13 Tips For A Stand Out Federal Resume

Stand Out Federal Resume

If you’ve been looking for comprehensive tips that can help your federal resume stand out from the crowd, you’ve come to the right place!

Working as a government employee can allow you to have a positive impact on your country and the world. As a civil servant working for the federal government, you are on the front lines of your industry, supporting complex and challenging issues.

Besides the altruistic reasons to work for the federal government, the public sector offers abundant opportunities for work, with more than 2 million jobs in more than 120 federal departments around the world. Federal salaries and benefits are competitive, sometimes even better than those from the private sector. Once employed by the government, salary increases and career advancement can happen quickly.

Whether you choose to apply for a federal position based on your humanitarian ideals or because you like the benefits, getting hired is the biggest hurdle you will face. You aren’t alone, as many job seekers cite the hiring process as bureaucratic and difficult. However, your perseverance and our encouragement are part of the formula to help you get hired.

How to Apply for Government Jobs

The process of getting into a government position can seem daunting. Take the time to consider the different Federal agencies in existence. Don’t only focus on which departments align with your professional goals but also on what type of work really appeals to you. Also, consider local government jobs. State and city positions offer government benefits, including pensions similar to federal government positions, and are ideal career starters since the competition and red tape tend to be lower at local and grassroots levels. 

Another reason to look into your local government openings is that they provide opportunities to truly learn on the field, make a direct impact more quickly, and have access to mentors that are usually not available at state or federal levels. Local government opportunities are also easier to land and provide entry-level employees with more responsibilities early on in their careers. 

Working in government, albeit local or state, can be a great ‘in’ to connect with your community, while also building a career for yourself. Scrub USAJOBS.gov. Government jobs have to be listed on USAJOBs, although agencies might post positions on their own agency websites first. Consider looking at local sites and other job search sites like: beyond.com, indeed.com, and simplyhired.com.

You can also specifically look for staffing agencies that work with the federal government and that are looking to fill many traditionally unlisted positions.

And lastly, we advise that you look for and join government professional groups on LinkedIn, where you can network with like-minded professionals and find opportunities that may not be listed elsewhere online. Another big tip is to optimize your LinkedIn profile to include keywords and hashtags of your desired position, so when a recruiter searches for individuals that fit that specific job title, your profile will pop right up!

Why Is It So Hard To Get a Federal Job?

Many job seekers tend to get discouraged the more time they spend on sending out their federal job applications. Questions such as “Why does it take so long to hear back?”, “Why are there so many steps involved?” and “Why does it take so long to start working after I get hired” are very common and should be addressed. By knowing that the federal hiring process is very different from how most private and public companies hire, you’ll be more prepared to persevere through the process with effective tips and realistic expectations. 

Here are just a few reasons why the federal recruitment process is complex and takes so long:

  • Nature of industry (bureaucracy)
  • Long candidate application window and lack of urgency
  • Multiple steps and background checks due to security clearance levels
  • Broken hiring system due to bureaucracy 


Yet, despite the stringent and competitive recruiting process, federal job recruiters admit that many jobs never get staffed. In fact, according to an insider, over 50% of the jobs on USAJOBS are never filled due to the discrepancy between the job skill requirements and the few candidates that meet them.

This showcases the importance of highlighting concrete skills on your federal resume and only applying to the jobs that fit your past work experience and career goals!

13 Federal Resume Tips and Tricks To Get Hired

Federal Resume Tips and Tricks To Get Hired

Read The Job Announcement Thoroughly

Most of the time, it is in following the details that will set an applicant apart from another. In fact, some employers even test the detailed orientation of job applicants by inserting specific prompts within the description to see if the job seekers read it and executed on it. Take your time when you read job descriptions and follow all the directions thoroughly. Make sure to submit all the information in the specified format and be sure that you get a confirmation that your application is accepted.

Resume Keywords Are Important 

However, be subtle. Your keywords should flow naturally in the context of the text. Do not include a separate ‘keywords’ section in your resume where keyword stuffing is apparent. Instead, showcase how you utilized the keywords in your experience with actions and results. 

