resume.wheatmanWhat amount of competition are you facing when you apply for a federal job? Would it surprise you to know that federal job postings are attracting hundreds of applicants for a single job opening? The National Park Service recently received 400 applicants for a communications position. Other areas of the federal government report resume workshops and job events with maximum occupancy.  It’s not unusual.  Perhaps you have been one of 400 applicants vying for a position.  With competition like this, your “B Game” won’t do.  To start the game, you must have an impeccable resume.

So what are the reasons why your federal resume is failing?

Many government resumes fail for the same reason secular resumes fail.  Let’s look at three of the top reasons why your resume fails to make the cut for an interview.


Don’t: Copy and paste job descriptions into your new resume.

Most candidates focus on the basic tasks of their former job.  Some simply copy and paste their job descriptions into their resumes.  Employers have a general understanding of your job tasks when they read your job title.  A copy of paste of a mundane description speaks nothing of your unique value. 

DO: Go beyond the basic tasks. 

Show the scope of your responsibility.  How many employees did you manage?  Did you control a budget?  Next share your top accomplishments.  This could be a major project that you led or supported.  Did you improve a process?  What was the result?  Be descriptive and show how you excelled in your position.

Don’t: Be vague.

Many candidates are on the right track. They list accomplishments, but are very vague.  For example, a recent candidate wrote, “Reduced expenses through process improvements.”   That could entail so many things.  It has potential, but is lacking impact. The reader might gloss right over that line. 

DO: Prove yourself by quantifying everything.

Numbers grab a reader’s attention.  It also makes an accomplishment seem more concrete. It backs up the statement with some hard facts. The following statement is sure to make a positive impression. “Cut data center operational costs by 43% ($563,000 annually) through agency-wide server virtualization effort.”

DON’T: Create a one-fits-all resume

Many candidates have one resume that they use when applying to dozens of postings.  They only update their resume when they have added a new job or academic achievement.  With this strategy, you may appear to be a perfect match for some, a clear miss for others, and for others a possible match.

DO: Customize your resume for each posting

Before your anxiety increases, take a deep breath.  It does not require too much additional effort to customize your resume for each posting.  The reward is that your response rate will increase. Tailor your resume to meet the requirements of the specific opening. Identify the required and preferred skills, education, and experience.  Your resume must prove that you can perform in this particular job.  Use the posting to determine pertinent details for your resume.

Your resume is much more than a narrative of your career history.  It is a carefully-written marketing document that demonstrates your ability to excel in the target job.  A successful candidate goes beyond the basic job tasks to stand out from the crowd of applicants.  Are you falling in any of the traps above?  If so, you can turn it around and boost your results dramatically.

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