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If You Really Want It — Be Persistent!

Here’s a FABULOUS ARTICLE for future Govies!
Reprint of an article on LinkedIn by Elizabeth A. Medina

I’ve been trying to get into Civil Service ever since I left my campus work study job as a Biology and Chemistry lab assistant 14 years ago. Obviously, all that changed less than a month ago and I now work as a Physical Science Technician for NAVMED Support Command on the local Navy base (Great Lakes) in the accessioning department of a drug screening lab. My job is to help prepare urine specimens for actual testing.

I had to endure a lot of “eligible but not referred” responses and whenever I did receive a few “referred to selecting official” responses, I hoped and prayed I’d get an interview. Once in awhile, I did and always did my best to impress those inetrviewing me in the hopes they’d want to hire me. Unfortunately, my best was never good enough. I can’t tell you how many times I became frustrated and wondered if I’d ever get in.

My long struggle to get into Civil Service isn’t unusual. It seems to be the norm. Case in point: aplcr0331, a registered member at the Federal Soup forum, applied for 400 between 2003 and 2011 and has finally gotten into Civil Service as a GS-13.

That said, you should know that veterans and military spouses have preference. Lately, many jobs are being given to preferred individuals and as long as enough people w/preference apply for a job, they most likely won’t send anyone over in the packets who are regular civilians since those people have top priority when it comes to hiring. If not a lot of perference people applied for the job, then the packets sent to hiring officials will contain preference and non-preference people. Even if a non-preferred person interviews better and is more qualified over a person claiming veteran’s or spouce preference, they tend to be bound to hiring the preference person over a non-preference. Jobs MUST be offered to and given to preferred individuals whenever possible. These individuals have hiring priority over regular civilians. Preferred candidates automatically inch out anyone who’s regular civilian. Obviously, not every Civil Service employee is a veteran or a spouce but it’s important to know these individuals do have priority over regular civilians.

In addition, when times are tough, everyone wants into Civil Service which makes competition pretty stiff even for people who are currently into Civil Service. My mom, who’s worked in Civil Service for nealry 32 years (it’ll be 32 this March), recently applied for a Budget Technician position at MEPCOM. There were 93 candidates vying for just 1 position.

You should also know that there are hiring freezes and and that general budgeting uncertainty is affecting the ability for many departments, agencies, and commands to do any hiring. As you may or may not be aware, there’s been some budget gridlock in D.C. and a budget bill was passed by the House and Senate in Novemeber of last year to avert shutdown.

My best advice to you is to be persistent and, if necessary, be willing to relocate. People who are willing to relocate stand a good chance. Living near a military base helps as well. You may also consider taking a TNE (temporary not to exceed) position as well. That’ll help you find something permanent. As a last resort, even though they’re getting rid of a lot of contractors, you could take a contract position. This will allow you to start networking. It’s also allowed contractors to apply for their job as a Civil Service employee as contracts are eliminated and positions are reverted back to being conducted in-house.

If you do manage to garner interviews, be honest, be positive about previous employers, and keep answers short and simple. In addition, be punctional and be yourself.

This article was originally published on GovLoop on February 9, 2012.

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