Interview with Kathryn Troutman

Today's guest describes how to find a government job.

Kathryn Troutman, also known as the Federal Resumé Guru, is the founder and president of Resume Place, Inc., a service business located in Baltimore, MD. It specializes in writing and designing professional federal and private-sector resumes, as well as coaching and education in the federal hiring process.

Troutman has managed her business for the past 30 years. With her team of 20 Certified Federal Resume Writers, Resume Place advises and writes more than 300 federal resumes per month for military, private industry, and federal clients worldwide.

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Federal Resumé Guidebook

With the establishment of the Internet, in 1996 the government created an online application website called, USA Jobs. This was implemented to change the resumé format. Vice President Al Gore created the program called Reinventing Government that accepts a resume like the rest of the world.

Following that, Troutman wrote the first edition of her book, the Federal Resumé Guidebook, about how to write a federal-style resume. It is still in print, in its 7th edition. The book is available on her website and on Amazon.

The federal resumé is longer and includes more details than your private sector resumé would. A physician's resumé will be five or six pages. It's going to be longer because it has to include more skills that are relevant to the job that you're applying for. It details your top skills, your areas of expertise, your education, and your research presentations. You might also add training, mentoring, and development of staff that you worked with. 

Benefits of Working for the Federal Government

Kathryn pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, Veterans Administration, National Institutes of Health, and Health and Human Services hired many clinicians to be public health specialists and experts due to the recent pandemic. 

Physicians' skills and experience can translate from clinical care to health policy, quality assurance, and patient safety. An active license may be required.

Find a Government Job

During the interview, Kathryn mentioned that,,, and every one of the departments that “.gov” as the suffix employ clinicians to do nonclinical work. 

She recommends that you do an agency search and then type in the word “careers.” Then read the list and see if you can find the positions that would be physician-related, such as professional public health and scientific jobs. Those are the ones that you're going to be interested in. 

Closing Advice

  • Pick an agency and pick a mission that would be of interest to you. Then go to its website, type in the word “careers” and see what jobs there are. That's your first fishing expedition. Just keep at it, do your research.
  • And then you've got to work on the resumé. You got to deal with it. Expand the resumé. Get help if you need it.
  • And consult the Federal Resumé Guidebook. It shows you the format. Play the game, and see what happens.


Kathryn provided what we need to apply for a federal job. You can find more help at There you can arrange a one-hour consult if you like. You can also write to them. 

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode.

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Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 241

Federal Career Coach Shows Us How to Find a Government Job

- Interview with Kathryn Troutman

John: I know very little about getting jobs with the federal government, but I have the sense that they can be an excellent career choice. Today's guest explains why that might be and shall also provide us with some pointers and how to find and prepare for such jobs. Hello, Kathryn Troutman.

Kathryn Troutman: Hi. I'm glad to be. I'm in Maryland, gray skies in the United States.

John: Yes. Luckily here in the Midwest, we've had a warm spell. I don't know if it's going to come your way as well, but it has been nice here. I was so happy when I tracked you down or somehow, we met through some connection. But what I've found out, you were this expert, you've been also called the federal resume guru. You've been dealing with federal jobs. And of course, Kathryn's not a physician and she deals with a lot of people that aren't physicians, but there are a lot of physician jobs in the federal government in various parts of it. I definitely want to hear about this. This is something I have no knowledge of at all. I'm grateful to have you here, Kathryn.

Kathryn Troutman: Thank you. I'm really glad to be here too. It's a good topic and it's one that I've never talked about before. I've never written a blog about it before, so this is all new and I'm really glad to talk to physicians about jobs that they might be interested in and that are not MD clinical positions. So, it's a great topic.

John: All right. Just so my audience understands, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into being an expert on this particular niche of career and resume council, coaching, things like that.

Kathryn Troutman: Yeah, I'll be glad to. I run a company called The Resume Place Inc. I founded the company 50 years ago.

John: How long?

