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Federal Overview

By Diane Hudson Burns

Are you ready for your encore career? Are you entertaining the thought of Federal employment—but unsure of the application procedures and Federally formatted resumes? Well, you are not alone—applying for a Federal job can seem like an unending maze. Unfortunately many qualified Americans lose employment opportunities with the Federal government, because they shy away from creating a Federally formatted resume.

The Once Beloved, Now Legacy SF-171
You may remember the old SF-171 (Standard form SF-171, Application for Federal Employment). The multi-page, fold out, hand-typed or hand-written, green application form with 49 boxes was the official government application for a quarter of a century (and then some) before 1994, when the government decided to move into the information age, and create the automated version of the Federal application. So, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) created the Optional Form 612 and a few years later, abolished the SF-171 (even though, today, you will still see some Federal announcements that state: Will accept SF-171, OF-612, or other resume format—please note: there are exceptions at some stage in nearly every Federal application process).

Evolution of the Federally Formatted Resume
Well, as the Federal application process evolved, the OPM launched the Government’s official website (www.USAJOBS.GOV) in late 1996 and created the “Resumix” format in the late 1990s/early 2000s (an online version of the SF-171 and OF-612). The online resume, in theory, pre-interviews the candidate via computer software that reads the resume and recognizes hundreds of keywords and combinations of keywords to score the applicant. So, in essence, the online resume builder requires nearly the same information required on the original SF-171 application form; it is now just required in a different format.

Federally Formatted Resume Elements
Federal resumes differ from corporate-style resumes in many ways: Federal resumes can be several pages long in some cases (corporate is 2-pages, typically); Federal resumes require the candidate's social security number, citizenship, supervisor’s name and phone number, full employment dates, employer’s address; full dates, GPA, and credit hours for education, as well as for high school (no matter when you graduated or how many degrees you have now); supplemental data including Veterans’ preference, employment preferences, military service including discharge information and campaign medals, among other items.

You will read on many federal job announcements that the Federal government does not discriminate against race, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability. However, the Federal government does have restrictions that include age limits for some positions like law enforcement or President; and requires US citizenship, for positions that require a security clearance. And, once your resume is completed and you click submit—you agree that all of the information you provide in your application is true to the best of your knowledge and not misleading in any way—or you may be subject to termination, if hired, or having a position withdrawn, if offered.

Okay, Building a Federally Formatted Resume
The easiest way to write a Federally formatted resume is to open an account at USAJOBS.GOV and look at the resume requirements. Copy and paste the requirements or print the information and keep it on file until you post your first resume. Then, open a Word document on your computer and start building and writing your resume in a Word document, which you will use to copy and paste from, to post your resume, when you have completed the resume. I do not recommend writing your resume into the online builder directly. You can lose data if you are timed out—and you really need to spend quality time drafting your resume, before you post it for consideration.

Intelligence Collection
Gather the information you need to complete the Federally formatted resume—use an old resume to glean information, like dates and locations of employments; old performance evaluations for supervisor’s names and phone numbers; and make a comprehensive list of your “other” skills and activities (clearances, licenses, professional training, education, languages, publications, speaking engagements, associations, board memberships, commitment to community / volunteer work, etc.). Then use old resumes, performance ratings, performance plans, position descriptions, articles written about you, and award and training justifications to build your job duties content. List as many accomplishments as possible and qualify and quantify each accomplishment. As you draft your employment entries, remember the character count is 3,000 (including spaces) for each employment entry—so the writing has to be detailed, yet clear, concise, and compelling.

How Many Federal Resume Formats Are There? (– No, it’s not a trick question)
Even though the USAJOBS.GOV is the official Federal website for Federal employment—many individual agencies have their own Federal resume versions and application processes (each of these will be explained in future articles in this Federal series). The good news is, if you create a Federal resume in the USAJOBS format and include all of the supplemental information, in most cases you will have all the information that you need to apply for nearly all Federal agencies—you will just have to rearrange the data as needed. (Another exception: some agencies still only accept hard-copy, formatted Federal resumes).

Is the Application Package Complete with the Resume?
Your Federal application package may require additional documents to qualify for a specific position. For example, some agencies require the submission of additional essays (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities statements) in response to specific questions (an example includes, Ability to provide day-to-day supervision for the oversight and management of the workload; or, Ability to serve on committees, task forces, and represent top management in support of program goals; or, Ability to communicate orally and in writing). Or, some agencies require the applicant to respond to questions as a self-assessment of the appropriate level of expertise. And, sometimes, the self-assessment questionnaires require some essay responses as well.

This article is a basic introduction to the USAJOBS.GOV website where you can open an account and prepare to post your Federal resume. In coming months, we will discuss the vacancy announcements and learn to decipher the requirements; draft resumes for CPOL, AVUE, and other agency-specific sites; write resumes and KSA statements using the CCAR (Context, Challenge, Actions, Results) format incorporating keywords, and learn about Government programs to hire baby-boomers retiring from corporate America.