Excerpts from the Washington Post

Corliss' Corner

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How Do I Know What GS Level to Target?

Unless you’ve been a Federal government employee before, you probably don’t know what GS-level you will qualify for. The HR folks will use your Federal resume to determine if you are qualified. The more  information you have in your resume in terms of details about what you did, how you did it and for whom, the better you will fare in the process.  he HR folks also look at salary, but it is not the sole determinant. They want to make sure you are in the ballpark. They fully understand that some jobs, some professions, some sectors pay more, pay less, etc. but they are looking to see if you are within an acceptable range. If you are transitioning from a military position, they will take your rank into account as well.

I applied to a Federal job in August. I have not heard back from anyone. It’s been over two months. How long does the process take and what, if anything, should I do?

Many agencies are trying to adhere to an 80-day hiring model, which means you probably should have heard something by now, but this is not always the case.  If you applied using USAJobs.gov, you can look under “Application Status” to see if they have decided on the fate of your application yet.  You do have to be persistent and consistent about applying on a regular basis and following-up on your applications. One application generally is not going to move you forward in the hiring process.  It can take dozens (or more) of applications to get you referred to the hiring manager.  If you are getting results that show you are eligible – not referred, it is still good.  It means you are applying to the right jobs for your background but you might need to work on your application package.  On each announcement, there is a point of contact name, number or email address.  This is the person to whom you should reach out and ask questions about the job announcement or the status of your application.  I recommend waiting about three weeks after your application submission before you start following-up.  Remember, your following-up does not move your application forward; it only gives you peace of mind, so spend a small portion of your time following-up and use most of your energy and time for applying.

Why is it so hard to get a Federal job?

There are three main reasons. First, many people apply to Federal jobs without a proper Federal resume — it is usually not in the proper Federal format and, more importantly, is not written with the HR Specialist’s perspective in mind. HR is looking for skills and competencies and most applicants focus on accomplishments. Second, many people apply to jobs for which they may be semi-qualified, but not best qualified. HR Specialists in the Federal government will not move your resume forward in the hiring process unless they find that you are one of the highest qualified applicants for the position. Third, most applicants do not include the information to support the KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) statements in their resumes. If you see the KSAs listed in the vacancy announcement, you need to address them in your resume.

I had a question about tech jobs in the government. After 20+ years working for both of the area’s mortgage giants, I was rebadged as a contractor about a year ago when they outsourced all of their computer operations. As a consequence, I’d like to explore opportunities within the government, within my field of expertise, UNIX system administration. However, when I search for jobs I don’t see these types of positions available. What would be the best way to look for this type of work within the government? - Charles

Hi Charles,

With any Federal job search, the easiest way to start your search is by using keywords in USAJOBS.gov. Specifically, for UNIX system administration, you should be looking at terms such as “network security” or more generally, “Information Technology” or “IT.” There is a search function in USAJOBS.gov that allows you to set up a search using keywords (under ‘My Account’ and “Saved Jobs’), and the results can be sent to you on a regular basis. We recommend a daily search, as those jobs that are only open a few days won’t get to you if you select weekly or monthly frequency.For search criteria, we recommend selecting about three criteria – key words, location and salary level. I do recommend you allow your search criteria to be as broad as possible to give you more options.We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.

I am 63 years young. Realistically, will the feds hire someone who hopes very much to work at least through age 70? - Michael

Michael,

The government is not interested in discriminating against you for any reason – age, race, religion, etc. They are extremely interested in hiring folks who have some maturity and experience under their belts. The primary concern of the HR folks and the hiring managers is that you have the knowledge, skill and ability to do the job at hand.  If you are 22 or 122, it doesn’t matter – as long as you can perform the duties of the job.  We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.

I’ve heard so many times that I am “overqualified,” yet I am still unemployed. Any advice? - Michael

Hi Michael,

With the government, there is really no such thing as being “overqualified.” ‘This guy’s got so much experience, we just can’t hire him’ is not something you will hear from Federal HR folks. If you are lacking in experience, THAT you will hear about. But, you may find that you get to a Federal interview and the hiring manager is a little bit apprehensive about hiring you, because you have more experience than her staff and a higher level of experience than she brings to the table. My advice is that you continue to apply to Federal jobs. It can take dozens of applications before you break through. Make sure you are qualified for the positions you are targeting. We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search. 

