I recently saw an IT job announcement for the US Federal government and I'm confident that I have the necessary experience/background to successfully apply for it. Unfortunately, my 2-page resume was written for the private sector.

For months now, I've been searching for the federal resume builders, but haven't found anything worthwhile, so I've decided to rewrite it on my own.

I've searched text federal resume builder and it returns a bunch of links on how to rewrite my resume, but I have no idea which one's worth it and which one's garbage.

I already know that I want to give it a shot, so my question: what's my next step going forward? I just want my resume to pass the initial automated inspection so it's evaluated by an actual person.


  • Do you have military experience? You might want to add that. May 14, 2016 at 6:10
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    Why would you expect that you'd need a different format for your resume to apply to a government position? May 14, 2016 at 6:23
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    "I just want my resume to pass the initial automated inspection so it's evaluated by an actual person." Then don't send your resume directly to HR. Send it to the hiring manager by name. The hiring manager will forward to HR. And HR will make sure it doesn't get filtered out by the system, otherwise it will get blamed by the hiring manager for having lost the resume he has seen. In any case, also make sure you show your resume to as many professional friends as you can and ask for feedback. If you don't want to do that, consider paying a human professional resume editor to review your resume. May 14, 2016 at 16:25
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    @StephanBranczyk you can't just send a resume to a hiring manager for a federal job, they aren't allowed to talk to you like that. There is a vast automated vetting process that you have to get through, all designed to process tens of thousands of resume submissions nationwide daily while meeting federal laws on hiring, discrimination, etc.
    – Dave
    May 17, 2016 at 4:25
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    I think the most comical aspect of this question is that you believe there would be a single standard let alone a single system for all government agencies.
    – Lilienthal
    May 17, 2016 at 9:04

3 Answers 3


Federal resumes are kind of a dark art and can be very different from traditional private sector resumes. Those who say to turn in a private sector resume are misguided. I'm getting ready to retire from the military and a DoD mandate is that we spend a week in transition prep classes before we get out. That week includes three full 8-hour days on resumes, with a major focus on federal resumes. I've also written a few for family and evaluated a few as part of the hiring process.

The bottom line is the resume will be long -- much longer than you are used to, but that's OK. What you need to focus on is essentially building what is called a "master chronological resume." This is in effect a massive dump of every conceivable thing you can think of that you've done at every job for however far back you want to go, and all your education, training, certifications, etc. When people talk about updating your resume every 6-12 months, this is what should be updated. For a "normal" job you would then make a copy of this master resume and tailor it down to the 1-2 pages of only relevant info that nails that particular interview. This is how you can have one master resume that gets you in the door many places. The master resume is also the one you might hand out at a job fair or whatever, since it is general and not targeted at a specific job.

Generally speaking, a great federal resume will at the very top in the "objective" statement list the specific job ID you are applying for. That is the number for that job posting in USAJobs. It will then have a brief overview section hitting the main points of your qualifications, then a (possibly extensive) list of your previous positions, in reverse chronological order. Give a summary of the responsibilities you had at that job, then a list of bullets detailing specific accomplishments/impacts you had at that job. Then repeat until you have listed all your work experience. Note that "summary" can be misleading -- one job can take up half a page in this manner! After that you will have your education/training/certs and any other relevant info you need to add. Or you may put education before work experience, the order is not a hard rule, use whatever works better for you.

All that said, I think this is a great federal resume format that works very well. It is specifically a 2210 IT position resume so that should help you out. Note that it is incomplete, it cuts off after two pages because they want to sell you a service, but all you need is Word and about 40 hours of spare time to do it yourself. Seriously, I was told by someone who does this for $1,000 a pop that you should expect to spend 40 hours compiling and tweaking, but the end result is a professional summary of your entire career that you can add to every few months very easily. And that makes creating a private sector resume from it trivial. Also note it is dense, and again that is not only acceptable it is expected. That looks like about a 4-5 page resume in the making, and personally I really like that format and I've seen it a lot in the government, so it clearly works well.

Also, here is a great walkthrough showing you a 2210 job ad, then taking someone's existing resume and converting it into a beefed up format tailored specifically to that job. Notice the keyword bolding in the final resume -- that is actually a good thing, don't shy away from it. Write your master resume, then when you are tailoring it to the job ad you should interleave the keywords from the job ad into your resume, and bold or underline them. The federal government uses a giant centralized vetting system that evaluates candidates and ranks them based on qualifications, and then forwards the resumes of the qualified applicants to the local managers for evaluation. First the computer runs checks including keyword checks, so it ensures you pass that hurdle. Then a human has to evaluate whether or not you are qualified, and they have no idea what the job actually is and can only go by the description. So by bolding/underlining the keywords you sprinkle throughout the ad (truthfully of course, not randomly!) you make their job easier and you get through the second hurdle. Then you are that much closer to a call back.

This is the advice I was given, and many friends of mine have used this approach and it worked very very well for them. So hopefully the advice will help you too. Take care and good luck. :)

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    Your recommended Federal resume format looks very lime the one I use for private sector jobs, except longer. May 17, 2016 at 13:12
  • @DJClayworth yes length is probably the main distinction nowadays. Many resumes however are anemic and not written well so I was comparing against all of them, not simply the polished ones. In the past you also had to write a sometimes several-page narrative in first-person for each requirement listed in the job posting, showing how your skills lined up to meet those requirements. That was in addition to the resume itself. It was crazy.
    – Dave
    May 17, 2016 at 20:54
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    @DJClayworth the "look" isn't really the concern when sending in a resume for a federal/government job, it is the format of the information. Dave's links gave a perfect example of the format your information should be in and even gives a solid idea of how much information to include. Personally, I prefer long resumes that detail the work that was done and would love it if hiring firms took a multi-page narrative!
    – LindsayMac
    May 18, 2016 at 0:30

You are overthinking this. Resumes for government jobs are not substantially different from resumes for private sector jobs. You should be tailoring your resume to the requirements of each job you apply to anyway. If you do that, based on the job description given, there is no reason why you should not have as much chance as anyone


Reach out to somebody you know who has a similar job in the government, or even better has hired people for the government. Ask them specific questions about crafting the resume.

They will have advice about making sure the key words in the job description are mentioned in your resume. They may have other advice as well.

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