Veterans Day Tips:

18 Critical Mistakes Veterans Make With Their Federal Job Searches

Best Tips from Resume Place, Inc. for Military seeking Civilian Government Employment

By Kathryn Troutman, Author,
Jobseeker Guide, 8th Edition
Published November 9, 2017

Veterans Preference for Federal Hiring

BUT… to make it work, you need a Best Qualified Federal Resume. Read this list to improve your federal job search results and utilize your Veterans Preference! Write to to get the best book on the subject of Transitioning Military federal resumes. Look at the sample in Step 6! Follow this format for your federal resume.


Beware of the many differences between the two formats. The most important is length. The typical private industry resume is two pages. And the average federal resume is 4 pages for a veteran. The federal human resources specialists need more information to score you as Best Qualified.

Read the most common mistakes made with federal resumes and the reasons why veterans may not get Best Qualified for positions that seem to be perfect for their background.

  1. Resumes are not translated in terms of duties and responsibilities from military terminology into federal job duties. I literally have NO idea what they are doing in their job and how it can relate to any position in government.
  2. Resumes still include acronyms and nouns that are strictly military and not transferable to public service and few HR specialists will understand.
  3. Resumes are written based on the fitness evaluations. They are basically copied and pasted into the resume with no context or description. The sentences are choppy, incomplete and do not tell a whole story.
  4. Resumes are too short. There is simply not enough content to get Best Qualified.
  5. The dates should include month and year — for at least ten years. It is critical that the HR specialist see the months and years of your most recent assignments, so they can see if you have One Year Specialized Experience in the field of work of your target announcement. Also, add hours per week for each position – for at least ten years.
  6. The military person uses an overseas address, even when they are coming back to the US in a month or so. HR needs to see where you live or will live in the US.
  7. The basic competencies that are developed in the military are not featured in the resume. The HR specialist may not be able to see that the military person is skilled as a Team Leader, has excellent communications or Interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills or is flexible.
  8. Accomplishments with a few details are usually not added into the resume and if they are in the resume, they are combined with the basic duties and therefore, the accomplishment is hard to find and read. Each resume must have 2 to 5 accomplishments to stand out, get referred or offered an interview.
  9. Keywords from the vacancy announcement are not used in the new resume. Keywords are words that are repeated in the announcement and represent critical skills needed for high performance on the job.
  10. Little or no attention is paid to the fact that the announcement must include the One Year of Specialized Experience in the resume. Read the Qualiications section and feature that experience in your resume.
  11. Little or no attention is paid to the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities required in the announcement and should be covered in the resume. KSAs are critical to get Best Qualified and Referred. Give short examples if possible.
  12. Training may be included in the resume, but it doesn’t include the number of hours for the course, the year completed, the full title of the training. Sometimes certain hours of training or certification is mandatory.
  13. Awards and recognitions may or may not be in the resume. These are impressive and can help with getting Referred.
  14. The resume is not written against the OPM Qualification Standards. There is almost NO resemblance to a specific occupational series. If the resume does not match an OPM Standard, you will probably not get Best Qualified.
  15. Most resumes are impossible to read because they are a long list of bullet statements or a huge block of type that no busy HR specialist will possibly read. The bullet resume format is difficult to read.
  16. Most resumes do not match the Questionnaire at all. The Questionnaire is a TEST, and your resume must verify your answers.
  17. Many resumes include all jobs, which may not be relevant, may be short, or repetitive in the chronology. The chronology can be too simplified or too complex. HR specialists want to read the last 5 or 10 years. The rest of the information can be summarized.
  18. Many resumes are uploaded into the USAJOBs application and therefore are missing important information, such as months and year; hours per week; supervisor names and phones; training and other important information for HR to review. I recommend the resume builder, over the upload feature.

In summary, a compliant federal resume that is targeted toward an announcement is critical to get Qualified, Best Qualified Referred, interviewed and hired.


Kathryn Troutman is the author of the Jobseeker Guide, 8th Edition

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