I've had a successful career in management but my career derailed about 3 years ago when I was let go unexpectedly. I have my B.S. in Sport Management with a double minor in Business and Communications. I need stability at this point (I'm 34) and my sole focus has been trying to get into Federal, state or local government and obtain my clearance. I've been applying to anything I am even close to qualifying for but with no success. I have the ambition, work ethic, responsibility and intelligence to be an asset to some branch of our government, and I'm confident in stating that. I'm not sure if my resume is 'government ready' or what else I may be doing wrong. I'm desperate to crack in at any position just for a chance to prove myself. Any advice or assistance in helping me obtain such a position would be greatly appreciated beyond what I can express right now.- Ryan

Hi Ryan,

Applying with a solid Federal resume is going to be the key to securing Federal employment.  Please do not attempt to apply for a Federal government job with a private sector resume. It is too short and does not include the information required to score the most points during the rating and ranking process. The average Federal resume is 3 to 5 pages and extremely detailed.  It also addresses your skills and competencies, whereas a private sector resume focuses on results and accomplishments – two very different objectives. The more detailed the information you provide, the more points your application is likely to score during the rating and ranking process. Additionally, you may need to apply to many jobs – over 100 is not a stretch!  It is not an instant process, as you have experienced, but it can happen with a Federal resume and a measure of consistency and persistence. We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.

Given your expertise in the Federal job search, I was wondering if you could answer the following puzzler: Recently a job hunter whose background matched a Federal job announcement perfectly, told me he found himself screened out before the interview process. If someone who fulfills the wish list cannot get through, what particular features of the Federal job screening process would cause that? What steps can applicants take to ensure a better result?- Catherine

Hi Catherine,

You are not alone! Generally, an applicant, whose background matches the job announcement perfectly, is not moved forward in the application process because a corporate or private sector resume was submitted rather than the more detailed and lengthy Federal resume. The average federal resume is 3 to 5 pages and is extremely detailed. A Federal resume addresses your skills and competencies, whereas a private sector resume focuses on results and accomplishments – two very different objectives. The more detailed the information you provide, the more points your application is likely to score during the rating and ranking process. We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.

I’m 19 years old recently graduated in 2014. I have an unarmed guard license but not much experience or degree, but I have skills with electronics, computer applications and more. I check the usajobs.gov[usajobs.gov] site weekly and also have a Federal govt style resume but I never come across jobs that are pretty much entry level that I'll be qualified for unless the have to be enrolled in school or recently graduated college, which I am not. I just want to know how do I go about getting in the government and starting my career?- Tajohn

Tajohn,

This is quite a challenge – and many applicants find themselves in this predicament. For most jobs, the Federal government requires you to have at least one year of direct or indirect work experience in the field that you are targeting. If you can find a paid or unpaid opportunity in the private sector that would allow you to get at least 12 months of experience (the 12 months does not need to be consecutive, but it does need to be full time or equivalent), this could allow you to meet the 12-month requirement. Another route to take would be for you to engage in some type of educational pursuit. If you go to a college, university, or other educational institution that is recognized by the US Department of Education, you can apply for some of the student opportunities that exist in the Pathways Programs on USAJobs.gov. We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search. 

I have heard I am supposed to answer all assessment questions at a high level but I feel if I do that then HR will think I am inflating my experience. What is the best way to handle the assessment questions?

Most online applications ask applicants to rate their professional experience by using a series of questions. These pesky questions – usually between 10 to 150 of them – are called the self-assessment questions. As a Federal job seeker, you must answer the self-assessment questions liberally. The applicant needs to receive the highest rating in order to move forward in the rating process. Review the answers to the question and select the one that represents the most senior experience level – that is the one that is worth the most points. Give yourself credit! Do not be dishonest – but boast, brag, market yourself, rationalize, justify – whatever you want to call it. Then make sure your resume supports your responses. Remember it is called a “self-assessment questionnaire” for a reason! We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.

Corliss Jackson,
FedJobResults.com

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