Excerpts from the Washington Post Corliss' Corner
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. The 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.
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... What would be the best way to look for this type of work within the government?
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
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?
I am 63 years young. Realistically, will the feds hire someone who hopes very much to work at least through age 70? – 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
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... Any advice or assistance in helping me obtain such a position would be greatly appreciated beyond what I can express right now.
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
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.
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?
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
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 check the usajobs.gov site weekly ... but I never come across entry level jobs. I just want to know how do I go about getting in the government and starting my career?
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 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
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.
How would you recommend addressing age issues in cover letters? Also, how would you address age issues during an interview?
Ahhh, cover letters. The Federal government is not a lover of cover letters. Unless they state that a cover letter is mandatory, I would not include one with my application. Often times, the HR folks will intentionally overlook cover letters – not even giving them a read. There is often a placeholder for cover letters in the systems you may use to apply, but unless it is stated in the “How to Apply” section as mandatory, I would not include it. Spend your energy tailoring your Federal resume instead.
It is against the law for your age, and other personal issues, to be asked in a Federal interview. If you have the knowledge, skills and ability to do the job, your age is irrelevant.
We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.
I applied to Federal jobs a few years ago and had to write detailed essays in response to KSAs. I do not see this requirement now, but I still see KSAs in the announcement. Can you clarify what I need to do?
KSAs – or Knowledge, Skill, and Ability statements – are short statements the government asks applicants to prove. One of the most common KSAs is “Ability to communicate orally and in writing.” Since Hiring Reform changes took effect on November 1, 2010, 96% of Federal agencies no longer require you to write narrative essays when you initially apply to a job. However, it is totally your responsibility to make sure you possess the required KSAs and that they are incorporated into your resume. Otherwise, you will be deemed not qualified for the position, not because you don’t have the skills but because you didn’t tell them you have the skills by incorporating the KSAs into your resume.
We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.
If you have had a minor altercation with the law or some financial hardships, you may still be eligible for Federal employment. Your eligibility for employment will depend on agency policy, how serious the incident was and how long ago it occurred. Whatever the circumstances are, be honest in your responses to any questions you are asked because an agency can terminate your employment immediately if you are not completely honest during the investigation process. Even more importantly, you must disclose all of the event details and the progress you are making to move forward. For example, if you owe Uncle Sam back taxes, make a payment arrangement and stay on track; show your proof of payment during the background process. In some instances, there may be hurdles of which you should be aware. For example, if you can’t manage your own checkbook but are applying to positions in which you would be managing Uncle Sam’s checkbook, it is probably best for you to look for other types of positions. Similarly, if you have a history of drug abuse, the Drug Enforcement Agency is not interested in you applying to positions within that agency.
We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search.
As a Federal Career Consultant, I work with a range of individuals all over the globe and my biggest challenge is the same, regardless of the audience. Federal job seekers don’t understand that the Federal government is a whole different ball game—the resumes are different, qualification process is different, selection process is different, salary negotiation process is different, interview process is different, politics are different–everything is VERY different from the private sector. You have to understand these differences and learn what to do and what not to do.
Although it can and does happen, you cannot expect to submit one application package and land the perfect job. If you really want to get a Federal job, it will take an investment of your time and 100% commitment to the process. You have to be committed to creating a quality application package and submitting it multiple times so you can get your application package in front of as many HR Specialists as possible. Never, ever put all your eggs in one basket; they will easily get broken along with your ego. You have to have thick skin and be persistent and consistent—and it can be well worth the effort!
We hope this information has been useful and will help you crack the code to your Federal job search
The length of time it takes to get a Federal job varies. It depends on the types of jobs you are applying to, the budget situation of the agencies to which you are submitting applications and a host of other variables. However, the more applications you submit, the more you increase your odds of getting referred. The usual job seeker will need to submit a few dozen applications to glean one interview. The good news is that by that time, you are a pro in applying for jobs and you know your resume inside out and backwards. So you are likely to have a very satisfactory and satisfying interview. After your interview, once you receive an offer of employment, it can take anywhere from a month to several months to actually start work at your new Federal job. Often there is a background security check that needs to be completed prior to your actual starting date.
All of you have probably heard that the Federal government is having budget challenges. Along with budget issues come changes in hiring and compensation – and you often hear terms like “hiring freeze.” Interestingly enough, a Federal government hiring freeze doesn’t actually mean what it implies. The government, even in its worst state, generally won’t freeze all of its positions. Why? Because the government must continue to operate in order for its citizens to receive essential services.
So when you hear the term “hiring freeze” think about a slow chill – little by little slowing the number of new hires. New hires will almost certainly be made, but some agencies may need to have several employees leave before filling one slot. Other agencies may not hire new employees until they shift around their existing employees and see where the gaps are. Either way, individuals with a wide range of skills will do best in the Federal arena since newly hired government employees may have to take on the responsibilities of multiple departing employees. The bottom line is KEEP APPLYING! The Federal government IS open for business!
I am a 64-year old non-Veteran who has not previously worked in Federal service. Given my age, lack of Veteran status, and lack of previous Federal experience, am I wasting my time trying to obtain Federal employment?
I am a 64-year old non-Veteran who has not previously worked in Federal service.
I have extensive program management and executive leadership experience, including Federal contracting experience, and very much want to apply my knowledge, skills and abilities in Federal public service. However, I have had no success in even getting an interview for the positions I have applied for through USAJobs in my field. The response I always receive is “Qualified, but not submitted for further consideration.” Here is my question: given my age, lack of Veteran status, and lack of previous Federal experience, am I wasting my time trying to obtain Federal employment, especially at the professional level (GS 13-15)?
The answer is no, you are not wasting your time applying to federal job, and here’s a few reasons why I say that.
First, 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. Second, according to the US Office of Personnel Management – the authority that monitors federal hiring – 67% of 2014 Federal hires were non-Veterans. That means that two out of every three employees hired were not Veterans. One of those two could be you. Third, the government does not care where you gained your experience. It could be work experience from the private or non-profit sector, from the military, from an educational or training experience, or from unpaid volunteer experience. As long as you have the skills to do the job, and you have 52 weeks of those skills under your belt, you should apply.
I've been told that most if not all Federal jobs must be applied for through USAJobs. Are there alternatives to finding Federal employment opportunities aside from USAJobs; if so what are they?
I’ve been told that most if not all Federal jobs must be applied for through USAJobs. However, much of the career advice that is out there today suggests that applying for employment through job boards like USAJobs is not effective, and that applicants should seek out and directly contact the hiring managers in the departments of interest. Are there alternatives to finding Federal employment opportunities aside from USAJobs; if so what are they?
Most of the Federal government positions can be found on USAJOBS.gov. However, there are some agencies that advertise their positions on their own career websites. These are the agencies that are excepted from having to follow the rules and regulations of the US Office of Personnel Management. There is a list of these agencies on my website, FedJobResults.com under “Federal Resources.” It is recommended that you look at USAJOBS.gov and the other websites since agencies will have a wide array of positions available. Once you’ve applied and the Federal HR hiring team has determined that you will move forward to the hiring manager, it can be beneficial to reach out to the hiring manager for networking purposes only, if you know who it is, or if you can determine who it is.