Federal job announcements / Federal vacancy announcements
When applying for a federal job, applicants MUST read the Federal Job Announcement front to back. Recently the title changed to Job Opportunities Announcement (JOA), The JOA can be from 3 to 5 pages or more and explains everything you need to know to apply for that specific job. Every job announcement is unique, so don’t assume because you read one for the exact same job series and grade that the requirements are the same for this new job. This is especially true for the required key duties, responsibilities and specialized experience. Each advertised job has specific requirements such as proficiency and experience with computer software, equipment, programs, reporting systems, skills, and other factors.
Federal job announcements are issued by the Office of Personnel Management and by individual agencies that have direct hire or case examining authority. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issues JOAs for most agencies today however OPM does not advertise jobs for agencies that have direct hire or what is called Case Examining authority.
Federal JOAs are advertised for periods from several days to continuously open depending on the agency’s critical needs. Exceptions to these rules apply to Veteran Recruitment Appointments (VRA) and recently discharged veterans, disabled veterans, and the disabled. It is important to remember that you must submit all required information and forms that are listed in the job announcement. Online applications are used by most agencies today. If you don’t include all required information as outlined in the job announcement your application may be rejected, or at the very least you may not be rated in the top-rated category if key data is missing.
Understanding the Federal JOA Vacancy
A federal vacancy announcement comprises several parts, all of which must be read carefully. As a rule, all announcements posted on USAJobs.gov are uniform, meaning they have the same sections (just different information). The elements of a vacancy announcement are:
- Vacancy Announcement Number –This is the identification number issued to each vacancy announcement. You must reference this number wherever it is required on all the materials you submit.
- Opening Date – This is the date when the vacancy announcement was initially opened for submission of applications.
- Closing Date –This is the final date that applications may be submitted for consideration for an available position. All applications must be received by midnight (Eastern Standard Time) on the closing date.
- Position – This is the title of the vacancy being announced.
- Series and Grade – This information indicates the pay plan, series, and grade for the available position.
- Promotion Potential – This information indicates if the position has the potential for promotion as well as describe the full performance level.
- Salary – This is the salary range for the available position.
- Duty Location – This is the geographic location where the position will be filled or located. The duty location determines which locality pay chart will be used to set your pay.
- Who May Apply – This area describes who is eligible to apply for the avail-able position, such as “Federal Civil Service Employees” or “Public.” When a vacancy announcement includes Merit Promotion (MP), this means that applications will be accepted from current federal employees or employees who are reinstatement eligible. Working for a federal contractor does not constitute “federal employment status.” When the vacancy number includes the suffix Delegating Examining Unit (DEU), this means that applications will be accepted from all U.S. citizens. There may be reasons why a current or former federal employee may want to apply on a DEU (sometimes called Public or External vacancy), but typically, a current or former federal employee has more advantage if he/she applies on a Merit Promotion (MP) vacancy.
- Major Duties – This section details the duties and responsibilities of the available position.
- Qualifications Required – These are the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required in order for applicants to qualify for the position, such as similar experience or a related educational background.
- How You Will Be Evaluated – This section describes how applicants will be evaluated for the position — whether they will be ranked on their know-ledge, skills, and abilities or other characteristics required to perform the duties of the position.
- How to Apply – This section describes all of the materials that are required to complete the application. When applying, you must answer all of the questions contained in the vacancy announcement. Applicants must also submit a résumé. When you have an announcement from which to work, you must ensure the résumé is position-specific and covers all experience related to the announcement.
A resume must substantiate the answers to the self-assessment questions. Federal resumes cannot have “too much” information. Unlike in the private sector, applications for government jobs are like mini autobiographies. The answers provided to the questions, substantiated by the résumé, are what federal HR specialists use to confirm minimum qualifications. HR specialists cannot assume anything; the number of years of experience is not enough information to demonstrate qualifications. Your résumé must fully explain what work you have done, for whom, for how long, and your specific role(s)/contributions.
While in the past, many vacancy announcements had a separate requirement for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) statements, recent developments in federal hiring mandate that KSAs are no longer required for initial applications for Competitive Service positions as of November 1, 2010. Although written statements about the competencies/KSAs are no longer required at the initial application, agencies will be reviewing the résumés to determine if evidence of the job competencies are described in the application.
However, many agencies still require candidates to complete occupational questionnaires, some of which call for a candidate to answer essay questions similar to the traditional KSAs. Again, be certain to read and reread every announcement, as candidates often miss the occupational questionnaire and end up submitting a partial application.
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