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The GovLoop Unofficial Guide to Getting a Federal Job

Approximately once a month, I get an email from a family member or friend that goes something like “My cousin/neighbor/babysitter is really interested in federal jobs. S/he can’t figure out the process. Can you give her some inside guidance?”

Whether OPM wants to admit it or not, the process is still way too confusing for outsiders. They don’t know what job series they qualify for, can’t figure out what grade they could qualify as, and sure don’t understand KSAs. Most of the job application advice is written in bureaucratic-speak or so vague that it is not really helpful.

I’ve written these job searchers dozens of emails (and phone calls) with my advice. Rather than repeat myself, I thought I would publish my guide in one place and offer it to all individuals looking for a federal job. I’d love to hear your comments and I’ll continue to revise the piece to provide the most comprehensive “Unofficial Guide to Landing a Federal Job” (**UPDATE – We actually turned this blog post into 3 free career guides on getting a government job – download at Pathtopmf.com***)

1) Start with USAJOBS.gov

You’ve probably been here but almost all government jobs are posted here. The trick is learning to navigate the system and its filters to find the job you want. There are too many jobs there so you need to do a good job filtering to find the jobs you want.

(A) Job Series – First, you have to find what job series you qualify for. If you are an engineer, you shouldn’t be applying for jobs as an auditor. Use series search and browse through all the occupatinal series to find the ones you are most interested in. If you are a generalist, you probably want to search for Management and Program Analyst positions (343) as it is a large category. Other key series are 2210 (IT Specialist), 511 (Auditor), 1811 (Criminal Investigator), and 1102 (Contract Specialist). One good way to find what you qualify for is USAJOBS list of job series by college major.

(B) Grade Series – Second, you have to figure out what grade you qualify for. Federal grades range from 1 to 15 (highest) with a special series for senior executives. Read the specifics of each job announcement but here’s some general guidance on what grades to apply for. Entry-level college graduates should apply for GS-5 or GS-7 (if you have over a 3.0 GPA). Recent master’s graduates should apply for GS-9 positions. PhDs and Lawyers should apply for GS-11s. If you are coming to the government with experience, it is difficult to gauge what specific grade you would come in at.

(C) Promotion Potential – Make sure to pay attention to the promotion potential for the job. It should say in the job announcement and the higher the promotion potential the higher your potential salary can be in the future. For example, in a GS-9 job with a promotion potential of GS-13, you can move from making $45,000/yr to $80,000/yr in three years if you perform well.

-(D) City Search – If you are a geographically restricted, make sure you refine your job search by city. Make sure you include the names of surrounding towns and cities. For example, when I was searching for jobs in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, I forget to include the city Bay Pines which is nearby and had a ton of federal jobs.

-(E) Agency search – It is helpful if you have any ideas on specific agencies or work you want to do. The gov’t is big (2.8 million employees) so obviously there is variation and thre may be a better fit based on your interests – environment, homeland security, foreign affiars, etc. If you are pretty flexible, that is good as well as some agencies are harder to get into (such as Department of State, EPA) and you may find other agencies just as rewarding.

-(F) Write Good KSAs – I’ve written a whole post here about writing good KSAs. The short takeaway – spend time on them, use keywords, specific examples, and keep to about a page each. (Note – many KSAs have gone away but there are still writing requirements – same is true. Use keywords from job vacancy directly, use specific examples, and edit these so they are great)

(G) Resume Tips– There are a number of resume tips that are important that we compiled into this federal resume tips sheet – make sure to read it. At the foundation, the federal resume is different – instead of 1-2 pages it can be much longer, it requires more details that are often different, and the language it uses has to match the opening.
-(H) Have Realistic Expectations – You will not get the one job you apply for and it will take awhile. Here’s my experience. I graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s degree funded by a government fellowship and I had a previous government internship. Still, I applied for 40 federal jobs (GS-7 and GS-9 job) and I got 4 interviews and 3 job offers. The timeline also varies by agency. I heard back from agencies in a range from 3 weeks to 4 months. There can be a variety of factors affecting this ranging from ineffecient HR processes to competing priorities and budget freezes. While I used to complain about this time lag and black hole, I applied for a number of private sector jobs approximately a year ago and I have to say it wasn’t much better and had just as much variety. One consulting firm put me through about 8 interviews over a 4 month period before pulling the job due to funding issues. And there were many more similar stories.

