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Writing the Right Federal Resume

federal resume writing

When it comes to a federal resume the rules are different, and to ignore these rules is to risk not getting referred. "But what about getting the job?" the typical veteran might ask. The answer is that if the veteran is not referred to the hiring manager then getting the job is impossible, so the first salvo in the federal employment process is to get referred. This means the veteran must write the right kind of resume.

The first mistake that many veterans make is that they format their federal resume the same way that they format their private sector resume. The second mistake is that many veterans use military jargon and acronyms. Keep in mind that of all the animals in the job hunting universe, the most unusual is the federal resume. Every book and course of resume writing for the non-federal job market will call for a one-page resume, and perhaps two for very experienced people. When it comes to a federal resume this rule gets tossed out the window. Numerous other rules still apply and it isn't enough to just state what you accomplished.

Keep in mind that a well written federal resume allows a person to get that federal job but that skill allows them to move from agency to agency, often with a promotion. So how do these people do it?

Lesson #1 in writing a federal resume is to write the resume to the job announcement. That can mean a lot of work every time a job announcement pops up that appeals to you so much that you want to apply but it seems you just don't have time to write a new resume. Relax, you can always settle for:

  • Submitting the same resume over and over again. (Note: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.)
  • Writing five resumes.

Why five resumes?

Think back to your military days -- for those in the Army or Marine Corps, you had a Military Occupational Specialty or MOS. Those in the Navy had a Navy Enlisted Classification code (NEC) or officer designator which was a 4 digit code that specified what career field the Sailor was in and determined where they were assigned.

The federal civil service has the same thing!  Each federal employee has a job code that specifies the general field that they are in at any given time. As I write this I'm currently a 0360, which means I'm an equal opportunity specialist.

The point is that with five resumes, each one can be targeted to a particular job code. The federal job registry is USAJOBS and that system allows a person to store up to five resumes and when you apply for a job via USAJOBS you can select the resume to use for that particular job application.

The key point here is that when writing a federal resume, the resume must be written to the posted job announcement or at least the job classification. This simple statement contains the key to landing a federal job, and if this practice is not observed then the chances of landing an interview are dismal, and consequently so are the chances of getting a job.

To do this properly for individual jobs, it is necessary to read the job description carefully and note the key points and then make sure that the resume that is submitted contains those words and phrases so that the human resources professional can see that the applicant has the necessary skills. If you are using the multiple resume method then it is necessary to look at several job announcements across several different agencies and find the common ground. If you really want to dig deep into this process, research the key job descriptions for the code via the OPM web site.

While writing the resume it is necessary to avoid some of the more common mistakes that many writers make and these include:

  • Using terms like "coordinated" and "oversaw" in their job description when the announcement calls for "supervised."
  • Use of the term "responsible for . . ." instead of the terms "managed or supervised."
  • Using a private sector resume for a federal job.
  • Limiting the resume to two pages unless you truly don't have much experience.

Another aspect of federal resumes is that volunteer activities and part-time jobs can count as qualifying experience for a federal job. In order for this to happen the applicant must do two things:

 1. Describe the key points in the activity or part-time job that relates to the position description.
 2. List the number of hours per week that is spent doing the activity. This allows the human resources professional to assign the appropriate amount of experience to the activity. The process to do this involves equating the number of hours per week worked to a percentage of full time employment.   An example would be that an activity that consisted of 10 hours per week would be equal to 25 percent of a full time job so each year spent in such a position would be equal to 3 months of experience.

Getting a federal job is often referred to as the hardest job in the world to get. The advantages include annual leave, a generous sick leave policy, the Thrift Savings Plan and a federal pension. Veterans have an advantage in getting a federal job but every job is competitive and not applying is a sure way to not get selected.   Most federal job openings and announcements can be found at USAJOBS.

The next article will feature questions from veteran regarding the federal job application, resumes and any other thing related to getting a federal job. Send your questions to Mark.Butler2@gmail.com and include the phrase "Veteran's questions" in the subject line.

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Contributor

Mark Butler is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and currently a federal employee. He is also the author of The Coffee Break Guide for Veterans Seeking Federal Employment, a guide for all veterans to understand the federal employment process, announcements, application of veteran’s preference and what veterans can do to get a leg up on the employment process. If you have federal job questions, email Mark.Butler2@gmail.com and include the phrase “Veteran’s questions” in the subject line.

The Coffee Break Guide for Veterans Seeking Federal Employment

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