10 USAJOBS Tips That Will Get You a Federal Job


A lot of people are looking for federal jobs today, and if you’re one of these people it’s important to look before you leap. Before you apply, make sure you scrutinize the announcement like an eagle scrutinizes a rabbit before swooping down to catch it and eat it. Scrutinize all you want, but please don’t eat rabbits! It won’t help you get a federal job.

When it comes to federal jobs, here are a few “scrutinizing” tips”:

1) Who May Apply: Scrutinize this section. Some jobs are only for “Status” candidates, which covers veterans, Merit Promotion (internal candidates), other special programs. Do you qualify? If you don’t qualify, don’t apply. Scrutinize.

2) Security Clearance: Are you game to undergo a security clearance or even a polygraph? Obtaining a clearance can take months (or even as long as a year). Not game to be scrutinized? Don’t apply.

3) Close Date: You don’t want to apply for a job only to realize that the application date has closed, do you? Scrutinize.

4) Location, Location, Location: Are you sure you want to take a federal job in Djibouti? You don’t want to do all that work then find out that your post is somewhere you don’t want to be. Hint: the missionaries in “Book of Mormon” didn’t do their homework either and ended up somewhere they didn’t want, instead of Orlando, which is where they hoped to be.

5) Pay Band: The U.S. Federal Government compensation is based on a series of complex pay banding systems. Many agencies are on the GS pay schedule, while others are on the DCIPS schedule or another pay system. Don’t apply to a job based on what you want to get paid, but on how your Knowledge, Skills and Abilities sync with the qualifications the US government require. If you want to get a GS-13 position you need to prove that you’ve worked successfully at the GS-12 level for a year, even if you are not currently working for the federal government. You may need to do some additional research on this one. Scrutinize.

6) Resume Length: Five to seven pages. You don’t think human resources personnel want to read your 20 page resume, do you?

7) Details, Details, Details: I know you want to put everything and the kitchen sink into your resume — but you should only do so if it’s relevant. If your current job isn’t relevant to the job you are applying please don’t put it in your resume.

8) Do You Have the Skills?: Read the announcement’s required skills and professional questionnaire. If you can’t honestly say you have the skills they are looking for don’t apply. Scrutinize.

9) Professional Summary: Include it. Make it relevant to the job.

10) Activities and Extras: If you are involved in activity outside of work that is relevant to the job, have won awards or have special accomplishments, make sure to include it in your resume.

Be the eagle.

All opinions are my own and not those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.

Jay Krasnow is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Nicole Willingham

A lesson I learned the hard way: carefully read the required documents section (SF-50, performance appraisal, etc.). I have been disqualified from two jobs because I didn’t upload the correct SF-50s, so now I am super careful.

Jay Krasnow


These are good points. The federal government can be very picky about how it wants you to present information when you apply for a job. Scrutinize.

Becky Latka

Even if you’ve worked in government for decades, the new USAjobs requirements include uploading your college transcripts for jobs requiring a degree. I thought this requirement was only for new government employees, and I almost lost out on competing for a job because I didn’t upload my college transcripts.

Kelly Anderson

As a follow-on to #s 6 and 8–make sure your resume backs up what you say in your questionnaire responses. If you say you’re an expert at a particular skill, it should be evident from how you’ve developed your resume. A one-size-fits-all generic resume could get your questionnaire discounted or even ignored if your resume doesn’t show you have the competencies relevant for the specific vacancy in question.