-(I) Learn How to Read USAJOBS – There’s a real art to reading USAJOBS announcements. By law, agencies must post their opportunities on USAJOBS even if they really have an inside candidate they want to hire. A couple tips….make sure the job is even opening to outside candidates. It should say on the job posting whether it is open to all citizens, only current feds, or only employees at that current agency. Additionally, check to see the number of positions they are hiring for. Generally, I do not like to apply for a job unless they have multiple vacancies. If they only have one opening, they may have an inside candidate. This changes a little as you get to the higher grades but is still somewhat true. Additionally, look how long the job is open for. If it is too short (7 days), they normally have an inside candidate. If it is continuous and open, I find they are often black holes and may not be even hiring, just collecting resumes. I personally prefer 2 to 4 week openings. A dream opening for me would be multiple positions and open 3 weeks.

2) Entry-Level Leadership Programs

There are a number of good sites to look at outside of USAJOBS. One of the best opportunities are the 2-year entry-level leadership development programs created by federal agencies. The Presidential Management Fellows program is the most well-known and is for recent graduates with advanced degrees to work at a range of federal agencies. If you’re interested in learning more about the PMF application process, check out PathtoPMF.com, featuring resources and advice on each part of the application process. Many agencies have also started their own programs either based on agency or career field under the OPM Pathways program. I’ve listed a number of them at GovLoop.com under a data set on Government hiring leadership programs. These programs often start recruiting in fall/winter for individuals to start after graduation in May so they may not be a good fit if you missed their application dates.
3) Networking is Key

The truth with any job search is networking is important. Contact any federal employees you know whether through neighbors, alumni associations, previous co-workers, etc. Take them out for a cup of coffee for an information interview to explain your situation. By law, these individuals can’t directly give you a job but they can let you know about opportunities and guide you through the process.

A key part of networking is joining groups that help your case. Join Young Government Leaders, a young professional organization for feds, as they send a newsletter with great info and advertise openings. Join GovLoop.com, a social network for govies, and look for openings and reach out to relevant members for their guidance.

4) Other Key Resources

There is a whole industry around applying for government jobs. Most of it is useless information that you can find on USAJOBS.gov so it is not worth much more than a perusal at a bookstore. At GovLoop.com, not only do we have a jobs site, I’ve also listed a ton of free resources that can help you in your job search. Start reading the government trade magazines to get an idea of the latest trends in gov’t and hiring. Check out the various government organizations. Finally, if there is a government conference in your area, try to go (maybe if you volunteer you can go for free) and network.

Here are some particularly good websites:
www.gogovernment.org -Good site that guides you through the application process
www.bestplacestowork.org
– Lists best government agencies to work for
www.publicservicecareers.org – Put on by three good non-profits, this provides guidance to public service careers. Not extremely federal focused but good.

www.pathtopmf.com – Our site where we have three great free career resources (Guide to PMF, Guide to International Jobs, Guide to Entry Level Jobs)

Other personal favorites:
Lily Whiteman’s book called “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.”

Heather Krasna’s book called “Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service.”

5) Picking a career field

As mentioned earlier look around at the various job series to see which ones you qualify for. Many articles have been written about where the government jobs are but I think three great fields that will continue to rise are acquisitions, IT, and finance. The government has trouble recruiting and retaining in these career fields which are becoming rapidly important. These career files have some special hiring exemptions and pay structures so it may be quicker to get in and easier to advance.

