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USAJOBS Best Practices & Tips

Federal Resume Writing and USAJOBS Application Tips

Federal positions are extremely competitive, and you need to include a specific amount of information to stand out from the pack. The format of the application is also different than non-government jobs, especially since many federal careers are advertised through USAJOBS — an online service that has its own set of requirements and formatting standards.

Best Practices for Federal Government Jobs

If you’re looking for federal resume tips, you’ve come to the right place. (MRW) has been helping veterans and civilians with federal resume services for years. We’re happy to offer some of the best resume advice we’ve compiled from our experience:

  1. Read the federal job announcement a few times, and take notes. Focus on the areas explaining the duties, requirements and qualifications. Take note of each of the keywords in these sections — you’ll want to use the same keywords in your application.
  2. Customize each resume. Form letters and resumes won’t work, because no hiring manager will take the time to hunt through your resume to look for your qualifications. Tailor each resume and clearly demonstrate exactly how you fulfill all of their requirements.
  3. Get specific and impressive. List all your relevant skills, education and qualifications, even if they don’t come directly from your work. In addition, make sure you list accomplishments as well as job duties. Try to attach accurate numbers whenever possible. For example, if you received a 98% approval rating from clients or if your department reduced costs by 15% while you were manager, these are important numbers to include. If you helped resolve a specific problem or overcame a challenge, include this information as well.

USAJOBS Application Tips

Most federal jobs are posted through USAJOBS. For this platform, you’ll want to follow the tips listed above, but you’ll also need to understand the best practices that are specific to USAJOBS. When applying for federal jobs, follow some of these resume writing tips:

  1. Take the assessment questionnaire (if there is one). Keep the questions and the job ad in mind when you start to prepare your resume and application. Both give you important clues about the job’s necessary skills – and what you need to include in your resume.
  2. Follow the process exactly. Only submit the documents requested. Never send documents the job doesn’t ask for, but don’t leave out any documents (such as a cover letter) if they’re required. Some jobs on the site ask you to limit your content to under 5,000 characters, for example. Read all instructions carefully, since each job is a little different, and follow the directions exactly.
  3. Use the sections of the resume builder correctly. You can use the “Additional Information” section to add additional details about Core Competencies or Qualifications to show you’re a strong candidate. If you have the option of attaching a resume, do so. The recruiter may prefer a PDF or Word file of your resume.
    If possible, check the “Make Searchable” button on the page to make it easier for recruiters to skim and search your application. Fill in the fields about your GPA and include all the references requested.
  4. Think of the hiring manager when applying. One of the best pieces of federal resume advice is to avoid making the recruiter work. Before sending off your resume, look over the job ad one more time and re-read your application. Does the application immediately make it clear why you’re qualified for the job? Did you use the same keywords as the job ad?
    You should also make sure the information is in the proper fields on USAJOBS and check for any mistakes, typos, inaccuracies, inconsistencies or missing information. Make it easy for the person looking at your application to find what they need.

Getting to the "Best Qualified" Category on USAJOBS

Applying for a single federal job using USAJOBS best practices can take hours. If you’re investing considerable time into the application process, you want to do everything possible to increase your chances of success. To be successful, you might need personalized help from professionals who are familiar with the government careers process.

MRW has been helping veterans and civilians complete government applications and get into the "Best Qualified" category on USAJOBS for more than 25 years. If you’re ready to get personalized tips for federal resumes based on your qualifications, contact us today for career coaching, resume services and other assistance. We’ve already served more than 58,000 55,000 clients and we would be happy to help you achieve success.