If you do not yet know, federal resumes are very different than a corporate resume. Think of a corporate resume as an appetizer whereas your federal resume is a seven-course meal, with the appropriate beverage for each course.
Job Posting Itself
Perhaps the most startling difference between applying for corporate verses federal job is the posting itself. This alone provides insight into what is expected of your resume.
If you are lucky, you may have a page of information to go through to help you focus your corporate resume. Often you have to guess what the hiring manager is seeking from one small paragraph. It is from this scant information you will need to customize your resume.
The federal job posting, on the other hand, provides you with a plethora of information. You have the details of the job itself, the specific type of education and/or experience required to qualify for the position, a questionnaire full of specific details, links to pertinent information and the Office of Personnel Management standards for the specific career series. While the amount of information can be overwhelming, you are given every detail you need in order to build a strong resume to the job posting.
Your corporate resume is never more than two pages. A recruiter from a major recruiting firm once told me, “If they cannot bring it down to two pages they are not problem solvers or strategic and I don’t want them.”
Your Federal resume is much more extensive. It is common for the meat of a federal resume to be three to five pages. You have to carefully address the job posting detailing your expertise. You specific how your experience fits into the job requirements detailing programs used, policies and procedures followed and your specific expertise level.
The goal of a corporate resume is similar to a federal, to show that hiring manager that you can do the job. However, a corporate resume will focus on 1) how can you make that company money; 2) how can you save them money; and, 3) how can you make them more efficient so you can make them and save them money.
The federal resume focus is slightly different. The goal is not to show how you can make money, but rather 1) how well you manage programs; 2) how you use resources wisely and efficiently; and, 3) how you follow laws, policies and regulations.
One of the biggest differences is the amount of detail you provide for the federal verses the corporate resume. Your corporate resume provides a taste of what you can do for that company. You are providing accomplishments (what, how and results) without providing excessive details. An accomplishment will take up two to three lines at most. While you list your employers, you do not provide contact information or hours worked. You list your education and appropriate certifications. You do not include references, unless asked.
You federal resume spells out everything. In addition to providing accomplishments showing your expertise in the required areas, you add specific information such as programs used, regulations or laws followed and your expertise level (did you supervise or train others in the task or did you create documentation related to the task). Hours worked per week are provided along with supervisor’s name and contact information. An accomplishment statement may be three to five lines in length. In addition, references are provided and details of your education are provided to include specific courses related to the education requirements of the positions.
Corporate resumes are often initially evaluated utilizing an Automated Tracking System (ATS) that searches for key words or through a corporate recruiter. The ATS will search for key words and from there a corporate recruiter will take over. A recruiter will spend six to twenty seconds breezing through resumes and selecting a handful to be presented to the hiring official. They may have 200 resumes and only go through the first 100 to find the number they will present.
The federal system has a different evaluation system. The first evaluation relates to how you answer the questionnaire. If you do not meet minimum qualifications, you are automatically disqualified. If you are not at the expert level for the questionnaire (usually at least 90%) your resume will be dumped. This is the number one reason people are not referred to the hiring official. Once it makes it past this, every single resume has to be reviewed (which is part of why the process can take so long). If you do not show how you are at the expert level in your resume you will not be referred. This includes providing details showing that you have supervised others doing the task, trained others (formally or informally) or written documentation such as SOP’s or checklists for the task.
Want to learn more? Check out part I of our Federal Employment Tool Kit here.