Return to home page Your Financial Guide
Spacer Graphic
Back home
Home buttonSubscriber Sign In buttonCatalog buttonContact Us buttonAbout Us butonInvite a Friend to visit this sight

Financial Planning & RetirementJobs & CareersLabor & ManagementPay & BenefitsPolicies & PracticesU.S. Postal ServiceFederal FamiliesEvents & ConferencesProduct Catalog

FederalDaily Email Sign Up
A free electronic news service for federal employees. To subscribe, enter your email address below.

A place to share, debate, and discuss. Participate in a discussion today.
Subscriber Newsletters
Federal Employees News Digest
Federal Workers' Compensation Update
Jobs & Careers
What Are Your Career Keywords?
Will You Be the Best-Prepared Candidate?
Related Products
2003 Federal Employees Almanac
Civil Service Handbook for Ex-Military Personnel
Electronic Federal Resume Guidbook
Federal Workers' Compensation Guide
Ten Steps to a Federal Job
Related Links
Federal Classification Systems
Federal Job Listings
Senior Executive Service
Veterans Information

Converting Your Position Description into Great Resume Content

Getting Started

Just getting started in preparing your work experience summary can be the most difficult part of the process of presenting your knowledge, skills, and abilities in an effective manner. You will need to gather information from a variety of sources to develop a complete work experience summary, and the best place to start is with the position description (PD) for your current and previous jobs. Your focus should be on your current position, with far less emphasis on previous positions.

Utilize PDs to make sure you include all the relevant experience you have gained. Correlate the PD with your performance appraisals. In most cases, the performance appraisal describes in a concise manner what is expected, and the basic areas of emphasis should be the same as stated in the PD. You should see the key responsibilities fall into 3, 4, or 5 general areas. This will provide the framework for your write-up.

:: Back to Top ::

Accuracy of Position Descriptions is Critical

One word of caution. Make sure that your position description is current, as quite often it is not. If you are working in automated information systems that have been recently developed, these may not be reflected in the PD. Do not list technology or tasks in the PD that are obsolete. Also, DO NOT include descriptions of work in your resume that are described in the PD if you are not actually doing the work. You may not be doing the work for a variety of reasons:

  • the work may be cyclical (e.g., seasonal), and you have not reached that part of the cycle;
  • you may be in a developmental program and have not yet performed the full range of responsibilities in the described position at the journeyman level; or,
  • the PD may be “generic,” or a “standard job” description, one which is a general framework to describe a position occupied by hundreds of people who each may perform minor variations on the same theme.

If you include information about tasks that you are not doing, at a minimum, you may be in an awkward situation if questioned about a particular type of work experience during an interview. The interviewer or selecting official may consider such information an exaggeration, which would reflect adversely on your credibility as an applicant, and in the worst case scenario you could face adverse action for falsifying an application.

:: Back to Top ::

Organization of the Position Description

The Factor Evaluation System (FES) criteria are used by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to assign grades to positions by applying the official classification standards. The nine factors offer a useful checklist for you in assuring that you have included important information that human resources staffing specialists may be looking for. Every position is classified using the following nine common factors:

The FES Criteria for Each Position:

1. Knowledge required for the position
2. Supervisory controls
3. Guidelines
4. Complexity
5. Scope and effect
6. Personal contacts
7. Purpose of contacts
8. Physical demands
9. Work environment

1. Knowledge required for the position. What level of knowledge is required for the position? Knowledge can be general (“knowledge of the overall supply management process for system wide supply operations”) or specific (“knowledge of the cataloging system to initiate national stock number assignments to new items coming into the system”). This factor is used to explain why an entry-level veterinarian may hold a higher grade than an experienced secretary. Make sure you explain the knowledge required that is referenced in your PD. A GS-2010-11 Inventory Management Specialist might write about her specific knowledge of the cataloging system this way:

Build, update cataloging system data file; resolve assigned stock number discrepancies.

2. Supervisory Controls. This is one area that does not need to be emphasized, because it calls attention to the direction given to you by your supervisor. However, you should include key words that support independent judgment, and discretion in planning and execution. A GS-803-13 Safety Engineer conveyed his discretion in the following terms:

TEAM LEADER: Established priorities, scheduled and assigned work to team, provided technical guidance and direction for more than 22 inspectors, 15 Reserve Captains serving as chief inspectors, officers and civilians representing ordnance environmental, material handling equipment, ammunition inventory management, ammunition security specialties and contractors. Recommended promotions and awards, monitored employee performance, provided input on ratings, evaluated developmental and training needs, and resolved employee concerns.

3. Guidelines. The availability and applicability of published guidelines conveys another important factor determining grade and level of responsibility. Are guidelines clear and specific, and are you primarily performing a sorting function? This would be typical of a “technician” level position. However, if the guidelines are numerous, based on law and general policy, for example, requiring substantial research, analysis, and interpretation, this should be clearly explained in your resume. A GS-201-13 Human Resources Specialist (Employee Relations) would write:

Interpret and apply relevant case law of the Merit Systems Protection Board in developing the Agency’s position relative to defending adverse actions. Evaluate the probability of success on the merits and prepare an approach for effectively representing the Agency’s interests.

4. Complexity. These are the factors that determine if the job is simple or complex, from an objective viewpoint. These are arrived at by the classifier’s review of the knowledge required and how guidelines are used. Also, complexity includes how many factors are involved, how many variables, the need to make decisions with insufficient data, competing interests and demands, technological change, level of public or Congressional interest, and other complicating factors. A GS-343-14 Program Analyst might describe responsibility for the following:

Lead special projects and initiatives, many of which are long-term, highly visible, and cut across division and program lines that involve strategic planning for fundamental program changes.

