Like Guacamole, Federal Resumes Have a Key Ingredient. Find Out What It Is.

three avocados with eyes debate entering the federal resume

Veterans and spouses often come to me when they have had no luck finding a federal job on their own. These qualified job hunters have applied and applied and applied with their federal resume -- and still no luck. Which seems unfair to me.

So I ask them to send me their federal resume and the federal job for which they applied. I always discover the same thing. Sure, these veterans and spouses put together a ton of quality, hard-to-find, desirable, necessary ingredients, but somehow they failed to make the guacamole.

A Federal Resume Is Like Guacamole

You can make guacamole with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, lime juice, garlic or whatever, but you must have one thing before it is really guacamole: avocados. (OK, OK, you can substitute edamame for avocado, but really that ain't guacamole. It is mockamole.)

Same deal with federal resumes. You can't make a federal resume without what they call "core competencies." Core competencies are the avocados of your federal resume and the one ingredient most applicants miss. This is why you don't get the interview.

If you are struggling with your federal resume, sign up for our FREE master class, "Federal Resume Reboot," coming up at 4 p.m. EDT on April 20. Learn all the latest tricks to make your federal resume leap to the top.

Find the Core Competencies

The specific listing of core competencies is a new and helpful part of job listings on USAJOBs, the one place where the federal government lists more than 23,000 jobs for more than 5 million applicants.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a core competency is a measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors and other characteristics that an individual needs to perform a job.

Instead of expecting you to magically intuit what they are looking for, the powers that be have made it easier. Most federal job listings now clearly list the top four or five competencies the applicant needs to be considered for the job.

If you arrange your resume with the core competencies and full descriptions under each of your job titles, the human resources professional evaluating your resume has a much easier time of quantifying your experience -- and moving you forward to the hiring manager.

Where to Find Core Competencies

The core competencies list will usually be found in the "How You Will Be Evaluated Section." Every job listing will have different core competencies to be evaluated. Sometimes jobs with the same title will have different core competencies. For example, the core competencies for a job as an international relations specialist typically include:

  • Arms control policy and implementation
  • Bilateral and multilateral negotiations/talks
  • Communication
  • Interagency process pertaining to arms control

A program manager for the Department of the Army will be evaluated by these core competencies:

  • Ability to lead or supervise
  • Oral communication
  • Project management
  • Technology application

Core competencies for a job as an investigative analyst for the Department of Energy

  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication

Core competencies for an IT specialist for Naval Sea Systems Command include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Developing others
  • Information technology configuration management
  • Information technology test and evaluation
  • Problem solving

Once you find the core competencies for your desired job, you are ready to write your resume. To make it easier for you, I've put together a new FREE master class, Federal Resume Reboot, on Thursday, April 20, at 4 p.m. EDT. In just 60 minutes, I'll teach you:

  1. The shortcut to finding out whether you have an excellent chance of getting the job before you write one word of your resume.
  2. How to use core competencies to make HR representatives put you first.
  3. How to write a federal resume so that you are undeniable.

If you want to get a federal job without writing a million resumes that go nowhere, sign up for our FREE federal resume master class today.

Jacey Eckhart is's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website Reach her at

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Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series including our next class You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.

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