6-Consulting

If you are interested in federal service, you don’t necessarily have to contribute as a federal employee. The federal government contracts out most of its work. A good way to get into the government industry is to work for one of these consulting companies. They can be quicker to hire and may pay a little more (although there are trade-offs). Plus, you often work on-site with other gov employees so it is common to eventually get hired by the federal government. There is a lot of variety in the consulting companies both in terms of size, specialities, and pay so do your homework. Here is one list of the top 200 government contractors. I’ve also used Vault to research consulting companies.

Hope this helps and good luck in landing a federal job. Federal service is a great way to serve your country, learn great new skills, make a good paycheck, and advance in your career.

I would love to hear any comments from any current feds (or searchers) on the article. I’ll continue to add and make edits based on your comments. My idea is to create a good article that follows the 80/20 rule (80% of the key info is in 20% of the space) and provide a good starting point when searching for a federal job.

Got questions? Ask them below and I’ll make sure to answer

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60 Comments

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Profile Photo Joe Flood

I’ve been a govt contractor for three years now, have interviewed for a couple of fed jobs and have talked to fed hiring managers about the process – all of this rings true. The process is a bureaucratic labyrinth that discourages people from applying. USAJOBs is a usability nightmare and the very model of unclear government communication. You really have to carefully read all the “how to apply” instructions on USAJOBS – many of the instructions are for special situations only and may not be relevant to you.

I was told to be verbose when it comes to the KSAs – the more information, the better. Your application has to make it through HR who will rate your materials. Only a handful of applicants actually make it to the hiring manager. Veterans, current/former federal employees, etc… all get extra points so are more likely to make it to the “cert” – the certified list of applicants that the hiring manager can consider. Making it on this list is an accomplishment unto itself. If you do not make it on this list, you will hear nothing from USAJOBS (yes, this is rude and unprofessional).

Many government jobs (especially in IT) are contracted out so it’s definitely worth looking at government contractors. It’s an easy way to get in the door and learn what it’s like to work in government. This may not be true everywhere, but where I work (NOAA) we have a lot of contractors and I’ve always felt part of the team.

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No Hope

That is the issue I am having. Not being a veteran, I cannot even have my application passed on. How does anyone get around this? Is it even worth continuously applying for these positions? I live in Upstate NY (Practically Canada) and in the middle of nowhere. The fact that Veterans are applying amazes me. It leaves me with the following questions:
1. Is it even possible to have your application forwarded without being a veteran?
2. What happens if none of the applicants that are forwarded to the hiring manager make the cut or decide to decline the position? Does this pool open back up or do they start the hiring process all over again?
3. Is there a way to have your application flagged to be forwarded to the hiring manager without being a veteran as they get preferential treatment.

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Profile Photo Scott Horvath

The process is pretty convoluted. I’m just a govy now, but in the past when I was in private industry, I was pretty put off by the whole process…especially since it took me four score and seven years to actually fill out all the needed information appropriately. Then after waiting for over a month in a company that was getting ready to close it’s doors…and not hearing anything in the way of “Sorry, no soup for you!”, I had to hit the headhunters and get a sub-contracting job to a gov’t contractor.

What a mess. If I had only known that I didn’t make the “cert,” I would’ve prepared myself much better. But this was back in the “dot com” bubble days.

Now that I’m just a govy I can definitely agree with Joe on this one. Read, read, and read. But also network with people in the government that you know. That’s always very helpful.

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Profile Photo Debra Fitzwater

Steve,

Great post and helpful information for starters. Don’t forget that there are consultants out here, such as myself, that offer one-on-one case management consulting services for federal job seekers. Unless you have the time to do your homework on this subject and commit in an almost full-time capacity, you should consult with an industry professional. There are so many nuances to the federal job application process, that it is almost imperative to seek a professional’s advice. If for nothing else than to network! Many consultants offer “FREE” consultations (I DO) to get folks on the right path.

Best of Luck to all seeking Federal Employment. You will not only need to follow Steve’s advice but you will need a little LUCK as well… I say 1 part luck and 1 part diligence!