5. Scope and effect. This explains how vast the work is and the impact it has on program operations. A high level Information Technology Manager for a nationwide program might state:

Serve as Information Technology Program Manager involving a budget ranging up to $25 million annually, equipment worth in excess of $150 million, and staff support exceeding 120 individuals.

6 and 7. Personal contacts/purpose of contacts. While these are two different factors, they often are combined in the PD. The level of work explains whether you regularly interact with Senior Executives, or carry out staff work mainly among peers. These cover with whom you talk and what you talk about. Clearly, those that influence policy makers are higher graded than those that perform routine customer services. A mid-level EEO Counselor might write:

Receive and evaluate incoming calls from employees. Based on the information presented, contact supervisory officials having a “need to know” and those who are likely to have information that might facilitate resolution. After determining complainant’s requested remedial action, present options for resolution to appropriate supervisory and managerial decision makers.

8 and 9. Physical demands and work environment. Quite frequently these are lumped together. They do not affect office positions, but do add into the evaluation of positions that require significant physical effort, are hazardous in nature, or are performed under arduous working conditions. However, for most applications, this factor can be ignored as not helpful for you in attaining the target position.

:: Back to Top ::

Organization of the Work Experience Summary Using the Position Description

Begin the work experience section with an overall summary of the position and place it in the proper context of the organization. A secretary for an Audit Branch might write:

Perform the complete range of office support for the Chief and four journeyman accountants in the Audit Branch.

Force yourself to categorize your work. Your position description may be a useful guide for this, as well as your position description. Figure out what “hats” you wear on the job. Are you a “senior advisor,” “program analyst,” “writer-editor,” “supervisor,” “project manager,” for example? If so, establish a section, label it this way, and describe your central duties. Consider this example from the resume of a GS-511-12 Supervisory Auditor:

LIAISON with all levels of Agency management, supervisors, employees union officials, personnel of other agencies and Inspector General to persuade management officials or to dissuade the external audit agency from critical observations, findings and recommendations often dealing with resistance to change.

You may also create headings that are functional. Here is an example of a functional description from the resume of a GS-203-7 Personnel Assistant (Office Automation):

EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT COUNSELOR. Advise employees on retirement options and benefits available under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Analyze and compare benefits under both systems, including Social Security benefits and offsets. Interpret new regulatory or procedural retirement program requirements, and publicize program changes.

:: Back to Top ::

Language Style of the Position Description

While the content of the PD may be a rich source for the critical components of your work experience summary, you should be wary of the way the position description is written. Most often, it is written in the third person (“he/she” stated or implied, “the incumbent,” etc.), and you will need to change the context to reflect the first person, “I.” In writing your work experience for the resume, avoid the pronoun “I,” and use action verbs to start sentences, or other nouns as descriptors to complete the context. For example:

Position Description of a WG-3546-08 Railroad Repairer:

Utilizes hand and lamp signals, switches track, couples and uncouples railcars.

Federal Resume language for a WG-3546-08 Railroad Repairer:

Utilize hand or lamp signals, depending on conditions, to designate what direction train is to be moved. Throw switches for positioning of train, cars, etc. on the proper track. Couple and uncouple railcars.

Also, check for the spelling of words. Occasionally, words in PDs are misspelled, or used out of proper context. Similarly, acronyms may be incorrectly stated, or may be obsolete if the agency has undergone reorganization since the PD was prepared.

You don’t want your resume to read like a PD. The language often is dry, bureaucratic, and uninteresting. Probably the majority of applicants simply re-state the duties and responsibilities set forth in the PD. Make this your opportunity to assert yourself and present a strong personal statement. You want to stand out among the sea of applicants. For this to happen, you need to take a few additional steps.

Whenever possible, personalize your resume. Include special projects and accomplishments. These will help you stand out among the competition. Consider the C-C-A-R (Context, Challenge, Action, Results) formula when describing these.

SPECIAL PROJECT: [Context/Challenge] Charged with analyzing the Agency’s Strategic Plan to assure that it was aligned with the Department’s Strategic Plan and the President’s Management Agenda. [Action] Developed side-by-side document that identified established priorities; conducted analysis and identified gaps—areas needing attention—and recommended formation of an ad hoc group to develop necessary planning priorities. [Results] Led workgroup in revising the Agency Strategic Plan for FY 2003-2008 that was adopted by Agency leadership.

ACCOMPLISHMENT: [Context] Charged with the negotiation of an initial labor management agreement at the Regional level to replace multiple field office agreements [Challenge] to bring local practices into conformity with the new Master Collective Bargaining Agreement. [Action] Applied Interest Based Bargaining techniques and promoted collaboration [Results] in reaching clearly written “win-win” agreement that addressed the interests of all stakeholders and served the parties well in practice, as demonstrated by a significant reduction in formal grievances.

Finally, if you are too close to your work, find an objective view of your significant accomplishments by reviewing your performance appraisal. Your supervisor will identify those special projects and accomplishments that serve to distinguish your performance. Make sure you include the most significant of these. Then have a trusted close friend review your write-up. Ask if it makes sense to him or her, and for any other frank feedback. Once you have taken these additional steps, you will have a product that will stand out among the competition.

:: Back to Top ::

by Mark C. Reichenbacher, CPRW

The The Resume PlaceElectronic Resume Guidebook & CD-ROM is available from our catalog. You can learn more about writing the best resume for federal and private industry jobs at

Spacer Graphic
Home | Subscriber Sign In | Catalog | Contact Us | About Us | Financial Planning & Retirement
Jobs & Careers | Labor & Management | Pay & Benefits | Policies & Practices | U.S. Postal Service | Federal Families | Events & Conferences

Spacer Graphic

Copyright © 2003 by Federal Employees News Digest, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without expressed written permission
by Federal Employees News Digest, Inc. is prohibited.