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Resumes with a Federal Twist: The Basic Facts

A resume for a Federal job includes all of the information in a standard resume, plus some additional details. These resumes are often two to four pages, which is longer than the 1- to 2-page resumes typical in the private sector. Creating a resume involves gathering the required information and putting it in the right format.

Gathering the facts. If you have a standard resume, you already have most of the information you need. But Federal agencies ask for more information than most other employers do. Resumes and applications for Federal employment must include the following:

Contact information. As you would on any resume, you must list your full name, address, and telephone number. But you also need to provide your Social Security number and country of citizenship.

If you are applying for a job that is located far from your current address, indicate a willingness to relocate. Otherwise, some agencies might eliminate your application.

Job facts. Copy the announcement number, position title, and grade level from the vacancy announcement. If the announcement lists more than one grade level, state the lowest level you would accept. For example, if the announcement describes the job as "GS-5/7," decide whether you would take the GS-5 or if you would only accept a GS-7.

Be sure you qualify for the level you choose, however. If you pick a level that is too high, you will not pass the first screening. If the level you pick is too low, the agency will most likely upgrade you automatically. • Work experience. For each past job, give the standard information found in most resumes. Specifically, state the job title, starting and ending dates (including month and year), employer's name and address (or write “self employed,” if that applies), and major duties and accomplishments.

In addition to that information, a resume for a Federal job also must show the average number of hours worked per week or simply state “full time”; salary or wage earned; supervisor's name, address, and telephone number; and whether your most recent supervisor may be contacted. If you have had past jobs in the Federal Government, include the occupational series numbers and the starting and ending grades of those positions.

If you have relevant volunteer experience, mention it. In Uncle Sam’s eyes, all experience counts. Consider using titles that show what you did rather than using the generic title of “Volunteer.”

Most importantly, describe job duties and accomplishments in a way that proves how you are qualified.

Study the vacancy announcement and emphasize the parts of your work history that match the qualifications listed there.

Remember, human resources specialists in the Federal Government might not be familiar with your career field. To help them understand how your experience matches what is required, try using some of the same words found in the vacancy announcement, especially words that describe job duties or qualifications. You also can help them understand your work by spelling out acronyms and other abbreviations.

For past jobs with complicated or changing duties, consider dividing your job duties into sections. The description of a management job, for example, might be divided into staff training, budgeting, and project planning sections.

Make your resume stand out by including your most impressive accomplishments. You might say that you earned an “A” on a research paper, won an award, or saved your company time by finishing a project ahead of schedule. Consider using numbers to add concreteness. If, for example, you organized a successful fundraiser, say how much money you collected.

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