Contact me at PreEmpt Career Solutions, LLC, if you are looking for another professional’s opinion on how to land a career in the federal sector.

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Profile Photo Jason Oleston

USAJOBS in specific and the application process in general are not that complicated, really…and when political leaders promise to make this process “easier”, I have to wonder if we would even want the sort of employees who cannot wind their way through the current maze.

The problems begin when the agency receives the applicant’s material. Often it can take months to find out whether or not you will be interviewed. For the currently unemployed, this is obviously too long.

Sillier still is the thought that eliminating KSAs will help at all. Most people cannot write a resume of any quality, so taking away the targeted questions the agency has carefully devised to weed out the unqualified or unsuitable will just make the whole process murkier and lengthier.

Regardless, all of this advice may be moot if the FedGov starts reducing the workforce by attrition [e.g., replacing 2 or 3 retiring employees with 1 employee].

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Sally Star

Jason,

You hit the nail right on the head!! It is not that difficult to apply for government positions. All you need to do is read and have a modicum of reading comprehension. I have often said that if people are not intelligent enough to go through the process, they don’t need to work for the government. We have enough dumb people working here!

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Profile Photo Julie Chase

Remember VET PREFERENCE, PPP and spousal preference. A non vet, non BRAC’d or non spouse of a vet will be last on the list. For students and grads….DC is the only place hiring. That is, if you want to live in that area. Hiring officials complain constantly about the long…..wait for a cert. Truth is, HRO’s want to make sure there are no vet problems when the cert is sent through. Add to that the EEO recommendations should a vet not make the cert and that will also put you down the list. USAJOBS is navigational nightmare to govy’s nevermind the average Joe/Jane trying to get in. Add to the lawsuits pending or working their way into halting the Pathways program and there you go. You can have a stellar resume, however, you have to be in the right place at the right time, with right “someone” pushing your resume through.

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Bill Rose

I am a former fed Auditor at the GS-11 level. I am trying to get back in to federal service. If I am hired as an Accountant at the GS-07 level, how does the government determine what step I re-enter federal service? Thank you in advance.

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Alan

I believe they review your prior GS11 pay and start you at the closest match on the GS 7 step. If you were at the middle or top of a GS 11 step then you may see a pay reduction even at a GS 7 step 10.

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Tiffany

I was referred for six social worker positions at the Carl Vinson VAMC, but I haven’t heard anything to date. The referrals was back in August. I am starting to get discouraged. I really want to work at the medical center, but the process is so long. I need a job now.

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Lilly

You have a snow ball’s chance in hades if you aren’t a Vet. Tell people the truth. Can’t even get in the pathways programs now without preference. A Vet should get the job if it’s two equal candidate is and ones a Vet, but we all know that’s not what’s happening. That’s why certs are opened and closed so fast and they hire off internal certs.

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Betsy

Great article. As you know most people start out in positions they don’t really want just for the sake of getting their foot in the door. How much time is required within that position before an individual applies for a job or position within a field they really want?

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jublke

Thank you for this. It answered some basic questions that I couldn’t even find addressed on USAJobs.

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KCE

Hi,

Thank you for the post. I’ve been looking on and off for a government job for a long time, I even became a US Citizen explicitly to be able to apply for a gov’t job. I’ve been learning slowly the ways of the usajobs.gov and continuously find new information pertinent to a successful application. I’ve been called for an interview one time and have been selected a few times for a second round of reviews (which I already consider a success) and I find that writing good KSAs is truly the most important part of an application. Now that they removed the KSAs portion of the application process for my grades (GS-7 and GS-9) I don’t know how to make my application stand out from others. Multiple choice answers seemed to be too vague and confusing.

I was wondering if you could offer your advice on whether or not applying with disabilities (according to their definitions of a disability I actually qualify) gives you bigger chances of being hired. Or does it actually lower your chances?

Thank you!

