Five Important Steps to Writing a Federal Resume

Federal job searching can be confusing if you are new to the Federal Government. It is important to understand the steps that you will need to take in order to move ahead in the process. The difference between applying for a federal job and a non-federal job is your resume.

Your federal resume is the primary way that a candidate can apply for job opportunities. With that being said, it is important that it be well written; communicating your competencies, skills, and abilities so that you increase your chances of being selected for an interview. A federal resume will provide the reviewer with details about your education, background, and work history while serving as the official application for the open position or Job Opportunity Announcement (JOA). Below are five important steps you should consider when writing your federal resume.

  1. Read the JOA and follow each step. Hiring agencies provide the requirements for a position in its JOA. It is important that you read the announcement carefully to determine if you should apply for the position. If you do not follow the instructions outlined in the JOA, you will be eliminated. Questions related to the JOA should be directed to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Human Resources. The agency contact information can be found in the JOA.
  2. Include the right information. Jobs require that you have experience in a particular type of work and in most cases over a specific period of time. Therefore, start and end dates for each job listed on your resume are required. To show you meet the requirements listed in the JOA, you should include: the number of hours worked per week, your level of experience (i.e. project manager, executive assistant, or vice president), and examples of experience and accomplishments.
  3. Demonstrate your qualifications. Another reason to read the JOA thoroughly is so you can match your competencies, knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to the requirements for each job. Include keywords and phrases, and make sure you demonstrate how you have developed these specific skills. Doing this will immediately tell you if you have the experience and increase your chances of getting your resume forwarded to the hiring manager.
  4. Present your achievements and accomplishments. A well-written federal resume highlights your performance metrics. This includes percentages, numbers, and data. Providing achievements that go above and beyond your work experience and education demonstrates you are a top candidate. This includes involvement in social and religious organizations, volunteer experiences, awards, and certificates. This is what can set your resume apart from others.
  5. Proofread your resume. One of the biggest pet peeves of hiring managers is that applicants do not review their work before submitting. Ask a professional to review your resume, and use an online tool such as Grammarly, a free grammar checker that instantly eliminates grammatical errors, to help enhance your writing.

Remember that UMUC Career Services is available to help you in every stage of your career. Click here to set up an appointment with a UMUC Career Advising Specialist, or contact your UMUC Career Services Office at 240-684-2720 or

Rhoda Smackum is a career advising specialist at University of Maryland University College. She is an associate certified career coach and a certified master of career services. Her areas of expertise include career transition, career exploration and job search strategy.