Do I Need Both a Federal and Civilian Resume?

federal resume vs regular resume

One of the most common questions separating service members ask is: “Do I need both a federal and civilian resume?”

The short answer is no. One resume is all you need.

That answer may surprise you. Years ago, newly separated service members typically had one resume for their civilian job search and a completely different resume for their federal job search. 

You will certainly hear conflicting views on this topic even from TAPS that will say a federal resume has to be more than 3 pages, but the reality is that a federal resume (just like a professional resume) needs to be concise in showcasing the qualifications, skills, and value that you bring. Hiring managers are inundated with resumes and don’t have the time to spend reviewing 5+ page resumes that are filled with copy and paste job descriptions and really offer no value.

Professional resumes are typically two pages long, but if you’re required to submit a resume formatted from the USAJOBS Resume Builder it may actually end up being longer, which is fine. You’ll use your master resume to copy and paste the required fields. Here’s how you’ll do it:

Their civilian job resume would be the standard one- or two-page document we’re all familiar with. The federal job resume, however, would be five pages or more and contain lengthy descriptions of job duties without highlighting the applicant’s true skills and abilities. While that might have been the norm at one time, federal hiring managers are no longer interested in these high-page-count, low-value resumes.

At Empire Resume, we tell our clients that in today’s job market, you can essentially use the same two-page “master” resume for federal and civilian applications. Your master resume should clearly and concisely showcase your skills, qualifications, experience, and the value you bring to your potential employer. Remember, hiring managers are scanning resumes for just a few seconds, so you need to capture their attention right away.

However, you’ll need to tweak your master resume a bit to make it appropriate for federal job applications.

What Should I Include in a Federal Resume?

federal resume vs regular resume

As stated, your federal resume will look like your civilian resume in many ways, but there are a few items that may be required to appear only on your federal resume.

  • Job title and position classification number (if available)
  • Start and end dates including the month and year
  • Hours worked per week
  • Salary

Here’s an example:

Data analyst GS-332-11

January 2017 to March 2021

37.5 hours per week


Here are a few other tips when creating your resume:

Include any volunteer work

Relevant volunteer experience is as important as paid work experience in many employers’ eyes. Plus, volunteer work can help fill in any employment gaps on your resume.

Use specific data points and numbers

Employers will especially be interested to know how you saved money or time. For example, instead of saying, “Increased data processing efficiency” you could say “Automated three common workflows that increased data processing efficiency 15%.”

Or, instead of saying “Decreased costs for department,” you could say, “Digitized five monthly reports to reduce department printing costs by 22%.”

Address every qualification

Hiring managers, especially those in government agencies, want applicants to meet every qualification listed in the job description. If the job description asks for an expert in Microsoft Excel, then make sure you have the words “Microsoft Excel” in your resume. Better yet, write about how you used Microsoft Excel.

For example: “Created a Microsoft Excel database to track all inventory in the department.”

Read more about what to include in your federal resume from USAJOBS.

What Should I Not Include in My Federal Resume?

federal resume vs regular resume

Never include the following information on any resume:

  • Classified information
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • Your marital status
  • Your religious affiliation
  • Your political affiliation


How Do I Create an Application on USAJOBS? 

USAJOBS is the government’s official employment site. The purpose of the site is to easily connect jobseekers to federal employment opportunities.

The cool thing about USAJOBS is that you can use a single application to apply to several jobs. Before you create an application, you should first create a USAJOBS account.

Once you have your account and you find a job that interests you, then click Apply. From there, USA JOBS will walk you step by step through creating an application.

Once your application is complete, you’ll be re-directed to the webpage of the specific federal agency that you’re applying to. They will be able to access the application you created, but you may have to provide additional information depending on the agency.

How Do I Upload My Resume to USAJOBS? 

To upload your resume, click the Documents tab within your USAJOBS profile. Then, click Upload Resume. Find the resume you want to upload on your computer and click Open. Then, select Complete Upload.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when uploading your resume:

  • Make sure your resume is formatted correctly.
  • Make sure the file size of your resume is no more than 3 MB.
  • Your resume must be saved in one of these formats: JPG, JPEG, PNG, RTF, PDF, or Word.
  • You may save a maximum of 5 resumes.

After your resume has been uploaded, click the Searchable button to add it to the USAJOBS resume bank. Hiring managers from federal agencies often look for talent within the resume bank of USAJOBS. If your resume isn’t searchable, then they won’t see it.

If you don’t yet have a resume, contact Empire Resume. Our professional military resume writers will expertly transform your military experience, skills, and achievements into a compelling civilian resume that generates results.

What is the Resume Builder within USAJOBS?

federal resume vs regular resume 

Another option to create a federal resume is to use the use the Resume Builder within USAJOBS.

In fact, some agencies may require you to use Resume Builder to apply for a job. This tool will help you create a resume step-by-step, but you’ll still need to identify your achievements since that’s what will “sell” you to hiring managers. 

Here’s how to build your resume:

  • Sign into USAJOBS.
  • Go to Documents and click Build resume.
  • Then, name your resume and click Next.
  • Select Add Work Experience and complete the required fields.
  • Be sure to Save Work Experience and then click Next to go to the education section.
  • Enter the required educational information and click Save Education.
  • Next, select Add Reference, enter the required information, and click Save Reference.
  • You also can enter additional information such as language skills, training, professional affiliations, etc. Simply select the corresponding button under each section, add details, and click Save.
  • Once your resume is complete, click Finish.
  • Anytime you would like to edit your resume, just return to Resume Builder and click Edit.

However, you’ll still want a strong resume already so you can just copy and paste the information directly into USAJOBS resume builder.

Don’t Forget the Hard Copy

federal resume vs regular resume

With all these digital tools at our fingertips it’s easy to forget sometimes hard copy resumes can still make a real impression on hiring managers.

That’s why we recommend that you ALWAYS follow-up any online job applications with a hard copy of your resume/targeted cover letter mailed directly to the hiring managers. This will guarantee that your resume will be seen by the hiring manager vs. relying solely on trying to manipulate the applicant tracking system.

One Resume is All You Need 

If you’re simultaneously searching for jobs in the civilian sector and within the federal government, then one clear, concise master resume highlighting all your experience and accomplishments is really all you need.

And remember, you can only have one LinkedIn profile, so it makes sense to have just one resume that aligns closely with that.

If you are a recently separated service member looking to transition into the civilian or federal workforce, then reach out to use for help. Our professional military resume writers will transform your experience, skills, and achievements into a compelling resume that will get results.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.   

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