Federal Resume

By Kathryn Troutman

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One federal resume is not enough

When my boys were younger, one pair of sneakers would pretty much be the only pair of shoes they would need for about half a year, if I sized them “correctly” (as in way too big).

I never dreamed the day would come when my teenager would own the outrageously expensive collection of shoes.

“Why?” we ask. The answer is that his goal is to own a pair of basketball shoes for every day of the week, plus a cadre of shoes to wear expressly for each basketball team that he plays on.

“But they’re all Nike basketball shoes,” I protest.

“And how many pairs of shoes do you have?” comes the very smart reply.

“Mine aren’t all basketball shoes,” I lamely counter.

The truth is, he’s got me. I do own more pairs of shoes than he does. OK, I own a LOT more pairs of shoes than he does.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you also own more than one pair of shoes.

Chances also are, if you are reading this blog, you will need more than one federal resume to achieve your dream federal job—unless you already understand this post so perfectly that you landed the very first federal job you applied for.

For the rest of us, let me show you why one resume is not enough.

Today, I found two vacancy announcements on USAJOBS, both for Administrative Support Assistant, GS-0303-05, and both with the National Park Service. The core of the work for both positions is administrative, but look at the underlined keywords, and you will see some critical differences.

Vacancy Announcement #1


The Administrative Support Assistant is an important member of the Administrative team at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, providing a number of vital services for the park and its employees.  The incumbent:

-  Serves as receptionist for the Headquarters building, answering the telephone and greeting and assisting office visitors;

-  Processes all incoming and outgoing mail;

-  Arranges travel for all employees, preparing travel authorizations and vouchers, and answering technical questions related to travel;

-  Serves as the primary timekeeper for the park, processing electronic time and attendance records and working with the payroll office to resolve problems;

-  Orders office supplies and pays utility bills with a government charge card;

-  Manages accountable property for the three national park areas in North Dakota, maintaining current inventory records in FBMS and assisting with the disposal of excess/surplus property;

-  Prepares and manages correspondence and memoranda, and maintains both electronic and paper files.

Vacancy Announcement #2


This is a permanent, subject to furlough, position located in the Maintenance Division, Petrified Forest National Park.  Duties include a variety of administrative tasks associated with the operation of the maintenance division.  The incumbent coordinates the division budget, finance and micro-purchase functions.  Incumbent is required to be proficient in a variety of commercial software systems as well as becoming proficient in software systems specific to the National Park Service.   Assists the division with the preparation of project status reports by the collection and management of a photographic library.  The incumbent maintains all of the Divisions files and official records.

Let’s compare the keywords from the two announcements:

Announcement #1

  • Receptionist
  • Answer telephone
  • Greet and assist office visitors
  • Process mail
  • Arranges travel
  • Primary timekeeper
  • Order office supplies
  • Pay utility bills
  • Manage accountable property
  • Maintain inventory records
  • Dispose excess/surplus property
  • Prepare correspondence and memoranda
  • Maintain electronic and paper files
Announcement #2
  • Administrative tasks
  • Division budget
  • Finance
  • Micro-purchase functions
  • Commercial software systems
  • Prepare project status reports
  • Collection and management of a photographic library
  • Maintains files and official records

These two very different sets of keywords means that you will need two different federal resumes to apply for these jobs.

In fact, every GS-0303-05 announcement that I looked at today had a different set of keywords. Though all of the announcements had administrative tasks at the core, they each also had some required specialized experience that made the position (and resulting resume) unique.

The Good News

Don’t let this scare you. You won’t have to completely rewrite your resume for each application. For most people, having two or three versions of your resume will cover the majority of the work, with some tweaking for each application to adjust for the keywords.

To see how to use the keywords in your federal resume, check out our sample federal resume in the Outline Format. (More on this in a future post as well.)

Also, as you get used to reading announcements and analyzing the keywords, you will start to be able to narrow down the qualifications you can actually meet. This focus will help you limit the number of announcements you apply to, thus saving you valuable time.

Finally, remember that the announcement is giving you a clear map for writing your resume. Save yourself time and frustration by carefully studying and using the keywords.

So, the common sense tip for your federal resume is: one pair of shoes (and one federal resume) is not enough!

Paulina Chen has a passion for taking the complex and making it simple for people to understand. Paulina has been a graphic designer, developmental editor, and webmaster for The Resume Place for over 10 years. Since receiving her Certified Federal Job Search Trainer certification, she has been eager to show federal applicants that writing your best possible federal resume is within your reach. If you need more writing help with your federal resume, contact us for an absolutely free estimate. If you need expert advice or training, Kathryn Troutman the “Federal Resume Guru” is still your best bet on the planet.

Posted on Oct 01, 2013 at 4:02 PM

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