobs, be sure to include your series and GS number, in the format GS ###-##.
Now, when it comes to whether it is OK to contact your supervisor, the federal staffing specialist is expecting to see “may be contacted.” If you’re writing “do not contact,” the Federal Resume Handbook says you should explain why in your cover letter.
Also note that, on a federal resume, you need to include both years and months when discussing job start and end dates.
5. In your education section, provide details about your college education.
If you have a college degree, you are always expected to list it on a general resume. On a general resume, you are supposed to include the name of the college, the city and state in which the institution is located, your major, distinctions or awards, and possibly your minor.
The federal resume should include all of the above, along with the date you earned each degree. The Federal Resume Guide also says to include your GPA.
6. Your education section must also provide your high school information.
On a general resume, you stop listing your high school information after you complete your first semester of college. However, on a federal resume, you must list your full high school information.
This includes the name of your high school, along with the city and state in which it is located. You also need to include the date you earned your high school diploma or GED. You are also supposed to list your GPA.
As you can imagine, this usually makes your age obvious on a federal resume, since the typical American earns their high school diploma at age 18.
7. Professional affiliations, awards, civic leadership, job-related training courses, and other relevant qualifications should also be included.
This is pretty much the same information you would include on a regular resume, but you have more room on a federal resume, so you should try to provide details.
For example, when listing job-related training, you are required to provide the title of the training course you took and the year you completed it, but the Federal Resume Handbook also advises adding the name of the school and the number of hours you completed.
The bottom line on the federal resume…
The federal resume is basically a souped-up version of the private sector resume. While the private sector resume offers an enticing reason to invite you to an interview, the federal resume lays everything out on the table for human resources personnel to evaluate.
So, on your federal resume, be specific and provide plenty of detail. Public sector positions are getting harder and harder to come by, so make sure you have a well-written, thorough federal resume to help you get your foot in the door.