How to Land a Federal/Government Job After Service

By Sarah Landrum

There’s no magic trick to getting a federal or government job after you leave military service. With the experience you’ve gained as a military member, you possess a unique skillset that is seldom found in the public sector – yet some veterans fail to get those prized jobs. Hopefully, with these tips, that won’t be the case for you.

Revamp Your Resume

When you were active duty, your first several promotions were automatic and based on Time-in-Service (TIS) or Time-in-Grade (TIG). After that, depending on your military branch of service, you may have been promoted based on your job.

If you were Air Force, however, you may have gotten a Below-the-Zone promotion, or had to scramble to put together a Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) package to submit for a promotion. This is the information you will want to use to create your resume, especially any Enlisted Performance Reports (EPRs).

In the public sector, resumes that are more than a page or two are often tossed or pushed to the bottom of the list. It is not a form of discrimination, but employers simply do not have the time to read extensive resumes. If you don’t grab their attention on the first page of your resume, you’ll be out of luck.

However, those rules don’t apply to resumes for federal or government positions. In fact, the reverse is true: The shorter your resume, the less chance you will have to be considered. Civilian service – federal government – positions want to know as much detail about your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Area of Concentration (AOC), duty stations or assignments, training and awards.

Attention to Detail

The trick to being considered for a position is to make sure you read the entire job announcement. Provide all the requested documents, and don’t immediately give up if a college degree is necessary. There may often be an option of qualifying based on a number of years of experience. If a specific form is requested, such as an OPM-306 (Declaration for Federal Employment), you can download the forms from Office of Personnel Management’s website.

You should also make sure you apply for positions that are in line with your previous MOS. If you were a dentist, it is doubtful that you would qualify for a position as a security specialist unless you pursued a degree in that field on your own. The OPM website has position-classification standards that help you find specific job areas that match your military education and experiences.

As a veteran, you will receive a priority consideration over those who are not. You will need to provide your DD Form 214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If you cannot obtain an electronic copy of your form to upload to the USAJOBS.gov site, you can sometimes have it scanned at your local library.

Expand Your Search

While USAJOBS has almost all the job announcements for government positions, you should also research the career sites for specific agencies, such as the USDA Forest Service, CDC or the CIA. They may redirect you to USAJOBS, but at least you won’t be missing an announcement. Create search parameters that notify you when a new position is posted matching your skills or areas of interest. New announcements post throughout the day on some sites and you may miss an opportunity, especially if it has a short open period. The key is to apply early and often as most applications take six to eight weeks to process.

Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers also get special preference for the first year after they return from completion of their service. They can be interviewed and hired without all the normal competitive hiring processes, including for positions that have not been posted. If you have recently returned from a Peace Corps or AmeriCorps VISTA tour, you should reach out to the government agency you are interested in working for. If you have a point of contact’s name and phone number, you may be able to submit a resume directly to them for any current or future openings.

Interviews

Interviews are conducted by a panel of people you could be working for and with. It will most likely be a telephone interview, so be sure to accept an interview time when you know you will be able to speak freely with no distractions or background noises. Interviews are typically scheduled to last approximately an hour.

You will be asked questions pertaining to your experience and what will be expected of you in the new position if you are selected. Public sector job boards like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, as well as the Corporate Gray online transition guide, offer tips and suggestions for interviews, including potential questions. You will also be asked about your strengths and weaknesses, so have well-thought out responses ready.

Patience Is a Virtue

As a military veteran, it probably isn’t going to come as a big surprise that it can take months to get an interview, or even an offer. Apply as often as you find positions that fit your skills, and odds are that eventually you will hear back from one of them.

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About the Author

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks. Coming from a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans find and succeed in a civilian career. Follow Sarah for more advice on career development @SarahLandrum

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