Many apply for federal jobs each year. How can you stand out from the crowd when you apply? There are many ways for you to get at the head of the line if you know a few of the tricks of the trade. Many applicants simply don’t follow the explicit “How to Apply” directions that are available with every federal job announcement and end up submitting inferior applications that don’t make the grade; literally. With the new Category Rating application evaluation process if you don’t make it to the “Best Qualified” list you won’t be considered for the position.
Why is it that some who land jobs with Uncle Sam have half the experience, education, and special qualifications that you have — and you’re still looking? Many who approach the federal sector fail because they didn’t take the time to understand the federal hiring process. Others get frustrated by the required paperwork and give up prematurely.
Don’t let this happen to you. Take your time and learn how to apply before going online and submitting your first federal resume and application. Many simply go to USAJobs.gov and start submitting their resumes without knowing the significant differences between a private sector and federal resume and lose out in the process. The following tips that can help you make the interview list:
- Looking for federal jobs takes time and patience and it is best to apply early and often. Applications can take six to eight weeks or even longer for processing after the closing date. It can take even longer if written tests are required. From the time you first identify an opening to actual interviews and hiring can take months in some cases even under recent hiring reform initiatives. There is a new twist to this scenario, many agencies are issuing federal job announcements with short open periods, often a week or less, because they receive so many applications. It will still take time after the closing date to process and rate all applications. However, if you don’t check for vacancies frequently you may miss out on good opportunities.
- Many apply for only one job announcement. Seek out all available job vacancies and continue to send in applications with every opportunity. Don’t limit yourself to USAJobs.gov. This excellent site does advertise the majority of all federal jobs, however, you may be passing up job opportunities in your own back yard by not visiting individual agency recruitment sites in your area. Also review consolidated job listings that include federal, state, and private sector job vacancies for your occupation.
- Read the job announcements thoroughly. These important documents provide all of the information you need to apply including qualifications required for the position. When I say read it thoroughly I mean word for word and don’t stop if at first you feel you don’t meet the qualifications. Many jobs, especially in the administrative and management fields, often require a BS degree OR 3 years of general experience for an entry level job. Many applicants read BS degree and immediately think they won’t qualify; keep reading and you may be surprised that your work experience is as valuable, in many cases, as a 4 year college degree.
- Prepare a professional and comprehensive federal resume and application. Too many applicants take shortcuts and revert back to the private sector resume format ─ a HUGE mistake. The most popular application method today is the federal resume, for a number of reasons. First, most people are familiar with resumes and secondly, with the increase in online submissions, the resume format makes the most sense because it is easy to copy and paste from your federal resume into online resume builders. The differences are significant. Considerably more detail is required for the federal resume and if you don’t provide the required federal resume information your application may be rejected. At the very least you risk not being placed in the highest category rating and less likely to be referred to the selecting official.
- Prepare for the job interview. Today, the selecting official can interview as few or as many applicants in the “Best Qualified ” list as they desire. Learn about the agency by visiting their web site and learning about their mission and current activities. Most publish press releases that will also help you understand their mission and responsibilities. Even under the best of conditions, interviews are often intimidating, and going to an interview without knowing the “rules” can be downright frightening. Understanding the interview process will help you throughout your career and just knowing what to expect will improve your mental stability as well.
In the final analysis, agencies hire someone who has the abilities and talents for the position. It is up to the applicant to demonstrate they are the right selection by submitting a comprehensive and thorough application package and by doing well in the interview. Don’t leave the interview to chance. Proper preparation can mean the difference between success and failure.
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The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.
About The Author
Dennis V. Damp is a retired federal manager, business owner, career counselor and veteran. Damp’s The Book of U.S. Government Jobs was awarded “Best Career” title by the Benjamin Franklin Awards Committee. Damp is the author of 28 books, a recognized employment expert, and a retired federal manager with 35 years of service. He worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and held numerous supervisory and management positions and was responsible for recruiting, rating and interviewing applicants, outreach and hiring. His last government position was technical operations manager at the Pittsburgh International Airport’s air traffic control tower.