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Robin Chase

I have applied for 13 federal jobs and have never been called for an interview. I have recently applied for several jobs with the VA. I’ve thought about writing a letter to the new head of the VA. Would you advise against this idea. Thanks for your help

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Dan

Keep applying, I got a job and it took about two years. This is after sending out over 50 highly customized applizations. If you don’t meet all the requirements for a position, then don’t apply. These jobs are highly competitive. You will only be selected for an interview if you are among the best of the best. Remember people are willing to relocate for these jobs, so you have applicants from all over the country applying for fed jobs, the competition is fierce. Most people hired are very over-qualified, and this is an aspect of the “colorblind” hiring process – the best people – based on resume and KSA answers – will make the cert, then be interviewed. Expect to apply for dozens of jobs before being hired. Don’t despair, just keep trying and make sure you’re aiming for something realistic. If you read the requirements and say to yourself, “Wow, this job description and requirements sounds like it was based on my resume,” then apply. Otherwise, don’t waste your time. Expect the process to take months, overall at least six months from application to job offer. Expect a response to your application if you make the cert to take at least one-two months. You can email the contact person and ask for status, but do so judiciously, not on a daily basis. (Wait at least a month before doing this.) In my experience odds of getting an interview range from 1:25 to 1:50 applications. This has been my experience after getting two fed job offers, one of which I took. It’s worth the effort, though. I love my job and the people I work with are fantastic. (And that’s another benefit of the rigorous hiring process – only the best get hired!) Best of luck to you all!

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Alan

Dan, your experience mirrors my own. I worked as a contractor for about two years and when my experience and skill set was ready started applying for the Fed version of my contract job. It still too over two years and a couple dozen applications before I was selected. I was not a vet or student so I had no preference of any kind to help grease the skids. I hired in as a GS 11 and was quickly promoted to a GS 12, I too love my job especially now that I can telework 4 days a week. The key for me was networking with government contacts and religiously searching and applying for openings each time a position came open. Good luck and keep applying.

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KT

Thank you for taking the time to write this, Dan. It was both informative and encouraging.

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Lisa Howard

Thank you for the great information you provided. It is total frustration on all levels. I’ve literally submitted over 1800 applications for different jobs that I qualify for, some over qualified for. I haven’t received one interview. For one position, I received a disposition message that stated, ” I requested to withdraw from any further consideration.” Not once did I do that, nor did I receive any contact from the hiring authority. I’m a retired preference vet with more than 30 % disability and a Schedule A vet with all the documentation. Plus I have a Master Degree in Business Administration. I’ve spoke with consultants a couple of times. Currently confused….. What else can I do? I work part time, 20 hours a week on base with a company that is contracted. It took me three years to get this position. I’m open to any information or recommendations, please help. Thank you.

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Debbie S

Thank you for thre great advice. I have been applying for federal jobs off and on. I have job announcements that I have been “referred” . One is with the VA and I have been waiting a while to hear about that one. I recently applied for a job with the Army Corp of Engineers. I was able to find out who the commander was. Is it a good idea to reach out to him and let him know of my interest? It has only been a week and a half since the job closed. I don’t want to reach out to early.

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Sylvia H.

I have been trying for years to get a federal job. I am currently a contract employee through a state agency doing federal work at a GS-11 level. I have had three interviews within SSA/ DPB to be exact. I qualified for several openings from GS-6 on. The first interview I had in June 2013. The fed’s took only our management staff leaving regular employees behind. When I was not selected for the GS-11 it knocked me out for the other, lesser but concurrent openings. In 5/15 I interviewed for ODAR. My references were checked no call. In 08/2015 I interviewed for another position within DPB at a GS-6 level. My references were checked no call.
I really believe rather or not you get the job is based on who you know and who is pulling for you.

During my first interview, one of the hiring managers told me he was hired as a BA because his Mom worked for the agency. The hiring manager gave him a chance for this reason. If you don’t know anyone be prepared to wait or look elsewhere.

