Securing Government Employment – Part 2: How Do I Apply to Federal Jobs?

Once you’ve found a government job you’re interested in (see Part 1: How Do I Find Government Jobs?), you need to understand the federal job announcements to be sure you are qualified for the job and to successfully apply for the position.

Federal job announcements include the following:

Job Title
Series – A 3- or 4-digit “series” number similar to a Military Occupational Specialty code or rating. Click here for a list of all the series numbers and job titles.
Grade – Relates directly to the salary for the position.
Position Information – Type of position (temporary, term, permanent).
Duty Location – Location of the position.
Who May Be Considered – Who is eligible to apply for the position.
Duties– Job duties and responsibilities.
Specialized Experience – Experience required by the applicant documented on the resume.
KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities) or Qualifications and Evaluations – Requirements that need to appear in your resume.
How To Apply – Specifics on how and where to submit your job application and the closing date for applying to the position.

Competitive vs. Excepted Service
Federal agencies offer their positions on a competitive basis or an excepted service basis. If on a competitive basis, the Office of Personnel Management’s Human Resource office provides hiring oversight. If on an excepted service, the agencies develop their own hiring process. Excepted service positions are not posted on USAJobs, so it is important to look at individual agency websites for job announcements.

Applying for the Position
1. Carefully review the job announcement. Are you eligible to apply? Are you qualified to apply? Are you comfortable with the duties, and have you performed them in the past? Do you have the specialized experience and KSAs/competencies the government agency is seeking?

2. Write your federal resume. There are multiple ways to apply for a federal job, so follow the job posting directions carefully.

a. The recommended way to apply is to create your resume using the Resume Builder found in Tailor your resume to the duties of the position and explain how your experience meets the required specialized experience. Include your country of citizenship, highest grade level if you have previous federal employment, and how much Veteran’s preference you have, if any.

b. You can upload your resume (if you do this include the last four of your social security number on every page).The federal resume, unlike the corporate resume, should be long (4 to 5 pages is average) and detailed.

c. If you are submitting a hard copy application, place the position title and job announcement number on each page.

d. You can use the brochure OF 510 Applying for a Federal Job for guidance.

e. Some agencies may require the use of OF 612 Optional Application for Federal Employment.

3. Give careful thought to the KSA/competencies section. This is the most important part of the federal job application process and is normally listed under “Qualifications and Evaluations.” Specialized experience is the most important part. You must incorporate the KSAs/competencies into your resume to show you possess them or you will not qualify for the position. Think of the KSAs as interview questions, and cite 3-4 sentence examples from your work experience to match each.

4. Complete the package. Your completed job application package should consist of a cover letter (optional), your resume, your short responses addressing each KSA, and any additional information or optional forms that are specified in the job announcement. For additional or optional forms visit the OPM Website.

Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s
As in the military, attention to detail is important when applying for a government job (or any job, for that matter). Follow the directions carefully and fill out the application completely.

The hiring agency will review your job application for completeness and basic qualifications. Your application resume will be compared against the required qualifications and KSAs/competencies, and a score and numerical rating will be rendered. Applications with a rating of 70 or more points will be referred to the hiring manager for consideration.

Veteran’s Preference
Applicants with veteran’s preference are placed at the top of each category and considered first. Eligibility for veteran’s preference can be confusing. Not all veterans are eligible for veteran’s preference for the purpose of federal civilian employment. Click here for details on eligibility.

Article Resources:
Corliss Jackson at Federal Job Results
Karol Taylor at Taylor Your Career

Federal Employment Checklist

Related Video:
Federal Employment Advice

Related Articles:
Securing Government Employment – Part 1: How Do I Find Government Jobs?
Federal Resume Writing Workshop by Corliss Jackson


5 thoughts on “Securing Government Employment – Part 2: How Do I Apply to Federal Jobs?

  1. Pingback: Securing Government Employment – Part 1: How Do I Find Government Jobs? | Corporate Gray Blog

  2. I am very interested in finding a federal job. I am a veteran that is currently in chapter 31 training program. I have just completed my LPN schooling and plan to continue on through the RN program. Even though I have a VA counselor they do not explain how to go through this process. This information is very helpful.
    Thank you, Michael Crocker

    • Michael – Thanks for your comment! I’m glad this article was helpful to you. Good luck with your training and job search!

  3. Once again, great job on your Part 2 article about how to land a government job. I do have one suggestion though. About a year or two ago I was told that starting this year government Human Resources/Personnel Specialist are not going to be using the traditional KSAs and will just be using the applicant’s resume to score against the job requirements and to verify that their answers to questions on the Application Manager match (or are supported by) their resume. Additional documents like college transcripts, DD Form 214s, and training/certification certificates can be uploaded and reused on multiple job applications on

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