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Federal Cover Letter Samples & Guide for Government Jobs

Federal Cover Letter Samples & Guide for Government Jobs

Government jobs are the most secure. But they’re also the most fought for. To give your resume a fighting chance, write an FTC-worthy federal cover letter with this guide.

Your federal cover letter needs to turn heads like NASA. The good news? It’s 10x easier than writing a federal resume. It’s just a few short paragraphs, but it’s oh-so-vital to your job search. Its mission? To prove to the hiring team that your 4–6 page federal job resume is worth reading.

 

Does that sound DoD-level hard? It’s not. Follow the plan, and your cover letter for federal jobs will stand above the ranks like the U.S. Civil Rights Act. All it takes is knowing what to put in your first, second and third paragraphs to make them shine.

 

This guide will show you:

  • A federal cover letter better than 9 out of 10 others.
  • How to write a cover letter for federal jobs that lands 10x more interviews.
  • How to create your letter fast, without an act of Congress.

 

Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your resume. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.

 

federal resume and cover letter set

Federal Cover Letter for a Resume—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.

 

Federal agencies hire accountants, analysts, programmers, and every other kind of employee. Need a specific federal cover letter sample and guide? See these:

 

Just entering the workforce? Changing careers? See:

 

This federal cover letter template does it right. It’s for an office automation clerk, but the principles apply to any federal career.

 

Federal Cover Letter Sample

 

Your Name

Job Title

Mailing Address

Phone Number

Email Address

Citizenship

Highest Grade

Veteran’s Preference

Availability

 

Date

 

Hiring Manager Name

Federal Agency, Department, or Administration Name

Street Address

 

Dear [Hiring Manager Name],

 

Three months ago, I broke a record that I had always thought unbreakable. My supervisor at the Federal Milk Market Administration tasked me with supporting 7 staff and over 70 projects. I argued that it couldn’t be done—after all, I’d supported at most 5 staff and 50 projects in the past, and that degree of work had sorely stretched my skills. But after working to improve my efficiency with MS Office and database management software, I was in fact able to support 10 staff and over 100 projects.

 

Your job listing on USAJobs says you need an office automation clerk who can manage staff calendars and documents, and answer phones. In the past two years, I:

  • Managed staff calendars. Used MS One Calendar to manage schedules for 10 staff members with 99% positive feedback for efficiency and communication.
  • Managed documents. Stored, retrieved, edited, and printed over 300 documents per month, in both electronic and paper formats.
  • Answered phones. Fielded 200+ phone calls per month, referring callers to the appropriate staff members or voicemail, with calendar reminders as needed.

 

[Hiring Manager Name], I believe my 5 years of experience in document preparation and retrieval and Oracle systems can translate to similar success at your office. Can we set aside some time in the next week or so to chat about next steps?

 

Best regards,

 

[Your Name], [Job Title]

[Phone Number]

[Email]

 

That cover letter for federal jobs is a mini-advertisement for your resume.

 

Don't have it, yet? See our guide: 2020 Federal Resume Template & Format [20+ Examples]

 

Now, here’s how to write federal cover letters that work:

 

1. Use the Right Federal Cover Letter Template

 

Caution—federal hiring managers will skip a sloppy-looking cover letter. Why? Because your resume is at least 4 pages long. That’s an investment! And they’ve got hundreds (to thousands!) of other applications every week. Getting hired starts with a good cover letter format in three clean paragraphs.

 

Use this cover letter outline:

 

Sample Federal Cover Letter—Checklist

 

  • your contact info
  • The federal body’s address
  • Dear [Hiring Manager Name],
  • 1st paragraph: a hook
  • 2nd paragraph: proof you have key skills they’re searching for
  • 3rd paragraph: what to do next
  • best regards, name & title

 

When designing your cover letter, remember about keeping 1.5 line spacing and one-inch cover letter margins.

See more: Cover Letter Layout

2. Start Your Federal Cover Letter Right

 

Don’t bore the federal job hiring manager. (Tip: she’s already bored!) Wake her like a shot of coffee concentrate with a gripping first paragraph in your cover letter for federal jobs. How? Do some head-scratching about your past. What’s your most DHHS-worthy accomplishment?

 

See these resume cover page sheet examples:

 

Federal Cover Letter Examples [First Paragraph]

 

Right Example

Jennifer Papadakis

Office Automation Clerk

978-963-6736

jennifer.papadakis@gmail.com

79 Aspen Court

Lowell, MA 01852

Citizenship: U.S.

Highest Grade: GS-0326-4

Veteran’s Preference: None

Availability: Permanent, Full Time

 

3/26/20

 

Alice Ibarra

HR Director

Office of U.S. Attorneys

United States Federal Courthouse

1 Courthouse Way, Suite 9200

Boston, MA 02210

Dear Ms. Ibarra,

 

Three months ago, I broke a record that I had always thought unbreakable. My supervisor at the Federal Milk Market Administration tasked me with supporting 7 staff and over 70 projects. I argued that it couldn’t be done—after all, I’d supported at most 5 staff and 50 projects in the past, and that degree of work had sorely stretched my skills. But after working to improve my efficiency with MS Office and database management software, I was in fact able to support 10 staff and over 100 projects.

 

That cover letter sample for federal jobs works. You told a story the hiring manager will love. In it, you’re the hero who rises to the challenge. Better still, the challenge is one that fits the skills they need. Bonus—you used the hiring manager’s name. Our names get our attention.