Kathryn Troutman: Yeah. 50, it's true. I was 23. So, it doesn't matter. My age is fine. I started it in DC on K Street. And I started out doing 171. The government used to collect a form called a 171 and it was long and horrible. We helped people with 171s forever. And then in 1996, the government changed to a resume format because the internet came along and the government created this online application website called USA jobs. And the forum could no longer be accepted as an upload or anything else because it was a monster. Vice president Gore created this program called reinvention government and he said, "We're going to accept a resume like the rest of the world."

And so, I thought somebody needs to write a book about how to write a federal style resume. And I nominated myself. So, I did. I wrote the book. The first book ever called "Federal Resume Guidebook" in 1996. It's still in print at the seventh edition now. And it's really good. It's very important because the federal resume is not like a private sector resume.

The federal resume is longer and includes more details than your private sector resume would. So, your position in the private sector resume will be two or three pages. Your federal physician resume will be five or six pages. It's going to be longer because it has to include more skills that are relevant to the job that you're applying for. That's the biggest difference right there. It's length.

And I know physician resumes, they're really short. They are two pages long. They don't include any duties of your practice or your clinical work or your studies. It's just a list. Federal resume is not a list. It details your top skills, your areas of expertise, your studies, your research presentations. It is the works and it's five pages long. I wrote a book on how to write it.

Now my Federal Resume Guidebook doesn't have a physician sample resume in it, but that's okay. You can still see the style. You can see the format of the resume. MDs would put education first and where you can practice first, have all that first and then your work history and you would relate it to the announcement and we'll be talking more about the announcement.

That's how I started the business way back. And then I flipped it in 1996 to straight federal and I teach in agencies. That's how I learn. As I walk in the door at FDA or FEMA or any agency, HR sitting in the room, they're watching me teach how to write resumes for them. And I say to them sometimes, "Well, what do you think of this format and this lesson?" And they'll say, "I like it. I wish all resumes did that. Thank you. Yeah. Good." And then they stop talking.

John: Interesting. Because I saw from the website that you've grown, you've got different staff there now. You've got consultants and experts on this and that, and you do a lot of coaching and helping with resumes and preparing people for interviewing for jobs. I thought this would be fantastic. We can kind of pick your brain.

The first question I have though, before we get into too much the "how" is sort of "why". Why is working for the federal government, do you think for a physician, a good job and why would it be?

Kathryn Troutman: Well, the mission of some of the agencies is very, very good. Look at CDC, Center for Disease Control. Their mission is so important right now because of the pandemic and they're hiring so many public health specialists and experts in epidemiology that the mission is critical. Same with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. The mission is critical. They work with physicians, they interview physicians, they ensure quality control of hospitals and doctors and clinics and assisted living.

They need the work of physicians. Same with food and drug administration. They do the mandatory manufacturer reviews, quality assurance for devices. Physicians could do their work there. If you're an expert at orthopedics and you don't want to do orthopedics anymore, you could work at FDA and work in devices as a manufacturer for new products for medical devices. You could advise manufacturing and make sure that it would work.

Physician's work can translate from clinical direct care to policy and quality assurance and safety and public advisor. So, it can be done. You may not be paid as much as you would as a physician, but the quality of the work is really good. And they do have special pay for physicians. I did look that up and you can Google it, but it still may not be the same. But the quality of the work is really good.

John: Well, the thing I remind people too, is if you're working for almost any other organization and not doing clinical and it includes, I'm assuming the FDA or the CDC, you're not going to work 70 hours a week, be on call every third day, be at risk for a lawsuit from some unhappy patient. It's like comparing apples and oranges. The quality of life is like 10 times better.

Kathryn Troutman: That is so true. 40 hours a week. Very possible. It's virtual. Benefits are good. Flexibility is great. No more on call emergency all night stuff. Yeah. That's very true. Good point.

John: Now you mentioned the FDA, the CDC and the CMS. Oh, we love CMS. Every time there's a new government agency, then you got to find some physician to be a liaison with the colleagues and that agency. But are there any other big ones that come to mind besides those three?

