Cracking the Code for Federal Employment

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This topic contains 26 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  Stephen Peteritas 9 years, 7 months ago.

  • Author
  • #115643

    Deirdre Rushin


    My name is Deirdre and I have been trying for many years to obtain employment with the Federal Government. I have a MSW and I have primarily been seeking employment with Veteran Affairs, however I can’t seem to crack the code. Can someone provide me with some helpful tips and or suggestions that I can use to obtain employment with any department within the Federal Government.

    Thank You!

  • #115695

    Stephen Peteritas

    Posted your question in our VA employee group. You might pop in there yourself and pick their brains:

  • #115693

    Ken Mac Garrigle

    Hi Deirde-

    Are you a Veteran? For VA, perhaps start here:

    If you’re looking for Federal employment at another agency (besides the VA), perhaps check out this agency contact list at ‘Feds Hire Vets’:

    Tnx KM

  • #115691

    Mark Hammer


    One of the challenges is that most recent graduates’ experience with getting jobs may include things like filling out a form in one of the dining booths while the management trainee dumps the fries out, or getting an assistantship with your degree supervisor, or a zillion other contexts wherer the number of stakeholders in any particular staffing action is the individual doing the hiring, maybe somebody in payroll, and few other.

    for a variety of reasons, public sector hiring has a LOT of stakeholders, and many more steps involved as a result. So, it’s maudlin advice at best, but wait.

  • #115689

    Deirdre Rushin

    Thanks for the suggestion…I will check out the site for non vets! 🙂

  • #115687

    Jeff Foster
  • #115685

    Marco Morales


    I would suggest that when you’re filling out the vacancy announcement application you key in on words listed in the announcement that complement what you’ve done in that area of skills, knowledge and/or abilities. Many government agencies will come up with a list of potential applicants by doing this ‘word match’ process so your chances of even being considered improve when you ‘dress up’ your resume with this technique. For example, if the announcement solicits experience in “writing speeches for top leaders” if you have this type experience, list it in similar wording on your resume so that when the hiring authority reads your resume, this and any number of qualifications listed in the vacancy announcement will appear on your application/resume. Hope this helps.

    Good luck.

  • #115683

    Sylvonia Poole

    well try a job fair…i have done that several times and have been very successful

  • #115681

    Deirdre Rushin

    Thank you Stephen for posting this within your group.

  • #115679

    Deirdre Rushin

    I’d appreciate it Deborah!

  • #115677

    Sylvonia Poole


    I am looking for an accountability partner to report to “everyday” by email, text, phone, chat, or smoke signals my progress with the federal government job search. I am just looking for a “report in” partner. It is diffcult to work 7-3 then turn around and apply for government positions after driving a 45 minute commute from Virginia to Maryland.

    Any takers, any suggestions on staying motivated? I am also looking for a mentor in the federal government as well. Does any one know someone?

  • #115675

    Alvitta Leffall

    Not a problem. Can you be an accountability partner for me also. I am Alvitta and my number is (410) 905 9200. Lets talk to discuss details.

  • #115673

    Lora Allen

    Federal Resume Guidebook by Kathryn Troutman
    How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job by Lily Whiteman

    Apply immediately to GS-9 opportunities under Federal Career Intern Program (it’s a professional development program for new graduates or folks switching careers). Agencies can post announcements on USAJOBs, University career centers, or their own websites.

    Focus on the GS 343 job series as a Management and Program Analyst with VA or HHS at the GS 9 salary level. Highlight soft skills more than social work experience (interpersonal, communication, statistics, policy analysis, data management, etc).

  • #115671

    Carol Davison

    To all who replied, I am so pleased to see you help a stranger. You demonstrate outstanding public servanthood.

  • #115669

    Marie Anita Brooks

    apply to or a lot! You have to apply and keep applying, network and keep networking. You will begin to hear about Job Fairs and Career Days on military post. Make sure that you keep your resume updated and just keep applying and networking. It requires diligence, patience, tolerance for this federal system of hiring and sometimes just plain lucky enough to hear about a job, apply for it and it is just time for you to get hired! Have you been on post to the employment office and talked to them about how to get on as a direct hire to the hosptital or as a social worker? I believe that some medical personnel are direct hires. It won’t hurt to go and talk to the people in the personnel office where you go for general information. You do have to apply to most jobs online and carefully follow instructions. You also need to check the state employment office and dig around online to the social media sites like linkedin and even facebook, twitter and obvioulsy govloop. Getting a job is a real job now days and if you put in the work, you should be successful eventually. Happy job hunting and Happy New Year to you and yours.

  • #115667

    Steve Ressler

    I’d also make sure to try to attend in-person events where the VA is recruiting. Helps to meet someone in person

  • #115665

    Angela Hinton, MBA

    Hello Deirdre.

    I am not sure where you are located, but there is a position posted for a SW at the VAMC,by Nancy McClure on 12/21/10. It appears that the last day to apply is January 5th.

    Social Worker Opportunity at the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City, OK

    Opening December 23, 2010 – January 5, 2011. Visit under Veterans Health Administration and search for Announcement Number T38-11-029.

    Compensation – $68,809 – $89,450 (GS-0185-12)

    KEY REQUIREMENTS: (1) Master’s Degree in Social Work from an accredited Council on Social Work Ed.; (2) Licensed to practice social
    work in a state; (3) Ability to communicate both orally and in writing;
    (4) Experience in a clinical setting to include demonstrated experience
    in providing complex social work services in a health/mental health
    facility with demonstrated competency in assessments, case management
    and discharge planning; allocating resources; compiling and analyzing
    data to improve practices, efficiency and effectiveness; providing
    program education/training; healthcare benefit administration, etc.