 

But this federal cover letter example is all red tape:

 

Wrong Example

Dear Hiring Team,

 

I’m a skilled office automation clerk with5 years of experience working in staff support and MS Office. I previously worked for the Federal Milk Market Administration, where I supported office staff by preparing reports and managing document storage, including creating and managing office storage automation with Oracle.

 

That won’t work.

 

Why not? To answer that, I’d have to show you the mound of applications on the federal hiring manager’s desk. I’d have to let you read all the opening paragraphs, and show you how most of them look just like that. Then I’d have to show you the bored look on her face as she flips through them.

 

Can’t talk about a big accomplishment?

 

An entry-level federal cover letter with no experience can still wow them. But—if you can’t start with a work achievement, what can you start with? You can use a school accomplishment, referral, your passion for the work, an award, or anything else that telegraphs your skills.

 

See these entry-level federal job cover letter examples:

 

Federal Cover Letter Samples with No Experience [First Paragraphs]

 

  • When I received the Employee of the Month award three times at the Federal Milk Market Administration...
  • Albert Cullinane in the HR Department suggested I apply. When I was in Albert’s class at...
  • During my internship as a legal clerk at Letourneau & Adams, I built skills in...
  • When I received the Eleanor R. Jones Scholarship for computer science...
  • I’ve wanted to work at the Office of U.S. Attorneys since I was a little boy. The pursuit of equality and justice...

 

Flawless.

 

Using any of those first lines for federal cover letters beats, “I’m seeking employment with your department...”

Pro Tip: Consider nonprofit jobs, too. Search nonprofit job boards for openings in management, fundraising, counseling, marketing, public relations, and more.

3. Connect Your Federal Cover Letter to the Job

 

Question—how many 10-page resumes would you read before you pulled your hair out? That’s how the federal hiring manager feels, too. Convince her yours is worth reading. How? By cramming your federal job cover letter with things she cares about. Hint: find those things in the job description on USAJobs.

 

In your second paragraph:

 

  1. Prove you read the job ad carefully.
  2. Show the most relevant facts from your resume.

 

See these federal cover letter examples:

 

Federal Cover Letter Examples [Middle]

 

Right Example

Your job listing on USAJobs says you need an office automation clerk who can manage staff calendars and documents, and answer phones. In the past two years, I:

  • Managed staff calendars. Used MS One Calendar to manage schedules for 10 staff members with 99% positive feedback for efficiency and communication.
  • Managed documents. Stored, retrieved, edited, and printed over 300 documents per month, in both electronic and paper formats.
  • Answered phones. Fielded 200+ phone calls per month, referring callers to the appropriate staff members or voicemail, with calendar reminders as needed.

 

“Can you start next week?”

 

That has all the skills they mentioned on USAJobs. But it also proves your point with 99%, 300, and 200+. Numbers give scale to your claims.

 

But—

 

The next of our federal cover letter examples falls into anarchy:

 

Wrong Example

In my five years as an office automation clerk at the Federal Milk Market Administration, I worked to support office staff using Microsoft Office, Excel, PowerPoint, and other productivity and communications apps. I handled database management and collaborated with staff for the storage and editing of documents, as well as filing paper documents.

 

Oops.

 

You won’t wake up that drowsy federal hiring manager by rattling off a lot of skills she didn’t put in the online job listing. If she doesn’t need the skills you talk about, she won’t think you’re a fit. Even if you’re the perfect fit, she won’t know it!

 

Your resume is long, so keep your federal clerkship cover letter short. See our guide: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? Sample & Guide

 

4. End Your Federal Cover Letter Strong

 

Your cover letter for federal positions won’t do its job if you don’t ask for what you want. Sweeten your offer first with a few more job-getting skills. Then point to possible next steps. For example, if you know they use Oracle and you’re skilled in it, mention that.

 

See these cover letter ending examples:

 

Cover Letter Examples for Federal Jobs [Ending]

 

Right Example

Ms. Ibarra, I believe my 5 years of experience in document preparation and retrieval and Oracle systems can translate to similar success at your office. Can we set aside some time in the next week or so to chat about next steps?

 

Best regards,

 

Jennifer Papadakis

Office Automation Clerk

978-963-6736

jennifer.papadakis@gmail.com

 

Engaging.

 

You used the manager’s name again, then reminded her of your skills. Last, you suggested next steps. That’s on-point.

 

But the next of our federal cover letter samples gets voted down:

 

Wrong Example

I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

That’s boilerplate.

Pro Tip: Do you really need a cover letter? Your application will flit through the process faster if you have one. Our HR statistics report shows resumes sans cover letter flop.

Key Takeaway

 

Here’s how to write a federal cover letter:

  • Use the right cover letter format. Keep it short. Make it a 3-paragraph sales pitch for why they should read your lengthy resume.
  • Start strong. Mention your biggest job-related achievement in paragraph #1.
  • Keep it relevant. Paragraph #2 should prove you’ve mastered the skills they listed in the job posting on USAjobs.
  • End with next steps. Revisit your skills, and suggest a plan for moving forward.

 

Not sure how to start your federal job cover letter? Want to write a cover letter for federal positions that gets interviews? Leave a comment. We’ll be happy to reply! 

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Tom Gerencer, CPRW
Tom Gerencer, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), is a career expert who has published over 200 in-depth articles on Zety. Since 2016, he has been sharing advice on all things recruitment from writing winning resumes and cover letters to getting a promotion.
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