Opening Slide
Writing your résumé to apply to a Federal job can be challenging. This tutorial was created to answer your questions regarding Federal résumé writing, and to assist you in creating a top notch Federal Résumé. If needed, you can view the narration script of this tutorial by clicking the “Slide Notes” button on the bottom right of your screen. You may also stop, pause, fast forward or rewind this presentation when ever you’d like, by using the toolbar at the bottom center of your screen. Let’s get started….
Goals of This Tutorial
This tutorial will provide an overview of the Federal application process, discuss how you can make your résumé rise to the top of the pack, and we will provide you with a few examples of Federal résumés.
Federal Application Process: Why Work for the Federal Government?
There are so many reasons you should apply to work for the Federal Government. Government employees have amazing benefits including great health care plans, good retirement, one of the best 401k plans which is called the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), tuition reimbursement, loan repayment, bonuses, and more. Federal jobs also include family-friendly work policies, on-site daycare, and flexible scheduling including telework. Strength in diversity, which creates a strong and committed workforce, is yet another reason to work for the NIH. Finally, one of the most important reasons to apply to the NIH is to be a part of our country and NIH’s mission to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.
Federal Application Process: Finding Jobs
We’ll start by reviewing the Federal Application Process. NIH hires employees through a variety of mechanisms targeting various types of positions including scientific, executive, administration and many other types of jobs. Not all of these positions can be found on USAJOBS, so the Jobs at NIH website ( contains information to assist you finding the position you are looking for. USAJOBS, however, is where most NIH vacancy announcements are posted and USAJOBS’ hosts jobs specifically for students or at the entry levels.
Federal Application Process: Vacancy Announcements
Before you begin writing, building, or updating your Federal résumé, you must consider the vacancy announcement to which you are planning to apply. Each vacancy announcement contains information that is critical to the application you submit so it is important that you read the entire announcement before you begin. If you have questions about the position, be sure to contact the HR Specialist listed on the vacancy announcement, and always print a copy of the application for your records.

More information about USAJOBS vacancy announcements can be found in our “How To Apply to the NIH” tutorial on our Jobs website.
Be the Best Applicant: Your Federal Résumé
Now let’s review crafting a résumé to make you stand out of the pack. Unlike in the private sector, you will not want to use a short, generic résumé to apply for a Federal position. In a Federal résumé, specific information is required, some information is requested, and some added information will make you stand out as the best applicant.
Be the Applicant: Summary and Objective
Here are a few basics to remember when crafting your résumé. If you choose to add a career summary or objective, or if you want to submit a cover letter for your résumé, make sure that you customize the wording to target individual positions. For example, instead of “Objective: To assist your organization in reaching its goals and objectives using my skills acquired in Management”, target the NIH and the Institute or Center you are applying to specifically. You could change your wording to: “Objective: To contribute my skills as a management analyst to the NIAID mission by providing administrative support for the basic and applied research conducted there to prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.”
Be the Best Applicant: Work Experience
Federal résumés are different then private sector résumés for many additional reasons. For example, your work experience should be written as though you’re describing your job to someone who knows very little about it. Devote the most space and detail to describing your current position if it is the most relevant to the job you are seeking. Never assume that the HR staff who are reviewing your application know how to do this job or what you may have done in a similar position.

USAJOBS allows users to store up to 5 different résumés, so be sure to target your work experience to the particular job you’re applying for.
Be the Best Applicant: Social Security Number and Up-To-Date Information
Another tip to remember is to not include your Social Security Number on your résumé. It makes it difficult to guard your personal information when HR transfers a résumé or application to a hiring manager. Make sure you have the most up-to-date contact information on your résumé, and be sure to call the HR Specialist listed on the vacancy announcement if your contact information changes during the application process.
Be the Best Applicant: Boost Up Your Qualifications
When applying to the NIH, many applicants fail to provide enough information to qualify them for their desired position. It’s important to remember to provide as much relevant information about your qualifications, education, and work experience as possible. Read the vacancy questions thoroughly, and they will provide you with an idea of the kinds of education and experience wanted by the selecting official. Then, focus your resume on the type of qualifications the vacancy is requesting, and you’ll be sure to make your resume stand out.

