Navigating the Federal Job Search Process

Federal Job SearchWorking in the public sector can be a good choice if you are a transitioning military member, as you have first-hand experience with the culture and how the federal government operates. Being familiar with the culture could make your transition to a civilian government job smoother, but first you need to find, and land, the right job for you. The federal job search process can be daunting for those new to it, so below we’ve listed resources and advice to help you navigate the search and application process.

Finding a Federal Job
There are numerous federal, military, and commercial resources available to help you find federal government jobs:

Federal Resources
USA Jobs – Most federal agencies post their jobs to this website. You can search for jobs by series, agency, location, title, and keywords.
FedsHireVets – The FedsHireVets Agency Directory lists individuals responsible for promoting Veterans’ recruitment, employment, training and development, and retention within their respective agencies.

Military Resources
Department of the Navy Civilian Human Resources
Army Civilian Careers
Air Force Civilian Service
U.S. Coast Guard Civilian Careers

Commercial Resources
The Resume Place
Federal Job Results

Finding State and Local Employment
Don’t forget the nearly 17 million government jobs that are at the state and local levels. The most numerous of these are found in education (universities and school districts) and criminal justice (police departments and court systems). Two military transition programs you may want to check out in these industries are Troops to Teachers and Troops to Cops.

Network, Network, Network
In addition to using the many resources listed above, you should talk with friends and colleagues who are working for the government to learn about job opportunities. Use LinkedIn to find government employees and connect with them. Conduct informational interviews to learn about their experiences in getting hired and working for the government.

Understanding the Federal Job Application
Once you’ve found a government job that interests you, it’s important 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
As in the military, attention to detail is important when applying for a government job (or any job, for that matter). Follow these steps to help you fill out the application carefully and completely:

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.

  • 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. See this sample federal resume for tips:
  • 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.
  • If you are submitting a hard copy application, place the position title and job announcement number on each page.
  • You can use the brochure OF 510 Applying for a Federal Job for guidance.

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.

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 Eligibility
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.

Related Video:
Federal Employment Advice

Photo by Andrew Savino