What Should a Federal Resume Look Like?

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

If you thought putting together a resume for the private sector was tough, try writing a federal resume! You have to follow the same basic principles, but everything goes up a notch when you’re dealing with federal resumes. If you find a government job opening, you’ll need to invest serious time in changing and updating your resume accordingly. 

Some of the guidelines are different from those in the private sector, and following the federal guidelines is a must—these jobs are competitive, and for good reason. You can try writing a federal resume yourself, but if you want it to be the best it can be, hire a resume expert to do the job for you. 

Let’s explore what a federal resume should look like. 

Formatting a federal resume 

First of all, a federal resume is much longer than one crafted for a private sector application. While the latter is typically capped at two pages, with anything longer usually discarded automatically, the former could be up to seven pages since the government requires more background information and details than private sector employers. While brevity is prized in traditional resumes, federal hiring managers value maximum (relevant) detail. So, don’t be alarmed when you see you’ve already filled five pages and are still on the work experience section.  

Some formatting requirements, such as the heading and section design, are also slightly different. Research how to format a federal resume and follow strictly the guidelines. Recruiters, whether private or federal, look for attention to detail, and this is one of the areas they focus on, so careless formatting errors could cost you the job. 

Have you checked your spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation? This is crucial for any resume you write, so make sure to double-check everything. Don’t just rely on spelling and grammar check apps, which are infamously inadequate. Read your resume carefully and get rid of any issues, then hire a proofreader to meticulously comb through it and eliminate any stubborn errors. Even if you’re a grammar expert, it’s nearly impossible to proofread your own work effectively, so this is an important step.

Including information in a federal resume 

Your resume is the first step to getting a job, and you should always put your best foot forward. Highlight your qualifications and experience and show why you deserve to get hired. Unlike a traditional resume, a federal one requires more detailed information, so give the hiring manager as much of it as possible. 

Professional experience

This section, as in a private sector resume, contains previous work experience that shows why you’re qualified for this specific job. However, in a federal resume, you should be more detailed in presenting your work achievements and list any promotions or opportunities that help prove your success. 

Think hard to come up with all the ways you can add value to your resume through your previous achievements. Be sure to include your salary, employment dates, and supervisor information to make your federal resume as thorough as possible.

Educational background

In a private sector resume, you list your degrees and move on to the next section. With a federal resume, however, you add your GPA, any classes pertaining to your specific major, academic awards, and absolutely all else that testifies to your academic success. The government wants to know everything, so you need to list it all! If you’re too sparse on the details, your resume could easily be overlooked.

Any other accomplishments

If you have earned a certificate or completed a training course, be sure to add that information to your federal resume. Include the dates as well—the government wants to see if your skills are still up to date.

As you think about what you should add to your resume, consider accomplishments such as speaking different languages, having your work published, or being a member of an association. If you believe it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, add it to your resume. Certain skills, such as tech proficiency, can be useful in any job, so it’s best to include them as well.


It’s no longer customary to list references on traditional resumes or even write “References available upon request.” On federal resumes, however, you should list references and your relationship with them. They can be friends, co-workers, or previous employers, but always play it safe and warn them they may be contacted regarding a job you’re applying for. Even better, you should ask them in advance whether they’d be willing to serve as a reference; otherwise, you run the risk of getting a negative review from them.

Understanding the terminology of a federal resume

You may find that the terminology used in federal jobs is different from that in the private sector. For example, the private sector uses “job postings” to attract potential new employees, while the government goes with “vacancy announcements.”

Understanding the terminology of the federal job you’re applying for will also help you tailor your resume accordingly. A generic submission won’t get you the job. In fact, a generic resume won’t help you land a job in the private sector either, so you should just never use one. 

Instead, research the terminology used by the federal department you want to join and incorporate it into your resume. Demonstrating your knowledge of those terms will show recruiters that you have some experience in that particular field. Just make sure you truly understand how to use the terms—misusing them is worse than not using them at all. 

Knowing when to get help writing a federal resume

Now that you’re aware of the differences between private sector and federal resumes, you may feel that writing the perfect federal resume is beyond you. The good news is that you don’t have to! Instead of stressing over it, let our resume experts take care of it. If you really want the job, get an expert to help you craft the perfect federal resume as it is a crucial investment in your career. 

Writing a federal resume can seem daunting, but don’t let it discourage you from applying for a federal job. Step up to the challenge and craft a resume that will prove to the government you have the qualifications it needs. In case you’re wondering whether your federal resume is good enough, reach out to a resume expert for help today! 

Improve Your Resume or CV