    JOB SUMMARY: Seeking a Social Worker who will primarily be responsible for social work intervention on the total range of
    psycho-social issues for patients in assigned areas to include both
    in-patient and out-patient. The program areas include Respite,
    Homemaker/Home Health Aide, Adult Day Health Care and Home-based Primary
    Care Services. Successful candidate provides services to decrease the
    likelihood of institutionalization through the utilization of community
    based services to meet the physical, emotional and psycho-social needs
    of veterans.

    Hope this helps. I will keep my eyes open for anything along these lines. Also, another great place to look is National Institutes of Health (NIH) T

  • #115663

    Deirdre Rushin

    Thank you so much Marie…the information you provided has been very helpful.

  • #115661

    Deirdre Rushin

    Hello Angela,

    Thank you for the job announcment, however I reside in Raleigh, NC. It is my hope to stay within the area or possibly mover futher east to either Maryland or D.C. or Virginia. If you find anything in those areas please pass them along.

    Thanks again for all your assistance!

  • #115659

    Serena Watters

    Hi Deidre,

    When you apply for government positions, be sure that your resume speaks clearly to the competencies and qualifications mentioned in the job annoucement. Don’t forget to attach the required documents (DD-214, transcripts, etc.)

    I hope this helps.

  • #115657


    I may be of help with securing a gov job. I was offered 3 last year. I did not take them due to there geo location. Please email me at [email protected] and perhaps we could set up an online chat. Continue to pursue your dream and it will materialize.

  • #115655

    EH Rice

    Marco stated that many agencies use a word match system. Well, they used to but not anymore with the advent of USA Staffing (this was a new system that was mandated that all agencies transition to, with about 80% having done so). You rate yourself as to your skills, abilities, and knowledge (though they call them competencies, or will if they aren’t). An HR specialist will review the online application to ensure it is supported by your resume (and all the documents required, this is a must, no transcript, licenses, etc., they don’t even look at you). And, the Federal Government systems are all designed to rate experience higher than education (except for the scientific research demonstration projects that work under their own rules…but we are talking about Phd’s that have specialized education and skills in a very narrow specialized area that the research is being conducted ). For the VA, when they advertise for social workers, they get hundreds of applications. Since the VA pays social worker way more than the private sector does, it seems every social worker with a MSW applies, so the competition is extremely tough. I remember advertising one in a rural Midwest area, and every MSW in a 5 state are applied, or so it seemed. Additionally, you MUST have hospital/clinical experience to get hired. Just a MSW will not get it. You must be a LCSW-C, and done a “residence” in a clinical setting (preferaly in a VA hospital if you are applying at the VA). Best advice is to keep working at it, get the clinical certifications and experience, and keep updating your resume. Likewise, mobility may be needed to get a foot inside the door. Regretably, where you are looking has limited opportunities as far as the VA goes, unless you want to work at the VAMC in DC.

  • #115653

    Camille Roberts

    Hi Deirdre,

    I have been helping people land government jobs and promotions for 23+ years. You are right.–it can feel like you have to crack the code! You have many wonderful suggestions by the people here!

    I have numerous free articles and tips at Scroll down to Federal Job Search. If you have been trying for many years, might I suggest you have someone review your online profile with I have identified many mistakes people make in the online resume builder as well as the profile itself. The most common mistake is not making the resume searchable. I find that people upload the .doc file and think that is good enough. That is not the case. You must read the job announcements very carefully and do exactly as instructed. If a .doc is acceptable then be sure it is in the Saved Documents area of the builder. If you must use the builder, you cannot use a .doc to apply. I have written an eBook which you can also find at, or write me privately at [email protected] and I will send it to you. I am currently updating it to reflect changes in the new USAJOBS 3.0. I once found a check box that wasn’t being checked in a profile that was preventing a client from getting past the applicant tracking system. You have to be extremely careful to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is. <g>

    Also, I am a Resume Reviewer for the Rock Your Resume Group here on GovLoop. Have you submitted your resume for review? Let me know. Don’t give up! I have many clients who would tell you the same. It is a process that requires meticulous details to be attentive to in order to be successful…but you CAN be successful.


  • #115651

    Kathryn Troutman

    Hi Deirdre, I am the author of the Federal Resume Guidebook, 5th. I have a sample in the book for an MSW from San Antonio TX, who wanted to break into the VA also. She was an MSW specializing in homelessness in San Antonio and wanted to do the same for the Veteran Homeless program – the new HUD-VASH program that is very successful. She got HIRED. And then we helped her get promoted this year. Her resume added a few accomplishments about cases for Veterans. She is making a difference there. If you get the book and the CD-ROM, you will see her sample. WE help many MSWs break into the VA, where they are very much needed.

  • #115649

    Deirdre Rushin

    Thank you for the words of wisdom. I just recently obtained a provisional MSW and it seems that this isn’t helping with my search either. What about VA Durham? Any suggestions with regards to that hospital?

  • #115647

    Camille Roberts


    Kathyrn’s book is also an excellent resource!


  • #115645


    Hi Sylvonia,

    Just want to know if you’ve been hired yet and if you’re a veteran.


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