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chris

I’ve applied for several Government job’s and I accepted all of them as they were offered. Now I’m wondering if this was a mistake accepting more than 1 position. I’ve already had 1 physical at the VA, and more to
Come. Is my name on the data
For accepting other positions.

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Basit

Take the one comes first. You can always give two weeks notice and jump to the other job you prefer. No, you did not make any mistake saying yes to multiple offers. Thank you.

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Garret Ross, Ph.D.

I had to leave teaching ( Business and Hospitality Management due to a medical issue that came up. I was advised by a friend to apply for a Federal job since I was able to move around the country easily. No wife daughter grown. I would like to start the process to be employed again as soon as possible. Please contact me by my email. Thank you for your
consideration

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Anson

I have been a Federal employee for 14 years. The main question I get from people already inside the government is, “What other job series am I qualified for?” I have no answer to this question, and I would honestly like to know more myself. I have a GS grade and have experience in multiple job series – is there a crosswalk or similar cheat sheet to find out what other job series I am qualified for?

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Kevin Myles

Why is it every time I apply for a govy job my resume gets all the way to the hiring manager (Received, Reviewed, Referred, Not Selected). I have applied to a ton of them and its the same thing. One would think I can at least get an interview, but that has not ever been the case. What could be the answer to this issue?

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Anthony

Goodmorning,
I am a registered pharmacist with 20 years of experience. I am looking for a firm similar to Debra Fitzwater that will take care of A-Z of getting me prepared to apply for a federal job. I do know there is a cost involved, and I am ready to provide.
I thank you for your recommendation.

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Britni Scott

I am currently working for The Dept of Veterans Affairs as a contractor but would love to get hired as an employee. My question is, as a contractor (because I have passed all the security clearance obstacles and I have experience doing the work I would be trying to get hired to do), do I qualify for the positions open to federal employees only? Or does my contractor status give me any advantage?

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Alan

I can say as a former contractor, my contract position did not qualify me to apply as an existing government employee. The contract experience however was a key advantage when I applied for the Fed version of my contract job. The skills I learned made me best qualified and I obtained a referral to the hiring authority. I hired on as a term employee and a year later converted to permanent career conditional. I would not have gotten the job but for my contract experience. Good luck and keep applying

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Wayne

Hello everybody. I am a current federal employee with the IRS and have worked there for more than 20 years. I am currently looking to move on to another agency since the IRS is everybody’s boogeyman and the future within the agency is severely limited for many reasons that I’ll not get into in this forum. I don’t have to be a mystic to read tea leaves.

I too am having troubles moving on and I understand the system to some degree and a lot of what has been posted above rings quite true. I have two general suggestions for those who are not adverse to relocation and/or starting at the “bottom.”

First may I suggest in agencies such as the IRS look for “seasonal jobs” which may very well get your foot in the door (and by the way avoid “term jobs” altogether). This is how I got my start.

The second is to look for “roster jobs” in places such as the IRS or SSA which have “multiple positions” open. The reason that a lot of the posters here are having problems securing interviews, interviewing without being selected, and/or having your application forwarded to hiring officials and being “not selected” is that you are applying for positions that have one opening. Under the best of circumstances these jobs are highly competitive and under the less than best of circumstances Management already knows who they want for the job but legally have to go through this process. Roster jobs will usually be in the neighborhood of GS-05 – GS-07 but if you’re young or don’t have high salary requirements these are decent possibilities for selection.

Also it will help to create job searches within the USAJobs website with your specifics (location, job title, series, etc.) which will help you narrow down your search (and at present I believe you can create 10 of these). You can also instruct USAJobs to forward an e-mail daily to check newly posted job openings which helps since many agencies such as SSA limit applications to a specific number and others will open and close a job within a day or two.

I feel all your pain and good luck in your endeavors. Just remember to be flexible and keep on trying. The worst two words in life are “what if.” Don’t give up even if you are in direct competition with me. Ciao.

