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8 Steps To Find The Right Federal Job

8 Steps To Find The Right Federal Job

by Robin Schlinger

Applying for Federal jobs is different then applying for non-Federal jobs. Below is a road map in the form of eight steps to find the right Federal job to apply for & how to apply effectively.

You’ll notice the common theme throughout this road map is to follow the instructions carefully. Taking the time to read the instructions thoroughly is your best bet for success!

Step 1: The announcement will indicate who may apply. If it is the Public, generally all US Citizens can apply for the job. If it is Status Candidates Only, read the announcement carefully to determine whether you’re eligible. Generally, Status Candidates Only means that federal government employees, military spouses or veterans who have separated in the past 3 years or who are eligible for veteran preference points can apply. If it says Agency Employees Only and you’re not currently employed as a civil servant in that agency, you’re not eligible to apply. Federal Government Employees Only, you must work for the Federal Government to apply.

Step 2: The announcement will indicate the date it will close. Follow the instructions carefully! Each announcement is unique and will detail how to submit materials. For example, you’ll be required to file online, by fax, by email, by hand delivery, or by mail. Remember, you must meet the application deadlines or you won’t be considered.

Step 3: The position will indicate salary and grade level. Grade levels for jobs indicate the management level within the government – and the level of responsibility.

The Breakdown:

  • Based on experience, veterans retiring at the E-7 level generally qualify for positions at the GS-9 level.
  • O-3 professionals generally qualify at the GS-11 or 12 level, depending on area of their expertise.
  • O-5/6 professionals can qualify for GS-14/15 or SES positions.
  • SES corresponds to General/Admiral in the Military.
  • For non-military professionals – GS-5 is entry level with a BS degree.
  • GS-9, 11, 12 and 13 indicate various levels of expertise in an area, with GS-13 corresponding to a very senior non-managerial level or junior manager level.
  • GS-14/15 corresponds to Senior Manager/Director level in large companies.
  • Senior Executive Service (SES) positions correspond to Sr. Director/VP level positions – or even Chief Information Officer (CIO) positions in large companies.
  • A BS Degree for jobs generally qualifies one for a GS-5/7, MS Degree – GS-7 or 9, PhD – GS-11.

Bottom line: Be sure you’re applying for the right level. Applying to the wrong level position will result in rejection.

Step 4: In most cases, the announcement will list the job duties. Read the duties carefully, and mimic the keywords in your resume. The resumes selected for further consideration contain these keywords, with dynamic statements showing your experience. When you’re reading this description, ask yourself: Have I performed this function previously? Have I been successful in this function, and how can I show this on my resume?

Step 5: The announcement will list the background requirements. For Federal jobs especially, your background must match the stated requirements. In fact, the Federal government cannot fill the position with an applicant who does not specifically meet all the background requirements listed by law.

Step 6: The announcement will likely have a questionnaire. Look in the announcement for a link to the vacancy questions and click on it. If there is no link, start the application process (even without a complete resume) to find the questions. If there are multiple choice questions and you cannot answer that you are an Expert (ANSWER E on many of the multiple choice questions) for most (if not all of the questions) AND that you have experience in most, if not all of the special technology questions, you probably will not be selected for the announcement.

You must address all of the questions in your resume with examples from your experience, or the agency will assume you don’t have the experience, and your ranking will lessen. This has changed from the past – and it is extremely important you are able to affirmatively answer all the questions. If not, you will not be selected, unless you are a disabled Veteran.

Step 7: The announcement will indicate how to apply. Note, if the announcement uses Application Manager, you can submit a Word document, as long as you include all of the required information. If an online format is required, generally a link or an “Apply Online” button is shown on the announcement. Clicking on the link or button will bring you to the USAJob or agency’s website with further instructions on how to apply for the job. Some online formats have word count limitations; but these are being retired.

Step 8: the announcement may indicate other documentation is required. Carefully read each announcement and send the information required in the method it is asked to be sent in (online upload, fax, email or mail). If it is not asked for, do not send it.

About the Author:

Robin Schlinger, founder of Robin’s Resumes®, has been a career coach and resume consultant since 2001. With a Chemical Engineering degree from MIT and over 20 years of experience in various engineering and planning roles for Fortune 500 companies, she transitioned into human resources, earning numerous certifications and awards.

Robin has been active in career organizations such as the GCDA, NCDA, CDI, NRWA, and PARW/CC. She’s a sought-after speaker on resume writing and has developed a specialization in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) resumes. Her work in this field has been recognized and featured  in US News and World Report, among others.

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