Kathryn Troutman: Well, yeah, FDA. The VA, if you want to work with the veterans, could also be really good. And then there are other science organizations, the National Science Foundation. NIST would be really good. National Institute of Standards and Technology - NIST. They work with entrepreneurs on products and product development. A physician could work there. I think the ones that have to do with health and public health and science would probably be the best match. Health and Human Services, NIH, my goodness. There would be a lot of physician related jobs there that you would use your MD to qualify as well. HHS.

John: This is probably hard to know unless you've actually looked at the job descriptions, but do most of those would you think require an active license? There might be a requirement for having a license and in practice, because you're not seeing patients. So, I don't know that. That might be an open-ended question, but what do you think?

Kathryn Troutman: Well, I'm not sure. I don't think you would have to have an active license, but you just have to read the qualifications in the announcement one at a time. And it would say what the education is required, licensing required and specialized experience required. It is critically important. And it's right on the announcement. All you got to do is read requirements. Boom. There it is.

John: Okay. Well, that leads me to the next question then. How do we find these jobs? Where do we look? And is there any special way we should kind of sort through things?

Kathryn Troutman: Well, when I knew I was coming on the podcast, I did this search myself. I went to and my first word search was "physician", just for fun to see what would come up. It was a terrible search. It didn't work. It was zero. And then I thought, "Oh, the title of the job was not going to have the word physician in it". Then I did a search for the word FDA. I went by agency, and then all the jobs with the FDA came up. I looked for the high level, FDA 1415. That was pretty good. But I had to look at a lot of jobs that were not relevant. They were IT and program analysts and stuff I didn't want to read. So, then I did it again with CDC and I typed CDC 1450 Atlanta.

And that was pretty good, but it was just too much. It was not related to health policy, public health or medical. It was just everything. So, I said, no, I'm going to go to the agency itself. I did and then in their search category I typed careers. Oh wow. I could see the careers for CDC. I could see the career. So, I could see public health careers, and there were the jobs.

Now for medical, for a position, I'm looking for 1415. I did that and the jobs came up and there they were. I created a file with it. For instance, here is my search for the Center for Medicare Medicaid services. I didn't do USA jobs and I searched for the word "careers". And what came up was careers at CMS, positions at CMS physicians in demand at CMS.

I recommend that you do an agency search and then type in the word "careers" and read the list and see if you can find the positions that would be physician related, professional public health and science jobs. Those are the ones that you're going to be interested in. CMS worked very well. I did health and human services. It was And then I did careers and there it is. Careers in DHS, right there. Careers with the office of Medicare, careers with performance management, careers with DAB, whatever that is. They go through each specific agency or research center at NIH and list the jobs.

John: Excellent.

Kathryn Troutman: That's how you do it. That's how you do it. Landing a job at NIDCD, whatever that is, information NIA research is right here. And then of course they may not be active open jobs today, but at least you will know what kind of jobs are there at this agency that I would be interested in. And it would give you the job title and they might even link you to the jobs on USA jobs.

But first you have to learn what jobs are out there and what are the agency offices and research studies and how could I fit? And then when you get that background, I did another one for CDC. This one was really good STEM at CDC careers. We value a highly qualified workforce that mirrors the diverse population we serve right there, but it is not on USA jobs. From the agency website.

John: Interesting.

Kathryn Troutman: From agency website.

John: And that's at

Kathryn Troutman: Yeah, at Right.

John: And pretty much every one of those divisions or those entities have that gov as the suffix at the end, generally.

Kathryn Troutman: They do. Right.

John: Now you mentioned a code of 1415. That's a code referring to what?

Kathryn Troutman: That refers to the grade level of the salary level. You can see the GS salaries, you could just Google "GS government salaries" and it'll come up. GS14 to GS15 is $150,000 to $175,000. But there's a special GS level for physicians that you might get considered for as well. But 14, 15 would be $150,000 to $175,000. You want to look at the salaries, so you know what they're talking about.

John: Yeah. Okay. All right, that gives us a start.

Kathryn Troutman: Yeah.

