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Federal jobs are special jobs and they require a special resume.

Dear Advisor,

I’ve enjoyed good results with my resume in that it gets me interview. It is a regular, standard issue resume. I would like to use it as is as my application for Federal employment. Is there any problem with that? In fact, is there any problem with submitting just a resume or do I have to include a special Federal application form? If I can get away with just a resume, does it need to contain certain information? Or, is it up to me to decide what to put on it?


Allentown, PA

Dear Marcia,

Yes, you can file just a resume, but you should not use your regular resume. Federal resumes must contain certain information that most private sector resumes do not include. In the last several years the government has made an effort to be as job-applicant friendly as it can. Toward this end applicants can now file for most jobs with a standard resume. The catch is, it must be a standard Federal resume that contains the required information. If it does not contain the required information, your application may well be considered incomplete. In this case it will not be considered, and may not even be acknowledged.

This site includes a Federal resume checklist . By all means refer to it and make sure that your resume meets the requirements.

The following information is required or very important. Please use this as a checklist. Include everything. Having done that pay particular attention to the information the Federal examiners want to see about each job you post to your resume.

Work Experience
In your Work Experience section you should include both paid and non-paid work (voluntary, pro bono). Voluntary work is fully credited in the Federal job evaluation process. Cover the last five years. Treat each promotion with the same employer as a new job. For each job include:

• employer's name
• employer’s address
• starting & ending dates (month & year)
• salary
• hours per week
• date of last promotion
• job title
• duties & accomplishments (“Responsibilities/Objectives” followed by “Results”)
• supervisor's name & phone number, permission to contact supervisor
• reason for leaving (if discharged, explain fully)

If you have not been promoted, leave out that item.

Note several items Federal employers expect to see and private sector employers do not necessarily. These include “salary,” “dates of promotion,” “supervisors name & phone number,” and “reason for leaving.” The first 3 are facts you may have to do some research to find, and may require some preparation. For example, you should assume that your previous supervisors will be called. You should advise them to expect to be called by a Federal HR person. Many people are especially concerned about the “reason for leaving” item. The only reason for concern should be in the event you were “discharged for cause”. This means inappropriate behavior of some kind. In this case include a separate sheet of paper with a full explanation of your side of the story. In the event your background is checked, which it probably will be, any problems will surface, so you might as well get credit for divulging them up front.

If You Are Unemployed
Try to avoid the impression that you are currently unemployed. Many employers, even some Federal employers, may prefer currently employed job prospects to those who are unemployed. They may believe, for example, that the job skills of the unemployed, especially long-term unemployed, are rusty, or that long-term unemployed candidates are not aggressive about their careers.

So instead of providing dates of employment that clearly indicate that you are unemployed, add another position after your last one that indicates that you are still at work. This may be part-time work, charitable work, self-employed work. Or, you could indicate that you are a student again even if only part-time. You don’t want to create the impression you are sitting around your house waiting for email messages or the phone to ring.

Skip The Bad Jobs
You do not need to include every job you ever had. Jobs you held more than 5 years ago have little weight. You can report only the older jobs that may seem particularly relevant to the job you want. More recent jobs that may not have contributed to your experience can also be left off especially if they were of short duration. However, you should be prepared to explain any gaps in your work history, if asked. If asked why you omitted a job, you can answer that it did not seem a germane to the Vacancy of interest.

All of the other items in the work experience section should be completed. This section is generally the heart of the resume. Your rating will depend largely on it especially, if you are not entry level. Take the time to include a list of your accomplishment as well as your duties or responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to use space. There is no length limit to a Federal resume that is submitted in hard copy. Resumix or other electronic submissions generally have a limit of 5 pages.

Is A Test
In the past most Federal positions were filled by written exam. Exams are no longer given for most positions. However, the exam concept is not abandon. Your Federal resume will be graded just as if it were an exam. You will be given a numerical score. The job candidate with the highest score will certainly have a leg up on landing the job.

Vacancy Announcement Number
In order to grade your resume as an exam the examiner needs a standard to measure it against. That standard is the Vacancy Announcement for the position. You must include at the top of your resume the Vacancy Announcement number, Job title and Grade Level for each job you pursue. Without this reference the examiner will not be able to grade your resume. He won’t know what job you seek. You may not just reference an occupation even an occupation and grade level. You must reference a specific Vacancy Announcement number.

Each job listing on this site references a Vacancy Announcement Number. You need to include this number on your resume. Of course, you also need to study the Announcement in full. This web site shows the full document with the qualifications listed.

Every vacancy Announcement contains a “Basic Qualifications” section. It also frequently contains an advanced qualifications section called “Knowledge, Skills, Abilities” or alternatively, “Ranking Factors” or “Selective Placement Factors” or some other similar title. You must show as well as you can on your resume that you have the both the basic and the advanced qualifications for the job.

In order to do this you need to have the Vacancy Announcement and study the qualifications section.

Sell Don’t Fabricate
Everyone understands that a resume is a sales document. You are expected to point with pride and take every credit you can for your work and education. However, you are not expected to fabricate any material facts. Filing a false resume will certainly not help you in the long run.

There is no limit to the number of different jobs you can apply for. Keep applying for appropriate positions, go on polishing your Federal Resume and, continue to expect good results.

To submit questions to the Federal Jobs Advisor, write to: Federal Jobs Advisor, Federal Jobs Digest, 1503 Radcliff Court, Newtown Square PA 19073. We regret that not all questions may be answered. •