I have been receiving a larger percentage of call volume than usual of people looking for a resume to apply to federal positions. But many don’t realize that the product is very different than their private sector counterparts.
First, while your average private sector resume is limited to two pages (many HR professionals and recruiters have openly admitted to tossing those that are three pages or longer), federal resume is measured by character limits per section and not overall document length. Most federal vacancies allow up to 5000 characters per employment entry. They also usually allow 20,000 characters in the “Additional Information” section. That is a lot of information. To give you an idea of how much, I just checked one of the two-page resumes I did not too long ago and it measured 8000 characters total.
Next, while as resume writers, we usually like to target every resume, it is even more imperative for the federal process. Your keywords will determine if you even get past the initial cert part of the process. If your resume is low on content with poor keyword strength, you’ll lose out. Researching the job vacancies and those that are similar will provide you with excellent keywords and concepts to ensure you are addressing the needs of the position. If you are low on experience, another way to satisfy this is by including some of your coursework and even some course descriptions from your collegiate career.
When it comes to the position headers, federal resumes include several items that their private sector counterparts do not, such as supervisor names and contact information, physical address of employment, and even ending compensation (although some recommend leaving it off of your presentation version, it is requested when completing the online resume builder).
These two resumes are so different that you should never use one interchangeably. Be sure you have separate federal and private sector versions of your resume for optimal effectiveness when going with a two-pronged job search.
And try not to wait until the last minute to put them together, okay?
William Mitchell, CPRW is a certified professional resume writer and Owner/Lead Writer of the Resume Clinic, serving clients in the United States and Canada with highly targeted and effective resume and cover letter packages since 1995. Connect with William and The Resume Clinic on Facebook, LinkedIn, or via email.© 2014 William Mitchell
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