Federal vs Corporate Resumes: A World of Difference

Federal resumes are a different (and often painful) beast. In some ways, applicants are already vetted as worthy of a review because it’s presumed they are of a certain status. It’s kind of like a first-round interview rolled into the resume. There is an increased likelihood someone actually reads it because the wordiness is expected, not frowned upon.

However, even if you have a great federal resume, it’s unlikely to work in the corporate, civilian world. It’s like the difference between beer and wine: they are both alcohol, but that’s where the similarities end.


Federal: Personal choice and depends on experience, but 5-7 pages, and up to 10+ if you have tons of experience

Civilian: 1-3 pages (2 is optimal if you have some experience). Treat space like real estate; be very intentional with how you use it because it’ll cost you


Federal: Minimal formatting, extremely detailed, includes the nitty-gritty of what you did. May include salary info, supervisor info, and much, much more

Civilian: Succinct. Easy to scan and extract info, but no crazy colors or distractions. Only say what you have to, and be measurables-focused. If you say you were good at something, prove it. Yes, you want to stand out with your format, but not so much that you’re off-putting to some of the old-school hiring managers out there

The Perspective of the Employer

Federal: Again, it is presumed you are of a certain status, so the viewer is more likely to comb the detail, but a lot is expected of what you say and did and it must be specific to the role

Civilian: Keep in mind that the viewer (likely recruiter/HR) doesn’t know the ins and outs of your expertise (they don’t know diddly about what you do). They are scanning – checking boxes and cross-referencing a sheet of requirements given to them to ensure you align.

They are picking a handful of people to pass on to an interview. They don’t want to waste time. Make it easy on them. Don’t expect they will translate your skills or see how you fit. They won’t. That’s your job. In other words, if the description says “business analysis,” your resume better be chalked full of those two words, specifically, and it better be easy to find in a few seconds.

Remember, the resume is a marketing piece, nothing more. Don’t list your entire history, interests, or anything unnecessary. It should, very succinctly, outline your value proposition.

Questions? Need some resume/career advice? Send your resume/questions to CareerNinjaInfo@gmail.com

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