A resume targeting government jobs must be spot on, since the application process is complex and specific. As you begin your hunt for that perfect government job, take into account that a great resume will give hiring managers a vote of confidence in your candidacy.
Let Resume.io help you get started on your journey with our advice-filled writing guides and resume examples for 300+ professions, plus an easy-to-use resume builder. This guide, along with the corresponding resume example will cover the following topics:
- What does a government worker do?
- How to write a government worker resume (tips and tricks)
- The best format for a government worker resume
- Advice on each section of your resume (profile, work history, education, skills)
- Professional resume layout and design hints.
What does a government worker do?
What does a government worker do? Good question! The answer is pretty much anything. Federal, state and local government workers may do all types of jobs from forest management to budget analysis.
Within the levels of government, agencies hire full-time employees as well as contractors for administrative, professional, technical, trades and clerical work. Government workers, also known as civil servants, include police and firefighters, teachers, postal service workers, motor vehicle department employees, judges and military workers.
The U.S. federal government contains 15 departments, all with hundreds of employees. In total, government agencies across the U.S. employ 23.7 million full- and part-time workers. Here is the breakdown of the level of government in which they work, according to USA Facts.
- 4 million federal (8% part-time)
- 5.5 million state (29% part-time)
- 14.2 million local (23% part-time)
Of those workers, 47% are in education; 6% are active duty military; 6% work in hospitals; and 5% are police officers.
Government job market and outlook
Because this is such a broad category, there’s no one statistic that will tell you what your chances of getting a government job are. You may choose to start your search on USAJobs, where all federal job openings are listed.
Why work for the government?
Yes, there is red tape and the process of getting hired can be tedious, but a civil service job has its benefits, too. Here are some of the biggest pluses:
- Job security and stability
- Working for the public good
- Pay: the average federal worker earns just over $90,000 a year
- Generous benefits
- Work-life balance
- Professional development
How to write a government worker resume
All resumes contain specific sections and especially if you are applying through a rigid government system, you should understand what sections to include. Your CV should contain the following elements:
- The resume header
- The resume summary (ak.a profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The resume skills section
- The education section
Each government agency, sector and level is different, but it is best to strike a serious tone. Investigate the department you wish to work for to get a better understanding of its mission and how it functions. This will help you develop a message that resonates with the hiring managers in that department.
The best government worker resumes will do the following:
- Align with the agency’s mission by addressing its needs in each CV section
- Choose a crisp, readable layout that conveys your professional nature
- Use keywords and phrases that will elevate your resume over the ATS hurdle.
Personalize to beat the ATS
USAJobs, where you will apply for a federal job, and many state and local governments use an Applicant Tracking System. This software is programmed to search for the keywords and phrases an employer believes are most important for the advertised job. Then, the ATS ranks your resume against all the resumes for the position.
To get past this phase, match the keywords and phrases in the job listing to your resume. Use the exact wording as you find it within the posting. Spell out and use acronyms to ensure that the ATS catches one or the other. This method also shows that you are well aware of what the job requires.
Choosing the best resume format for a government worker
Given the structure of government job applications, we highly recommend using the reverse chronological order resume format. This format is favored by recruiters and the ATS your resume will have to get past in order to reach the hands of a person.
Although other formats exist, you should use them only in special circumstances. If it is your first job, you are a career-charger or have many years of experience under your belt, check out the resume formats we suggest as chronological alternatives or hybrids.
Unless you have highly specialized production skills or work in a highly technical field, the functional resume format should not be your first choice. It offers a means to emphasize niche or highly complex skills by expanding the skills section and reducing the employment history section in exchange.
Resume summary example: public persona
Although we have mentioned the rigidity of public sector applications, you don’t have to be overly starched throughout your government resume. You may want to be a bit more buttoned-up than if you were applying at a start-up, but you should show some personality here.