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Wayne

By the way I give credit to Steve Ressler who covered much of what I have written but I wanted post it from the viewpoint of a current applicant who shares everybody’s frustrations and concerns. Thanks Steve, you gave excellent advise.

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Kenneth Dockery

The information you provided was very informative thank you. I’m looking for overseas government employment. I’m a veteran with some college but no degree I’m realistic about my expectations but I’ve had limited success on usajobs.gov. I’ve had a professional resume writing service compose a resume and cover letter for me and I’m in the process of submitting can you give me some advice on how to proceed the country that I’m specifically looking for is Germany.

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Basit

Please apply for CBP Officer position when it opens. As a veteran you can get hired without taking any written test. Also, you get credit for your time served in the military. After hiring, which may take few years for you to know your job you can apply for positions overseas including Frankfurt, Germany for up to 5 years max. We have officers currently working in Frankfurt. Please check usajobs.gov. Every 3/4 months the hiring opens. Best wishes.

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Johnny yearwood

I am a ex felon and would really like to have a chance to turn my life around and do positive for my country I will not let u down if giving a chance please.

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Johnny yearwood

I have a lot to offer in helping in all areas I have been dumb and want a chance to do positive.

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Marian

I want to work for FSI and i dont know if I have more chances to get in using an agency or applying by myself to the USA job website.

Also, if the job is for about 2 years and non renewable, is it really true? I don’t want to kiss my job for a temp one, thank you

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Aaron Richmond

I am blind and a recent college graduate. I have a Bachelor’s in international relations. I am looking for someone to assist me in searching government positions and to help me apply online. Do you know of anyone I could hire? Thank you.

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Terry

I graduated with a master degree in public policy 4 years ago. I live in MN and it’s difficult to network in DC where most Fed jobs exist. I have applied for 100+ government jobs since graduating. Even paid top dollar for a federal government resume service.

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Aaron Groetsema

I always hear about tailoring my resume. I get that. But what about the cover letter? I tailor that more. How is the content of the cover letter weighed vs. the content of the resume in the initial screening process? Are both considered when making the decision to refer or not?

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Wayne Keller

Aaron, your question and comments are spot on and I’m in full agreement. I believe a resume is a resume is a resume and people place way too much emphasis on it. I have just one and as Joe Friday from Dragnet would say I keep it to “just the facts.” Your cover letter observation is in my opinion correct. I recently contacted a HR Specialist from SSA and I asked that person exactly what you did, specifically does anybody actually read the cover letter. Her response was that the initial ranking is strictly by your self evaluation on USAJobs. If your application is referred to the hiring official the cover letter might very well be read by that person (who may be the Supervisor/Manager for that job as well as the interviewer). Not long afterwards this happened (I didn’t get the job, in fact it turned out I didn’t want it but I had the opportunity which is all one can ask for). Your cover letter should be “tailored” to the specific position and your relation to it. It can’t hurt. Good luck in your endeavors.

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Confused and Frustrated

Number 3 Networking is the key. If you basically know someone in the government, you will get the job. I worked a consultant for over five years and I still can’t get in. I lose to those who have preference all the time. I lost out to one job since the other person knew another person in the department and got in. This whole article doesn’t make sense

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Justine

Can anyone provide some insight as to how many (or what percentage) of applicants make it past the HR specialist to the “hiring official”? Just received notice that my application has been “referred” to the hiring official, but I have no idea if that means I met the minimum requirements (i.e., I’m now in a pool of 500 vs a pool of 600) or if it’s more selective than that. Any guidance appreciated!

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Wayne Keller

Justine, here at the IRS where I currently work the referral rate is usually 4-5 for each open position. I’ll take a wild guess that the ratio is similar for other federal agencies. It’s a numbers game. Never get your hopes up too high for any one opening and don’t stop plugging away. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck.

