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Seattle, WA 98116

(206) 201-2181

Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.


Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

Federal and Private Sector Resume Best Practices

Kent Nolen

Many of my clients are surprised to learn that federal resumes and private sector resumes are very different beasts. Private sector resumes tend to be most effective when they are concise and laser focused on achievements. Federal resumes, on the other hand, are most effective when they are more comprehensive and clearly outline each position’s responsibilities.

I work with a lot of professionals who are transitioning from government roles and into the private sector. I also work with a lot of clients who are making the opposite move. In doing so, I have identified that, while federal and private sector resumes are very different, there are best practices from both sectors that can be broadly applied.

Strong Branding Elements – Private sector resumes need a strong open; a high impact introduction that captures readers’ attention and compels them to learn more. Federal resumes can benefit from the same strong opening. Remember, no matter the sector, a real-life, time strapped human being is going to ultimately evaluate your resume. Make it easy for them to understand the value you represent by providing a clear and compelling introduction.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) – KSAs are a common element of both federal job requisitions and federal resumes. A KSAs section on your federal resume is a clear way to map your experience to the requisition, which makes it easy for readers (both human and automated) to identify your qualifications. It is for that very reason that a KSAs-like section makes a lot of sense for private sector resumes.

Achievements – Many of my clients who are transitioning out of government roles have dry resumes that read like job descriptions. This achievements-free approach is an absolute no-no when it comes to the private sector. But it is also not a great idea for federal resumes. Just because you need to outline your qualifications more explicitly – as opposed to allowing achievements to imply responsibilities – on a federal resume, that doesn’t mean that it is not smart to speak to specific, quantified achievements. Clear achievements are always a good idea. ALWAYS.

Regardless of sector, increase your likelihood of getting called in for an interview by leveraging best practices from across the entire job market.