The summary section of your CV is the place to do this. Maintain a professional tone, but introduce yourself and your career with complimentary descriptors. Then, focus on the greatest achievement that illustrates your value to the position you desire. You have 3-4 lines here, so if you have space, add a more personal sentence that explains why you want a civil service job or what attracted you to your career.
You can find a resume example for your summary section below.
Experienced Customs and Border Protection Officer seeking to utilize my skills and experience for the betterment of the greater good. Committed to implementing best practices and procedures to detect and prevent terrorists and harmful objects from entering or exiting the United States. Bringing forth an excellent work ethic and a dedication to honesty, good will, and integrity.
Employment history sample: direct your message
In the employment history section of your resume, which most likely will be organized in reverse chronological order, stick to the facts without wasting words (and precious space). Here you detail your job responsibilities and achievements in bulleted items using direct, simple language. Make sure each item illustrates that you can perform the duties your new job will entail.
First, compile a list of all the jobs you have had that relate to the job you seek. Consider your responsibilities and achievements in each position. Then, as you begin to write, focus on the outcomes of your actions and the problems you solved. Use data and details to strengthen your claims.
Try the STAR format for organizing this section. Relate the Situation, explain your Task, tell what Action you took and detail your Results.
Below you will find an adaptable employment history resume sample.
- Worked as a productive and reliable member of Homeland Security professionals.
- Appropriately responded to and resolved questions and uncertainties related to persons, events, or items.
- Carefully investigated travelers, bags, and cargo.
- Utilized excellent decision making skills and great attention to detail to ensure the highest levels of safety.
- Upheld all laws governing imported and exported goods.
CV skills example: attributes at a glance
The skills section of your government worker CV is a great place to optimize for the ATS. Here you will choose your top 4-7 attributes. Make sure your CV contains the exact language from the job listing. That means reviewing the listing and matching your skills to those necessary for the job.
The purpose of this section is twofold:
- Allow hiring managers to quickly scan to make sure you have the skills they are looking for in a candidate
- Give those hiring managers an idea of the skills you believe are most important for the job.
Don’t neglect soft skills
Your technical and learned job (or hard) skills are important, but so too are the soft skills that make you a good employee. Consider adding one of these six that Randstad looks for in candidates:
- Analytical thinking
Below you will find a skills section resume example.
- Advanced Analytical Thinking Skills
- Knowledge of ABI & ACE Programs
- Technical Knowledge of Customs Regulations
- Strong Decision Making Skills
- Excellent Communication Skills
- Systems knowledge in MS Office, ACS, PDM, PLM, Island Pacific
Government worker education resume example
The education section of your government worker resume is a simple listing of your academic degrees. Start with your high school diploma (unless you have a master’s degree or higher in which case you may leave it out) and list your degrees and majors.
If you have any certifications relevant to your job, list those here as well.
If you have publications, awards or professional memberships that will add to your candidacy, consider creating a separate section to highlight them if you have the space. Your resume should not be more than 2 pages long.
Below you will find an education section resume example as a formatting guide.
- Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, St. John's University, New York
Sep, 2012 - May, 2014
Resume layout and design: stay professional
First impressions count! Keep your layout professional-looking even if you are tempted to stand out with a unique design. To make sure you make a positive, lasting impression with your resume layout and design, follow the guidelines below:
- Big blocks of type are difficult to read, so create white space by varying line lengths and break it up with bold headings
- Stay away from gimmicks and flash — you want hiring managers to read the content, not be distracted by the layout.
- Proofread, or use an online resume-builder (like ours) that includes spellcheck.
A great resume should have a header that makes your name and contact information stand out. To create this in a few steps, try using a professionally-designed resume template. These layouts allow you to focus on the writing and customize the formatting options to your liking.
Key takeaways for a government worker resume
- There are more than 23 million civil servants working at all levels of government and in every field imaginable.
- The government job application process can be tedious, but you can ease it with help from Resume.io.
- Personalize for each job to help you rise above the ATS hurdle
- Check out our government worker resume sample for more ideas on how to create a functional and attractive page layout.