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Jess

Hi, I hope someone can answer this for me. I am currently in a GS-6 position. There are positions in my area that are hiring, that I am qualified for. I have a bachelors degree and a masters’ degree. I took the GS-6 job because my family just moved to a new city and I needed a job, they offered I accepted. How do I apply for the GS-9 job with just my education, in the job post it says “masters degree OR experience and bachelors degree”. I would like to get a better job because I am qualified through my education, not my experience. I have applied for jobs and I am rated ineligible because of my current GS- level. What do I need to do so they will look at my education? Thanks.

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Alan

Sounds like you are applying as an internal or “status” candidate for a GS9. Generally a GS9 will required time in grade at a GS9 or the next lowest grade such as a GS7 or 8. Only way I know of to get around the grade issue is to apply as under “all u.s. citizens” vs internal merit candidate. The hiring authority will then consider your education, experience or a combination of both when they evaluate you application.

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Sara

One option: you join FAPAC. FAPAC has programs that have helped people.

You do not need to be Asian to join FAPAC. Membership is open to anyone. All you need to do is pay an extremely modest $36 a year (for the benefits that accrue) as a membership fee and you are in!

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Laura

My friend said she got a job with the VA and passed all of her background checks and accepted the offer, but is now on a wait list to be hired for the location. Is this really what happens?

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Shay

I was just hired by the VA, I am in the middle of doing my background checks and I have a physical in a couple of weeks. They want to me to start ASAP, there is no waiting list. There was only 1 vacancy for the job I applied for, I don’t think they do “waiting lists.”

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SEAN BOURGASSER

More question than comment: How, if at all, important are letters of recommendation? I have many GEN’s, COL’s, and down that I have worked with and are currently writing letters for me. Many are HQDA level as Army agency heads or at the Pentagon as strategists. Can these be included in the application process? Will they help? Thank you Sir.

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James

Im a 100 percent disabled vet and didn’t get hired for a job in the office i retired from. They called me and told me to apply but I was not selected. How can I find out why?

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Jay

I have had a GS 5 level job but left to pursue my masters degree, since completing masters now applying on USAJOBS I am having issues as HR tells me I can’t be hired two steps higher cause I was a GS5, So your telling me I was a GS5 but went back to school now with masters and I don’t qualify? how do you apply so that your new level of education will be factored and not your prior GS level?

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Alan

When you apply as a “status” or existing federal employee there is a time in grade requirement. Your current grade has to be high enough to satisfy the position grade you are trying to achieve. They way around this is to apply as “all U.S. citizens” versus an existing Federal employee. This will allow the hiring authority to consider your new educational status as well as work experience. You will however be competing against the masses including people with veteran preference. Hope this helps. Good luck in you pursuits.

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Albert Harris

Been waiting for my security vetting to be completed so that I can work At SSA FOH, IN MD. I have been waiting since may 2016. I applied for and was interviewed in April, was cleared and received OSSI, CLEARANCE. WHY IS FEDERAL VETTING TAKING SO LONG. I HAVE A PERFECT BACKGROUND.

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fedjob confused

Applied for a job, referred as “best qualified” to selecting official. But never heard anything back. That was a little over 6 weeks ago. I emailed the HR official and just a reply that the manager did not make any selection for the position and that the certificate has been reissued. The job has not be re-advertised anywhere that I can find (I initially applied through USA jobs and can’t find it there. I checked on the agency website and can’t find the job there either). So what does this “reissue of certificate” mean? In my own mind, I’m thinking they already have someone else they want to hire, who probably didn’t make the cut the first time or who didn’t apply, so they’re are re-issuing it just for them. Do I neeed to even bother trying to follow this up further?

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Camille

Love this post!!!
I’m not alonee out there!!
I guess I got lucky, after 2 years filling out applications I got called for my first interview.
I think I did very well. HOWEVER, I was asked about being fired from a previous job :-/
So, I have. How does one go about this difficult situation??? What do they think about this? Does anyone have a chance???
I did answer honestly but superficially. I had a difference of opinion with my supervisor.

Thanks so much for your time and wisdom.
Camille

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