John: What I gather from what you said earlier is this whole idea of the form has to be completed or the so-called resume. It's a very explicit document that everything has to be completed. What would I have to kind of get ready if I'm going to do that? What should I have ready, do you think? Every license I've had, every experience, every piece of education? Just like my CV or resume, be prepared for putting in a lot of information.

Kathryn Troutman: Well, the big, big difference is you go ahead and put your education in and your certifications and licenses, all that goes in. But then you have your professional experience. So, physicians are notorious for not describing their job as a doctor.

John: Yeah.

Kathryn Troutman: I'm a physician here. That's it. Well with the government, they want to see paragraphs that describe what you do. You would need to put in a paragraph on direct care, a paragraph on professional presentations and research that you may have done, studies you might have done. Presentations at conferences will be important and what the titles are and the research that you did. Any specialized areas of medical expertise that you might have you'd want to describe it. And not just a laundry list either, a description.

If you're doing orthopedics and you're doing sports, you need to have a description of the age of the patients that you mostly work with. Sports team specialized. If you've got specialized training in certain areas of expertise or certain surgeries, you would want to put that in there. You need to write 5,000 characters. That's five paragraphs. And then maybe an accomplishment or two. But as a physician, your goal is to heal people and make them walk, and help them with what they do. I know that's challenging for a physician to write 5,000 characters about their job, but the HR people in government want to see what you've done. And if you don't put it on paper, the HR people do not infer. That's their favorite word "infer".

John: Right. And it has to be in black and white, I suppose.

Kathryn Troutman: It has to be in black and white.

John: This makes me think because a lot of physicians have in, I think you mentioned earlier, quality improvement. Well, we have a lot of experience in quality improvement at the hospitals we work at. We do have experience in epidemiology and statistics and other things that are pertinent to our job as a physician and most of the time a physician won't naturally list those. But those are some more examples that get to what you're saying.

Kathryn Troutman: That's right. Or conference presentations that you might make on areas or specialization that you're in. You might even have done a deployment. You might have traveled somewhere, volunteered as an emergency management physician somewhere. You just have to really detail it so that it shows you have the experience that they're asking for in the job announcement. You can't assume that they know this. That's really the biggest difference in the resume. It is not just a short chronological two-pager. It needs to have a description. The one challenge for a physician is that they have to write paragraphs that describe what they do in their job that matches the sample job announcement.

John: Okay. That's critical, particularly if they're using certain keywords or certain phrases. If you send in a resume that just kind of passes all that by, and doesn't even mention it, you're pretty much going to be ignored I'm assuming.

Kathryn Troutman: Oh, yeah. You will not get the best qualified, which is sad because medical doctors have a lot of expertise and experience, but if you don't have it on paper, then you don't get anywhere. I talked to an HR person one time who said, "I receive resumes from people that I know are very well qualified for the job, but if it's not on paper, I can't infer it. And I can't refer them to a manager and it kills me." It's so sad because their background is great. It's just not on the paper.

John: We shouldn't assume that if I had a particular job as a pediatrician such and such and a certain hospital that someone who's reviewing this actually understands what that may have entailed, particularly if I was the chair of the department. I was maybe involved with quality improvement or patient safety, then I need to write down what that means and connect the dots for the person reviewing that.

Kathryn Troutman: That's right. You could also add training, mentoring, and development of staff that you worked with. That's always good for the government, because you might be supervising in your job or you might work with a team or a study group. So, you could always add that angle and you do a lot of training and mentoring PAs and nurses and everyone, technicians.

Equipment. You could talk about equipment purchases. You might have recommended or been a consultant on equipment to upgrade your facility or change your equipment, working with pharmaceutical reps to determine what medicines that you want to recommend for your cases. Everything you could think of, just write it down.

John: All right. We're going to run out of time pretty soon, but I want you to spend a few minutes and tell us what kind of services your company does and which of those might be of benefit to a physician that finds themselves thinking "Yeah, I think I want to try for one of those federal jobs"?

