Writing a Winning Resumé for Government Jobs

Aside from very unique situations, everyone has to submit a resumé as part of a job application. This is no different when it comes to government jobs, as you must be able to prove you have the experience and/or education needed to succeed at the desired position. Just one glance of your resumé can cause a hiring manager to have his or her doubts, so it is critical to ensure your resumé is exactly what the government (or company) is looking for. The following outline includes a few things to focus diligently on when writing a winning resumé for government jobs

Government Resume vs. Private Sector Resume

Your government resumé should be a bit different than a private sector resumé. Private sector jobs normally have some sort of application package – including a resumé – that aims to get you an interview. Your government resumé, however, is basically your full application. Human Resources personnel review your government resumé and decide if you meet the specific criteria that is in the job listing you are applying for. Spelling, grammar, and cosmetic errors are a significant red flag, so make sure you proofread your resumé thoroughly before submitting it. 

USAJobs.gov actually has a government resumé builder for you to use that will notify you of missing information. Many times, people don’t put their home address on resumés anymore, but government resumés should have them. You should absolutely never put any personally identifying or sensitive information (e.g. date of birth, marital status, etc.), and government recruiters will also not click on any links you provide (e.g. your LinkedIn profile link). Bullet points should be used throughout most of the resumé, as they are easier to scan than paragraphs, and you may want to put a blank line between each section to separate it out a bit. 

How Long Should Your Government Resume Be?

A common question asked when it comes to resumés is exactly how long they should be. Seeing as private sector resumés are normally just part of an application package or process, you may oftentimes see guidance that you should make your resumé no more than one page; however, government resumés are not quite the same. The length of your government resumé can vary depending on your work and education history, but it is fine to make it multiple pages. Of course, all information relevant to the position you are seeking must be included, but irrelevant information can be excluded if you have enough other material. It is natural to be proud of your work and want to include every single thing you’ve done, but if it isn’t relevant to the job you want, it may not be wise to include it. 

What to Include in Your Government Resume

So, what should you include in a government resumé? After laying out your name, address, and similar information, you should include an Objective section, which is a summary of who you are, what you have done, and what your goal is with the new position. While most of your resumé should be in bullet points, this can be a short 2-3 sentence paragraph if that looks better. You should include your job title (e.g. software engineer, administrative assistant, investigator, etc.), how many years of experience you have, what areas you have expertise in, and two or three specific achievements. 

Secondly, your relevant work experience is one of the most important criteria that Human Resources personnel are looking for. Experience is not only paid employment but also refers to unpaid experience, which can include student involvement, social activities, volunteer experience (e.g. Peace Corps), professional organizations, and spiritual groups. You’ll normally want to put everything in reverse chronological order, or newest to oldest; however, if you are looking to shift careers and one of your previous positions is more relevant, you may be better off putting that one first so it stands out. 

For each entry, you should include your position title, the name of your employer/organization, the beginning and ending dates (MM/DD/YYYY format), and the hours you work(ed) in a week if part-time. If a previous job was with the government, always put the equivalent series and grade as well. 

Perhaps most importantly, though, the descriptions of what you did and relevant duties to the position you are seeking should be outlined well. Specific projects you have worked on are a bonus as long as you clearly yet concisely state what they were. Also put what systems and software you are proficient at and what kinds of successes you had at each position (e.g. saved money, created a new program, etc.). Numbers and statistics are good to include as long as they are understandable and don’t include jargon that would be unfamiliar to a reader. If you were a manager of some sort, include how many people you supervised and, if relevant, successes you had as a team. 

Of course, your education is also extremely important to include. While you can normally get away with leaving out a GPA on a private sector resumé, it is the opposite here. You should include your GPA with your schools’ names, your degrees, the dates you received your degree(s), any activities or organizations you were involved in, and any special awards you received. The same goes for any unique certifications or trainings, as you should include those, too. 

You will also want to include some references in your resumé, which don’t necessarily have to include all of your current or former manager(s). Mentors and even colleagues are solid references too, as they can provide insight into what working with you is like as well as give strong recommendations. 

Keywords are critical throughout your entire government resumé, as the hiring manager will be glancing to see if your resumé matches the requirements and experience wanted on the job listing. Try to use as many relevant keywords from the job listing in your resumé, but don’t go overboard to the point that it looks strange or made-up. Be honest about your achievements and the roles you’ve held. 

Be Sure Your Government Resume is Thorough

Overall, your government resumé should be thorough and get across as much information as possible without being way too long and wordy. Highlight your relevant work history and achievements but leave out irrelevant “fluff” that the hiring manager isn’t looking for. You may want someone to look over your government resumé before you submit it, but if you’ve followed the proper outline and template, it should make the hiring manager interested in choosing you for the role. 

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