Conquering the Federal Employment Battle

By Bruce Benedict

Federal Employment

Finding federal employment often feels overwhelming and confusing. However, in just a few easy steps (called Phases/Objectives in Battlefield Resume Methodology), you can be on your way to a federal job. In order to decipher the federal system, we need to look at the application process on USAJOBS.gov, where the majority of federal vacancy announcements are posted.

Step 1 (Phase Line Job Search): Target your federal job search:

Objective 1:
When looking at the USAJOBS.gov website, it’s not good enough to just search keywords in the keyword search field. You must always click on the “advanced search” to ensure you find all of the jobs for which you are qualified. Within the “advanced search” window, click on the “Occupational Series or Job Category” section. This is one of the most important sections when searching and qualifying for federal employment. Within this section, search all of your work-history keywords within the “Search for Occupation(s)” field. Throughout each keyword search, make sure to write down the “job series” numbers that meet your search term.

Objective 2:
Once you have discovered all of the job series numbers that match your experience, you can easily have USAJOBS.gov send you automated job announcements, so you can immediately target a specific job.

Step 2 (Phase Line HR): Tailor your resume so HR will refer it to the Hiring Manager

Objective 1:
Once you have all of the job series numbers that your experience matches, go to the OPM website and find out what keywords the Human Resource (HR) office is looking for when determining your GS rating. To find this critical information go to https://www.opm.gov and click the “HR Practitioners” link; then, click the “Classification & Quals” link. Click the “Classifying General Schedule Positions” link on the left, and then review the two PDF documents called “Handbook of Occupational Groups & Families” and “The Classifier’s Handbook.”

Between these two documents, you will discover the Position Classification Standards for each job series and the required keywords that qualified the job vacancy announcement at a certain GS level. Therefore, it is critical that you tailor your resume for each federal vacancy announcement and incorporate the specific job series keywords into your resume to ensure you meet the job vacancy GS rating level.

Objective 2:
It is imperative that you use the USAJOBS.gov resume builder to develop your federal resume. Although each federal vacancy will require similar, yet different types of information, the USAJOBS.gov resume builder will always have the required fields for you to fill out. Therefore, if you do not use the USAJOBS.gov resume builder, you run the risk of having your resume “disqualified” for missing required information.

Additionally, you need to list each of your work history assignments separately in order to show progression in your career. Within each work history assignment, describe your work history in extreme detail, tailoring your answers directly to the statements listed under the paragraph called “How you will be evaluated.” These statements will normally be labeled Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) or Mandatory Assessment Factors.

Step 3 (Phase Line Hiring Manager): Tailor your resume so the Hiring Manager wants you:

Objective 1:
At this point, you will need to incorporate the keywords within the vacancy announcement as well. To begin this process, review the Questionnaire prior to submitting your application. To do this, you must click the Questionnaire link, which is usually listed within the “How to Apply” section. Once you locate the Questionnaire, review each question and extract the keywords. Now go to your resume and replace the descriptors you used when describing your experience with the keywords within the questionnaire.

Objective 2:
Now, you must extract the descriptors from the job vacancy announcement “Duties” section. Again, you must go to your resume and replace the descriptors you used when describing your experience with the keywords listed within the “Duties” section of the job vacancy announcement.

Although these phases and objectives to finding federal employment may appear complex, they are critical to accomplishing your mission, which is to gain federal employment. Remember, the federal government job vacancy announcements are very lengthy because they try to help you as much as possible by describing the process in detail. If you separate each sentence within each vacancy announcement, extract the keywords from the Position Classification documents (OPM.gov website), describe each of your work history assignments in detail, as well as use the keywords within the Questionnaire and Duties section of the vacancy announcement, you will be successful.

About the AuthorBruce Benedict, Battlefield Resumes
Bruce Benedict, Major, U.S. Army Retired, owner of Battlefield Résumés, Certified Professional Resume Writer through The Professional Association of Resume Writers

Bruce started Battlefield Résumés to help veterans and their dependents transition to the civilian workforce. As a Retired US Army Major, a senior intelligence consultant, and a previous Federal Government GG15, he collectively has over 27 years of Military, Federal Government, and defense contracting experience. Having conducted classified and sensitive work around the world with a TS/SCI, Bruce understands the sensitivity of operational work and how best to translate it into a powerful resume.

2 thoughts on “Conquering the Federal Employment Battle

  1. Thanks Bruce! I have an MBA & BA in information systems technology management. However, no matter the volume of resumes and interviews that I get… I’m either not hired or told that I’m overqualified. I don’t understand that at all. Maybe you can shed some light for me.

  2. LaTroy,
    I see this happen quite often and would recommend some easy tweaks to your resume and/or interview answers. First, I’d recommend shaping all of your job titles to a theme that supports the vacancy announcement. Many time, we over emphasize our supervisory and/or management experience, not realizing that the vacancy or Hiring Manager only wants a “do’er” and not a manager. In shaping your job titles, you will convey your experience “doing” the job and down-play your experience in managing (not doing) the job. If you tailor your resume this way, it will assist you in answering the interview questions in the same manner. Remember, most companies want to grow their managers. Additionally, when interviewing, make sure that you use a different “do’er” example for each question/answer. Prepare prior to the interview by writing down all of the “do’er” examples and their respective competencies that support the vacancy announcement requirements. During the interview, use these examples and ensure that all examples and competencies are conveyed to the to the interview panel. Hope this helps!

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