Hiring for federal jobs is generally through a competitive examination. Don’t be intimidated by the word “examination.” The majority — approximately 80% — of government jobs are filled through a competitive examination of your background, work experience, and education, as listed on your application, not through a written test. There are exceptions to this rule, and noncompetitive appointments are available for certain veterans, the physically challenged or disabled, and other groups. All hiring is based on the ability to perform the work advertised in the job announcement.


Job announcements are issued by the Office of Personnel Management and by individual agencies that have direct hire or case-examining authority. Currently, over 10,000 federal vacancies, many with multiple openings, are listed for jobs nationwide and overseas. They are typically advertised for periods from several days to continuously open depending on the agency’s critical needs. It’s imperative that applicants submit all required information listed in the job announcement for your application to be accepted.


There are vast differences between industry’s standard brief resume format and the detailed information required for your online federal application.

Don’t get lost in the process. Too many put all their hopes on one effort. They find an open announcement, send in an application, then forget about the process until they receive a reply. Federal jobs are highly competitive, and the more jobs you apply for, the better your chances.

Many applicants make the mistake of submitting the same federal resume and application for all jobs they apply for. There are often significantly different duties and responsibilities for the same occupation with other organizations; you must address those differences in the application package. Tailor your application for each job that you bid on to improve your chances.

I reviewed and rated hundreds of federal applications during my 35-plus years of federal service and participated in many interview and selection panels. I can tell you from first-hand experience that many highly qualified applicants never made the cut because they didn’t devote the time or effort to properly complete their application packages.


Unlike the private sector one page resume, federal applications require detailed prior work experience, education, and training descriptions that outline how you achieved the job announcement’s qualifications. You will also be required in many cases to complete an occupational questionnaire and other supplemental forms. Brevity isn’t your friend when apply for federal employment. You must submit details on how you met the qualifications and obtained the requisite experience in past jobs.

Provide detailed descriptions on how you achieved the required skills listed on the job announcement. include related prior military experience, volunteer work, membership in various associations and organizations that helped you achieve certain skill sets.

The job announcement provides the following information that will guide you through the application process:

  • Work Summary
  • List of duties
  • Requirements
  • Qualifications
  • Required Education
  • Additional Information
  • A description of how you will be evaluated
  • Required documents
  • How to apply
  • Contact information

This sample federal style resume will help you focus on the degree of detail that you must include with your application.

I suggest printing a copy of the job announcement for future reference. It includes all of the information that you will need to apply and contact information for the human resource specialist that can answer any questions that you may have.

Explore the many jobs available nationwide and overseas. Federal workers have exceptional benefits that offer early retirement options with a generous COLA adjusted annuity, Social Security, and a comparable 401k plan with a 5% match.

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Dennis V. Damp, the creator of FederalJobs.net and FederalRetirement.net, is a retired federal manager, business owner, career counselor and veteran. Damp is the author of 28 books, his books were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.