Successfully Writing a Federal Resume

Applying for a vacancy in the federal government is considerably different than in a private company. If you are applying for jobs in the federal government and the private sector, a successful applicant must know the difference. A federal resume is a resume formatted to meet the needs of federal job openings. When applying for a federal job, more information is required. A “federal resume” is formatted to highlight this specialized information.

Applying for a federal job may seem intimidating, due to the long list of special requirements regarding your application. One of the requirements is a resume in a certain format, known as a federal resume.

What is a Federal Resume?

A federal resume is a resume formatted to meet the needs of federal job openings. When applying for a federal job, more information is required than when applying for a job in the private sector. The federal resume is formatted in such a way as to highlight this specialized information.

Pre-printed application forms are also sometimes used when applying for a federal job. Although the SF-171 is generally considered an outdated form, some employers may still request it. The most commonly used form is the OF-612. A federal resume contains all of the same information as these forms, but presents your application in a more attractive format and allows you more freedom to articulate your skills. Be sure to read the job vacancy announcement carefully, as it may specify which format applicants are to use.

Federal resumes are formatted chronologically, with the most recent instances given first. Whenever possible, the wording in your resume should reflect the wording in the job announcement. Due to the specific information required when applying for a federal job, a federal resume is longer and more detailed than a basic resume, covering up to the past ten years and achieving as many as five pages in length.

Seven Subjects Your Federal Resume Must Cover

One of the major differences between a federal resume and a resume written for a job opening in the private sector is that the formatting of the latter is extremely flexible, allowing whole sections to be added or left out. When applying for a federal job, however, a resume must contain specific information if the applicant is to be considered for the job. A resume that lacks the required information or formatting will be automatically disqualified.

Personal Information

Just like a regular resume, a federal resume lists the applicant’s personal information at the top of the first page. Both day and evening contact numbers should be included, as well as your name and address.

In addition to the typical contact information, however, a federal resume requires more specific information, such as your social security number and your country of citizenship. If you have been honorably discharged from the military, you may be eligible for veterans’ preference, which should be listed next. Finally, the federal resume must contain information on your federal status, such as the highest federal civilian grade you have held, and your reinstatement eligibility.

Job Information

Below your personal information, the federal resume must list identifying information about the job you are applying for, including the title, series, grade, and job announcement number.

Summary of Experience

The first section of the federal resume summarizes your experience. This is your chance to be a little creative and make your application stand out from all the others. How you summarize your experience can impact how the employer interprets the rest of your resume, so choose your words carefully!

Professional Accomplishments

The next section of the federal resume lists the positions you have held chronologically, with the most recent listed first. Just as in other sections, the federal resume requires more details about previously held positions than a basic resume. In addition to the information you would provide in a regular resume – such as the employer’s name (in bold), address, position, and dates the position was held – each entry will need to include your supervisor’s name and contact information, whether you consent to your supervisor being contacted, your salary at the position, and the average number of hours you worked each week.

After this information, a federal resume should follow with a brief summary of the job, followed by the duties you performed at the position. For each position, an employer expects to see between four and eight duties listed in a bulleted format, with each bullet being approximately four to six lines long. Due to these expectations of length, the Professional Accomplishments section of a federal resume is considerably longer than the corresponding section in a basic resume.


The education section of a federal resume should list your degrees in chronological order, with the most recent appearing first. Each listing should contain the year the degree was received, the type of degree, the name of the school, and the city, state, and zip code where the school is located. Read the job announcement carefully to determine if you should include your college transcript with your application package.

As in previous sections, training programs you have undergone should be listed in chronological order, with the most recent appearing first. Include the year you completed the program and the program title, as well as any additional information – such as the school’s name and hours completed – you can provide.

Other Qualifications

The format for a federal resume allows the applicant to include additional sections in order to list other qualifications he or she might have. If you include any of the following sections, remember to organize the qualifications in each section in chronological order, with the most recent listed first.

• Awards – Include the year and a brief description of each professional award you have received.

• Certifications – Include the year and a brief description of each certification or license that you currently hold. Do not list expired certifications or licenses.

• Publications – List the publications you have contributed to, using a standard bibliography format such as MLA.

• Presentations – List the title of each presentation you have contributed to, who you made the presentation to, where the presentation was made, and the year it was made.

Putting Together the Federal Application

As you can see, writing a federal resume is more time-consuming than it is difficult, as it generally requires that you add more detail to every section of your resume. However, the finished result is well worth the extra effort, as it is much more attractive – not to mention a much more professional representation of yourself – than simply filling out a federal application form.

As you put together your federal application, you may have some questions about whether you need to use a federal application form or a federal resume, or what KSA statements to include with your application. Thoroughly reading and reviewing the job announcement will allow you to tailor your application to the requirements and job description, ensuring that your application meets the employer’s needs and increasing your chances of being selected for the position.

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.