A great way to find the right keywords is to look for them in the qualifications section of your job description and tie them into how you present your own professional experience. For example, if you are applying for a manager role and have never had one beforehand, speak about your prior leadership experience by using the “manage” keyword in a way that aligns with the skill set the position entails. 

Showcase Specialized Work Experience

If you have prior federal, state or local experiences, chances are you have specialized training in a specific function or field. Make sure to highlight this. Many positions in government tend to be specialized and not generalized, so the more you showcase your technical prowess in a context of problem-solving and competence, the greater the chances that you will land your dream federal job more quickly.

Use USAJOBS Resume Builder

However, have a paper copy of your resume handy, as well as the information that is usually requested by federal jobs, such as the grade level fields, hours worked per week, supervisors’ contact info, as well as the beginning and ending salary history for each position. Having a digital and a paper copy of a resume is truly advantageous when referencing your past work experience for an interview or when networking. Also, seeing all your work experience in one place visually can help you get ideas on how to present yourself more effectively for the type of work you’re seeking.

Don’t Procrastinate

Give yourself plenty of time to get your application in before the deadline. It will take longer than expected. Federal, state, and local government resumes have no page restriction, and government hiring managers expect to get a full picture of your work history and details for each position. Don’t make it a rush job, especially the first time you apply using USAJOBS. Recruiters can tell when candidates take their time and pay attention to details. This shows them that you care and really want the job!

Information Duplication is Normal

Sometimes you have to complete the job application in USAJOBS and then fill out a supplemental application that seems repetitive or a complete duplication of what you just did. Don’t fret – this is normal. It is a good reason why you should copy and paste your answers from the USAJOBS platform on a Word document, so you have them handy whenever you are asked again. 

Keep Two Current Resumes in Private and Public Sector Formats

Since your public sector resume includes details that you don’t usually share when applying for private-sector jobs, you might consider passing the private sector one around when networking, even within government environments. 

Be Concise and Detail-Oriented

Quality matters. Even though federal resumes are built around details, recruiters still want to see more than just job description language. Be creative and showcase your strengths and the value you contributed to every position (include statistics and metrics to make your impact even more tangible). This provides a concrete, visual statement to the reader based on data as opposed to suppositions. 

Additional Information Section is Your Competitive Advantage

Do you volunteer with any local organizations? Are you a leader in your community? Is there another soft skill you possess that can make you stand out as a candidate? Often, it is these commitments outside of secular work that can drive an interview or a hiring decision in your favor. Think about the needs of the position and how your unique personality, perspective, knowledge, or experience can help your organization grow through your role.

Relevant Coursework Section

Many government positions want to see training and additional courses the candidate took that narrow down on their particular specialization. This signals that you were chosen to receive the training and are serious about your career. Any professional courses either through work or school should be included in addition to college degrees and certifications.

Five References If Possible

The federal format will require a supervisor’s name, contact information, and the job title for each position you’ve had. Most of the time, 5 references are generally desired. If you do not have 5 positions in your work history, simply add additional references to the bottom of the resume. **NOTE** This ONLY applies to federal resumes. References are generally not used in private sector resumes in today’s job market.

Add Your PDF/Word Resume

Even if you created your resume in the resume builder on USAJOBS, it is nice for the selection committee to have a printable copy of your resume in a formatted manner for a more streamlined impression of your skillset.

Have Patience 

Again, your federal job search will take time. This process is not meant for those that want to get hired tomorrow. Work on a Plan B and consider taking a technical internship or a private sector position while you work through the hiring process of your dream federal job. However, once you have your foot in the door of the federal government, the process will be easier for every subsequent position you apply for. 

Federal Resume Resources

Inevitably, applying for federal jobs can be a vast time-consuming, and resource-investment process. But don’t feel discouraged! There are many resources out there to help you, and if you do what it takes to stand out, cultivate other applicable skills, and have patience throughout the process, you’ll be way ahead of the competition.

Overall, committing to a bit of help can be a great return on investment that ensures you get hired faster and start investing in your dream career sooner. Here are our top reasons why you should hire a professional resume writer to land your next government job.

And if you would like some additional help in creating a stand-out resume, Capstone Resume Services specializes in federal resume writing. We know what federal hiring managers look for and ask the questions to help you craft a professional federal resume and document your KSAs.

Good luck with the process and keep up the good work!