Be the Best Applicant: Special Projects and Experience
It is important to not focus solely on the day-to-day activities of the previous positions you’ve held. Much of that work is similar to other applicants who are applying for the same job, so in order to stand out, you want to list the special projects, experiences, and learning opportunities that make you different from the other applicants. Put the items that you are most proud of at the top and the day-to-day tasks further down the list. Also be sure to include start and end dates for all previous employment.
Be the Best Applicant: USAJOBS Résumé Builder
Most NIH jobs require you to submit a USAJOBS résumé, however some applicants are skeptical about cutting and pasting their well-crafted, professional looking résumés into USAJOBS because it removes all formatting. It’s important to understand that the USAJOBS résumé builder serves as an excellent guide for the information that Federal human resources professionals need to know about applying candidates. Examples of this type of information include: eligibility for Veteran’s preference and displaced Federal employees, as well as any additional information applicants may leave off a private industry résumé in the interest of space. In the Additional Information field, applicants are asked to detail any awards received, software proficiency, or list training applicable to the position. This field allows up to 20,000 characters.
Be the Best Applicant: Education and Salary
Another item to include on your Federal résumé is the type of education you have received. Be sure to include the name of the school, city, state, and the date you received your diploma or degree, and if you did not complete your degree, please indicate the total of credit hours you earned and indicate whether they were semester or quarter hours.

Additionally, if you’d like a salary higher than the Step 1 of the grade level you’re applying for, then be sure to include your current salary level on your résumé as a reference.
Be the Best Applicant: Foreign Degree
If you have a foreign degree, your degree must be evaluated by a nationally recognized Accrediting Agency. You must submit proof of such evaluation. For more information, see the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services website at This website is for informational purposes only and does not imply an endorsement of any specific agency.
Make the Best Applicant: Bad Résumé Example
We will now review examples of poorly written and well written résumés. A poorly written résumé is shown here. If an applicant submitted this résumé for a Management Analyst GS-9 position, this application would not be considered because it did not provide enough information for the Human Resources Specialist to determine whether or not the applicant was even qualified for the position. This résumé is too brief and contains only general information about work that was unrelated to the position for which the applicant was applying.
Make the Best Applicant: Good Résumé Example
An example of a well written résumé is shown here. This applicant has provided sufficient information for the IT Specialist position they are applying for, regarding previous job duties and the length of time that those duties were performed so that the HR Specialist can qualify her for the position. The résumé reviews the applicants leadership capabilities, and displays that the applicant can work independently, is responsible for the outcome of specific projects, and addresses specific software, databases, and systems that may have been required or desired by the vacancy announcement.
Your Federal Résumé: Circle Diagram
In summary, this circle diagram represents items to keep in mind when constructing your Federal Résumé. Be sure you review your résumé thoroughly and completely before submitting it to apply for a position.

This diagram represents what you should include in your Federal résumé.

Include numbers, whenever appropriate, to quantify results and highlight your experience.

Your résumé should be written in an-- Action, Task, Result format - For example, “In my current position as an Administrative Assistant, I increased the efficiency of our task completion rate from 55 to 86% over a one month period by revising the incoming review process.”

Your résumé should include a fair amount of detail and be between two and five pages long.

Be sure to spell out all of the acronyms that you use throughout your resume.

Make sure that you include dates, as well, so that the reviewer has an idea of how long you have been performing the work.

Be sure to thoroughly read the announcement and follow instructions.

Your résumé and KSAs should mirror each other, meaning that if you submit a résumé that does not match the experience reflected on your KSA responses, your overall score may be lowered or you may be disqualified from consideration.
What Happens Next?
Now you have the knowledge to help you craft a résumé that should rise to the top of the pack!

Remember that the Federal application and selection process can take up to 90 days after the vacancy announcement closes. You can check the status of your application through the USAJOBS by clicking on “My Applications.” Here you will see a list of the vacancies for which you have applied.