• Leah N. Hout

Get Started Writing your Federal Resume with These 9 Tips

Updated: Jan 3

Have you considered applying for a federal government job opportunity in the past, but you quickly became overwhelmed with the application requirements and give up? The tips in this post will help relieve some anxiety when writing the duties for any position and get your resume in front of the hiring manager.

Why am I so confident these tips work? Because over the years, I have used these tips to help private- and federal-sector applicants transform their resumes and get their desired federal job. Many people do not know there are big differences between the two formats. My private-sector resume is less than 2 pages and my federal resume is a little over 3 pages with a lot of detail. For a federal resume, this is acceptable as long as the same information is not repeated and you are adequately exhibiting your experience. The following tips will help you get started on your federal resume by focusing on the top nine tips to write the experience section of your resume.

1. Find a Target Ideal Position. You could write a general federal resume, but it won’t likely get many eyes on it. I encourage clients who do not have a particular position in mind to find a target occupation. Go to USA Jobs (www.usajobs.gov) and find a position in that occupation, in which you would be interested in applying. You’ll want to set your salary range, so you are not writing a resume for a job outside your knowledge and skills range. You also need to determine if you’re willing to move or want to stay in your current area. If you are interested in being a park ranger but don’t want to move and the closest national park is 150 miles away, you will need to make a decision – move or decide on something closer. Overall, you’ll want to determine up front how flexible you are and when something shows up in one of your preferred areas you’ll make some tweaks to your resume to fit that position specifically and submit.

2. Get Familiar with the Announcement.

Download or print the job announcement and read it. These are long announcements and will have a standard format. You want to understand the format and terminology. Look for anything that would include you or exclude you from the potential pool of candidates. For example, is the job open to the public or only internal employees in a certain agency, do you have to have a certain educational requirement, or must you be able to obtain a certain security clearance? Don’t waste time on tailoring your resume to a position that you cannot be hired for because of these requirements. If you are not sure what is required, you can reach out to the agency contact to confirm.

3. Create an Outline.

Look at the Duties; Qualifications; and Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities sections and pick out the keywords. I admit this is probably one of the hardest things about analyzing the job announcement. There is often a lot of “stuff” but try to see what actions they want the incumbent to perform and find words that show up in several places. A few examples of keywords are problem resolution, plan, advise, customer service. Pick out at 5 to 10 keywords. List them on a blank document in all capital letters.





4. Find the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs).

Look at the Qualifications section of the announcement and find the KSAs. You must demonstrate all the KSAs in your resume. Here’s where you need to prove what you know or know how to do. Again, it can be difficult to filter out the right information, but read and re-read each statement to find what is being asked of the applicants. Make a list of the KSA’s. You can add them to the outline list or keep them separate but you must show somewhere in your resume you are qualified in what is specified. Don’t skip these words.

5. Fill in your Outline.

Now that you have the words need included on your resume, use the experience on your private sector resume and begin filling in your outline. Just brainstorm and write all the experiences in your workplace, church, community group, special projects, leadership opportunities that have given you experience in that area. As you begin to fill in your outline, try to lead with an action verb, be specific, and include numbers if possible. Then tell how you well you accomplished or exceeded the task.

The duty you pull from your private-sector resume for customer service might read:

CUSTOMER SERVICE. Answered an average of 300 inquiries per week in a call center environment. Consistently exceeded performance in all benchmark areas (speed, accuracy, and volume.)

6. Refine and provide detail.

After you add duties to your outline, start specializing your experience. Add keywords where appropriate if you haven’t already used them and paint the picture for the human resources specialist reviewing your resume. They don’t do your job in your setting, so make it easy to see your qualifications. For each statement if it is not clear who you supported, what programs or processes you used, what questions you answered, what environment or conditions you worked in, or how well you did your job, then it is probably not specific enough. Also note, I rarely ever use “responsible for”, it is unnecessary. Just start with the verb.


CUSTOMER SERVICE. Managed a high-volume, call-center workload. Resolved an average of 300 customer billing, service and technical inquiries per week. Consistently met or exceeded performance benchmarks in all categories including communication skills, listening skills, problem resolution, customer satisfaction and politeness.

Note: Keeping the KSA or Keyword Outline in capital letters works well to organize your resume and help the HR specialist or hiring supervisor to see your specialized experience.

7. Build your Professional Experience Section.

If possible, highlight your specialized experience as early in your resume as possible, preferably on the first page. Don’t spend a lot of time on formatting text. Once the document is uploaded to USAJobs, formatting will be stripped. You can also use the resume builder in USAJobs. Instead, spend your time reading the resume carefully and doing a spell/grammar check.

List your position details however you like, but you must include Company name, dates, position, location, salary or pay, hours per week, and supervisor name and contact information. Then begin listing the appropriate duties under each position.



Caesars Bank, Indianapolis, IN Pay: $17.50, per hour; Hours per week: 40 Supervisor: Jeff Payne, jp@mail2.net

CUSTOMER SERVICE. Managed a high-volume, call-center workload. Resolved an average of 300 customer billing, service and technical inquiries per week. Consistently met or exceeded performance benchmarks in all categories including communication skills, listening skills, problem resolution, customer satisfaction and politeness.

8. You Must Add Accomplishments.

In you haven’t already, add at least one accomplishment per position. You can decide if you want to call it out by stating ACCOMPLISHMENT/RESULT at the end of a particular KSA description or at the end of the position. This is another opportunity to stand out from all the other applicants by showing you were recognized for a job well done or you succeeded on a goal or task.

An example of this would be if you lead a team to increase volunteer participation for community service. After listing all your duties in leading the team you add your result as a final bullet.

ABILITY TO LEAD. Selected by management to lead 5-person Community Volunteer Reboot Project. Established project timeline. Held weekly in-person meetings with team. Established new offices practices and procedures to improve volunteer experience and sign-up efficiency. Maintained contact with leadership through weekly progress reports

RESULT: Completed project timeline on time and within budget. Increased monthly volunteer participation by 20 percent by end of second month after reboot kickoff.

9. Have someone review your resume. I suggest you have someone outside your area of expertise review your resume. Ask them if they have very clear picture of what your duties were. Ask them to go through the who, what, where, when, why’s of each duty to make sure you are including enough specialized detail. Give them your KSAs and keyword list and ask them to do a word search on those words, not just to find them but that you have used them wisely.

Now it’s your turn. Start browsing USAjobs and you may be surprised at all the different opportunities and benefits within the federal government. Use these tips to be ready the next time your ideal job is announced.

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