Resume Cover Letter For Government Jobs


As a Federal Career Consultant and Federal Resume Writer, I am consulting with many federal job applicants who have submitted 100 to 400 job applications for federal jobs on USAJOBS by uploading their private industry resume.

If you want to get Best Qualified for a federal position and hopefully get referred to a supervisor, you have to write a very specific style, content and format federal resume.

Applying for a government job – as doing any business with the government – is complicated. Of course, the federal resume is NOT the same as the 2 page resume that a person uses for private industry job searches.

Kathryn Troutman is a Federal Career Consultant, Author, Government Trainer and Industry leader in the Federal Resume Writing and Federal Career Consulting industry.

Kathryn is seeing more and more first-time federal job applicants and reviewing their resumes to troubleshoot their lack of success in their federal job searches. Many jobseekers are applying as many as 400 times with no interviews or referrals to a supervisor.

14 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TIPS FOR WRITING A SUCCESSFUL FEDERAL RESUME

1. LENGTH:
Most Federal Resumes are 4 to 5 pages long. Mid-career professionals with 15 to20 years experience will have a 5 page federal resume. A 2 page private-industry resume WILL NOT WORK.

2. MORE DETAILS: You need to include more details about your duties and accomplishments in your last position or the most relevant position. The typical private-industry resume will have 8 to 10 bullets of information about each position. The federal resume duties section spells out what you did, usually in complete sentences. The position that is most relevant for the federal position could be an entire page long.

3. FORMAT: Make sure the resume is readable for human resources specialists who have hundreds of resumes to review to determine who is most qualified for their positions. Many private industry resumes consist of short statements with bullets. Many current federal employees write their resumes in huge block of type based on position descriptions. The best format is a reverse chronological Outline Format. The Outline Format features the top skills needed for the position. For a Public Affairs Specialist, the top skills could be: Media Specialist, Writer-Editor, Researcher / Analyst, Media Events Coordinator.

4. TYPEFONT: Feature the Top Skills in ALL CAPS, so that the busy human resources reviewer can find the skills they are seeking.

5. KEYWORDS: Add language and keywords from the vacancy announcement Duties and Specialized Experience into your federal resume. You can find the keywords by search for words that are repeated multiple times in the announcement; these could be technical terms or phrases that describe specific skills.

6. PROVE YOUR EXPERIENCE:
You will see the USAJOBS vacancy announcements will tell you that they want to see One Year Specialized Experience in a certain field in your resume. The announcement will also suggest types of examples that can help to prove your experience.

7. 10 YEARS EXPERIENCE: The federal HR specialists typically read / scan the last 10 years of experience in your federal resume. The years before 10 years can be added to the resume, but keep that information shorter.

8. RECENT AND RELEVANT: The HR specialists will be looking for recent and relevant experience in your Work Experience Section.

9. MONTH, YEAR AND HOURS PER WEEK: It is imperative that you add the month and year and hours per week for your jobs. Since they have to see that you have One Year Specialized Experience in positions and level that are similar to this job, you will need to add this information to your resume.

10. SALARY: The federal resume in USAJOBS asks for your salaries for the last 10 years. They need to see your salaries in order to see your experience and judge the grade level that you could be qualified for in a government position.

11. COVER LETTER: You can add a cover letter into the USAJOBS account now, after Federal Hiring Reform. We recommend a cover letter to emphasize your specialized experience and most relevant training or experience for the position.

12. RECENT AND RELEVANT JOBS: You do NOT have to add every job into your USAJOBS Resume Builder. If you have short-term positions which were taken to earn cash for bills, you can leave it out. Yes, it will leave a little bit of blank time, but the HR specialist is really seeking the specialized experience.

13. 5 USAJOBS RESUMES: USAJOBS will allow you to upload 5 resumes. Create multiple resume versions for each announcement. Your original resume can be changed slightly to match a few keywords for each new announcement.

14. FEDERAL RESUMES MUST BE FOCUSED TOWARD AN OCCUPATIONAL SERIES WITH DIFFERENT KEYWORDS: If you are seeking a Program Analyst position, use the keywords and skills for the position. Keywords for the Program Analyst will be: Analyst, Research, Studies, Efficiency and Effectiveness, Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis, Briefings. If you are also seeking an Administrative Officer position, your keywords will be different: Operations, Budget Management, Supervision, Customer Services, Project Management.

Writing a cover letter is already tricky business. But writing a cover letter for a government job can be a whole other story. Let's get down to the nitty gritty on how we tailor a cover letter to the key words of a government job.

