Most of my clients seeking a federal resume are also open to private sector roles. After all, they recognize that the federal process can be a lengthy one. Not everyone’s bank account can wait out the process, and it is good to keep one’s options open. But don’t think that a catch-all resume format exists that accounts for both sectors.
As stated on the USAJobs.gov website, a federal resume is used to “determine if you meet the requirements and qualifications for a job announcement”. Federal HR personnel operate under strict federal employment laws, rules, and regulations. These prohibit them from “drawing conclusions” or “making assumptions” regarding your experience or qualifications. You have to spell out everything in a federal resume. Don’t assume they will note your oral communication skills or leadership acumen if you do not point it out. They are not allowed to do so. If it is stated as a factor for consideration, you need to spell it out on the resume. Be thorough when it comes to your content.
The federal resume infrastructure another factor to consider. The federal resume requires you to include citizenship status, hours worked per week , and supervisor names and contact information. Don’t to be miserly with your margins and spacing. Give attention to brevity and efficient delivery, but even then, your federal resume can easily reach 5 pages in length. That is okay. But please know, if you try submitting that federal resume to a private sector recruiter or a hiring manager, its likely to get trashed. Even before reading your name.
A private sector resume is a completely different animal with a slightly varied goal. This document is used as a “marketing tool” to get the interview. It is there you add more context to your candidacy. Unlike its federal resume counterpart, the private sector resume should be kept to no more than 2 pages in length (3 pages in certain exceptions). Thus, this dictates the need for a difference in approach to content right at the start.
The private sector resume is not an “all-inclusive” document that spells out every aspect of your experience. We want to focus on highlights and high impact items here. Why? Recruiters spend only 7.4 seconds per resume and we have to be certain the critical “differentiating” content isn’t missed. Because no one is reading an entire document in 7.4 seconds, right?
Is there a rule against using a private sector resume for a federal role and vice versa? No, there isn’t. But if you have 250 competitors for 1 spot and don’t even bother to use the tool designed for the task, how can you expect to achieve the objective?