Writing Details into a Resume for Federal Government Jobs

A law-enforcement officer used a detailed questionnaire and keywords from the job description to tailor his resume for a federal government job.


Paying attention to what an employer is telling you about a job opening may be the key to filling it.

But where do you find what’s important to an employer?

“When perusing a job posting, look specifically at the job description,” said Dan Doratik, a certified resume writer who works with Ladders. “Most people spend too much time looking at the qualifications when they should be focused on the description.”

Why? Because the description is where you can examine the details of the ideal job candidate for a given position.

And with that, you can customize your resume for that job.

Consider Paul McGowan, a veteran law-enforcement specialist who hadn’t had his resume done professionally since 2002. This was a long time for this senior-level internal-affairs investigator, who was angling for a specific city-government job posting on a deadline and wanted a new resume quickly. His resume was a problem. It was a functional resume with a profile that included a 28-line summary with no white-space separation.

“Not to be overly critical, but this thing put a reader to sleep pretty quickly,” Soratick said. “He needed some help in getting this thing really targeted for this job. Luckily I’ve had a lot of federal resume experience, and I understand the significance of targeting the job description and being detailed.”

Federal, state and municipal government resumes tend to require long, detailed information ; need to be keyword rich; and are often graded, Doratik explained. Grading systems in resumes can look for very specific repetition of job-description language, and if not’s there, it doesn’t make it past the first round of looks.

“Government human resources can be, to put it bluntly, anal,” Doratik said. “I once worked on a resume that was rejected because it did not have the ZIP code of the high school this person graduated from.”

To add detail and uncover McGowan’s accomplishments, Doratik had him answer a questionnaire that went beyond his job responsibilities and discover the results of his work. With that, Doratik was able to add context to his accomplishments and responsibilities and expand job descriptions with certifications and detail that might not fit in a private-sector resume. He expanded the job descriptions and summary with keyword phrases he pulled directly from the job description for the specific position McGowan sought.

For private-sector jobs, which require thinner, more -direct resumes, Doratik left McGowan with suggestions on where to where to cut the job descriptions and rely on a resume addendum to provide the detail when necessary.

Dovarik also fixed issues with the resume format: incomplete dates and bullet points that stretched to three lines.

“You still need to make them as readable as possible,” Doratik said. “That means a certain amount of white space and design principles, the appropriate language and grammar for the resume type, and sticking to what the employer is telling you they want to see.”

“The overall presentation was a fantastic job,” McGowan said. “It has more impact now… Between the layout and the word usage, this is something much more dynamic than I had anticipated.”

“This new resume presents a full, complete record of what I bring to the table, ” he said. “The old one I had done read like a data sheet. The new one grabs you.”