Getting Started
Don’t apply at the last minute and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to take these steps:

  1. Carefully read the entire announcement before applying. It seems obvious, but each announcement, even in USAJobs, is different and will have different skills needed for the job. Print a hard copy of the announcement and highlight a checklist to ensure you can address at least 3 out of 5 of the skills they’re asking for. Once you highlight their requirements, it will be easier to go back to your own cover letter to address those points.
  2. Research the agency to which you are applying. Your cover letter is your fist opportunity to express how your mindset and talent matches with that of the organization. Catch the hiring manager’s eye by demonstrating you’ve done your homework and are familiar with the agency’s mission and some of its current programs.
  3. Get specific. Explain exactly what experiences you have had that make you a great candidate for the position. Don’t just say “I did x,y,and z.” For government jobs, use numbers, dollar amounts, and specify how many years for as much as you can.

Tailor Your Cover Letter
So what does it mean to tailor your cover letter to the job? It’s not just highlighting your experiences and hoping the hiring manager will see a good fit. You have to connect the dots for them and that means making your skills match the required skills almost word-for-word.

First, compare your resume and the job announcement side by side. Highlight the requirements they’re asking for the job and highlight corresponding skills and experiences you have from your resume. Try doing this process in about 15 to 20 minutes. This will also help you practice for interviews since you will eventually be required to quickly recall your job experiences.

And of course, go over your applications materials in depth to make sure you don’t submit any formatting, grammatical, or punctuation errors.

Here is an example of a post from USAJobs with key words in bold:
The Student Trainee (Contract Specialist) – PATHWAYS Intern is a member of a team responsible for the negotiation, award, and monitoring/administration of Federal assistance agreements (grants and cooperative agreements) and contracts for a wide array of research, non-personnel support services, specialized studies and other activities necessary to support the FHWA Headquarter, FHWA Turner-Fairbanks Highway Research Center, State Division Office, and Resource Center program offices.  Under close supervision of the Team Leader, the intern will perform the following functions:

  • Assists in pre-award and post-award functions involving a full range of procurement actions, typically involving technical services or programs of research and development, specialized equipment or systems.
  • Assists with developing requests for applications (RFA), requests for proposals (RFP), and requests for quotations (RFQ).  The intern will help to analyze, evaluate, and negotiate proposals and applications for agency contracting and Federal assistance opportunities.
  • Assists with acquisition planning, scheduling procurement from time of acceptance through award.

Here’s an example from my undergraduate resume to match with some of the above points:

  • Nonprofit Volunteer Coordinator: Oversaw research and development as well as technical production of building Tunnel on campus and acquirement of specialized equipment systems needed for sound and visual media. Cost of production was over $20,000 and took a total of 9 months to plan.
  • University Program Board Director: Developed and negotiated over 50 proposals and contracts with speakers and agencies, scheduled and planned 100 events by coordinating facilities, catering, as well as budget of over $30,000.

You’re not going to have the exact same positions as specified in the job announcement. But chances are you’ve had some academic, volunteer, and/or professional experiences that are applicable. Be sure you’re also not making up your skills just to fit the job requirements. Just adjust words in your resume and cover letter to better fit the job vacancy.

Draft the Cover Letter
Now that you have gone through your resume and highlighted matching examples to the job requirements, it’s time to start writing your cover letter. Choose the three most relevant examples from your resume that you can tailor to the position. This is because a cover letter should be no more than 3-4 paragraphs, so you want to be succinct. Use numbers, years, and any dollar amounts to be as specific as possible.

Here’s an example to start off with relevant points highlighted from the above USAJobs vacancy:

Dear Ms. Smith,

As a recent graduate of (xyx program), I am seeking to apply my 4 years of research, administrative, and event planning to a career in public service. I am interested in the Student Trainee Contract Specialist Position because I want to specialize in negotiation, award, and monitoring of Federal assistance agreements. More importantly, I believe my negotiating, evaluative, and analytical skills all would be highly suitable to the position.

The next two to three paragraphs should each draw on a bulleted example you use from your resume elaborating on how your experiences in the position applies to the job vacancy and how it would help you to grow in the role.

Remember, your cover letter is your opportunity to make a good first impression with the hiring manager. It can determine whether or not the hiring manager will even read your resume. While it is a long and tedious process for a seemingly short letter, it’s important to allot the necessary time and research to make sure that your cover letter keeps the potential employer reading.

 

For more resources on cover letter writing, be sure to check out these posts:

-How to Tweak Your Cover Letter and Resume for More Impact

-Are You Making These 4 Mistakes in Your Cover Letter?

 

For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial

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