Kathryn Troutman: Yeah. The starter service for you would be about our $210 consultation. That's a senior-level consult. Within that one-hour consultation, you would send your resume, whatever it is, bad or good, I don't care, and a sample job announcement. And you would say, "I would like to apply for this job. What do I need to do to qualify for this job or to get referred or get hired?" And then we would consult with you. We'd look at the resume and we'd tell you everything to change or add or restructure. And we analyze the announcement. We'd tell you what's critical from the announcement that you must match to get. And here are the hurdles. You want to be eligible. You want to get the best qualified. You want to get referred to a manager. You want to get an interview and you want to get hired. That was five levels. Eligible, best qualified, referred, interviewed, hired. You want to make it through.

The resume is what does it. If the resume doesn't have the content, you're not going to make it. You're not going to get referred. You might get best qualified because you have an MD, but you want to get referred. So, you want to get the interview. That's the goal, it's to get the interview. We tell you what's missing from the resume. And then you add it. We also write resumes. We can quote you the number of hours needed to write and coach and hold your hand through writing it. The average amount of hours is 5 to 10, depending on what you want to do. How many years you've worked, how many hospitals or places you've worked. Just the whole thing. If you had a 20-year career, it's going to take more time, obviously.

And then we're translating also. We're translating from direct care to policy studies, research, consulting, whatever you're going to do in your new job advisory work. We're going to play down the clinical, play up everything else, but we can't leave out direct care because that's what you really did. It's going to be there, but it's not going to be the feature of the work because you're changing your career obviously and you're changing your whole industry. The one-on-one consultation is just gold. That's where you start. And then from there, we work with you on developing that five-page resume that would be for the federal style.

John: All right. Now, let's see. Where would they find you? Give us your website before I forget.

Kathryn Troutman: The website is You can find the $210 consult service on the website. You can also write to us or contact us and say, "I'm a physician wanting a federal resume." And then we'll point you to the website, to the right page. And then we'll set you up with the four senior people that consult, me, and three others.

John: Okay, excellent. Well, I'll definitely put all that information in the show notes for the interview today. That's all awesome. That's plenty to get someone started on this process. And so, I would advise you listeners to at least consider a federal job depending on what your inclinations are. There are a lot of advantages to that. You might have to learn a new language to figure out how to do it. But if there's a will, there's a way. Any last bits of advice, Kathryn, for the listeners, for the physicians who are feeling burned out and they feel a little bit intimidated by applying for a federal job.

Kathryn Troutman: Well, I guess my best advice is to pick an agency, pick a mission that would be of interest to you and go to their website, type in the word "careers" and see what jobs there are. That's your first fishing exhibition. And don't just deal with one agency. I went with five because the first one wasn't enough. Just keep at it, do your research. And then you got to work on the resume. You got to deal with it. It's not two pages. Don't even try it. Don't even do it. It's a waste of time. Expand the resume, do the consultation. The book is also good, Federal Resume Guidebook. It shows you the format. The resume is very specific and then you should play the game. Why not? Just do it, see what happens.

John: All right. And the book of course is available on your website as well.

Kathryn Troutman: Yeah. And it's on Amazon also.

John: And I'll tell the listeners don't get overwhelmed. She's got a lot on there because she helps a lot of people and there are certifications and education that don't really apply to physicians. You can ignore that, but focus on what we've talked about today and let me know if you successfully get that job with the federal government, with one of those agencies. Well, I think that's it then Kathryn. I thank you very much for being with us today. And with that, I'll just have to say goodbye and we'll talk again hopefully in the future.

Kathryn Troutman: Well, thank you very much. It was really fun. I did original research for you. I'm going to turn this into a blog.

John: Yeah.

Kathryn Troutman: Go to the website in two weeks or so, and look for this and I'll send it to you, John, and you can post it.

John: Excellent. I'll definitely link to it as well. I'll just put a link and I'll send it in my email with the link. That is fantastic. All right. Well, you take care and I thank you very much again. Bye now.

Kathryn Troutman: Bye.


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