How to Get a Federal Job
The federal workforce comprises approximately 2.1 million civilian workers, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an agency that functions as the human resources department for the executive branch. Landing a federal job is a competitive process and highly sought out career goal due to its salary package, health insurance, and retirement plan.
Because there’s plenty of misinformation floating around the internet about how to get a federal job, the professional resume writers at Empire Resume are here to set the record straight.
Write Your Federal Resume
Writing a winning federal resume is the most important thing you can do to land a federal job.
The federal resume is your marketing tool to get your foot in the door and secure an interview because it tells the story of your professional journey in greater detail and proves you’re qualified for the job.
The ultimate question we get at Empire Resume is, “How long should my resume be?” Surprisingly, federal resumes are no longer required to be as long as you think.
Federal resumes have undergone significant changes over the past decade. Back then, federal applications required a 5 to 10-page resume filled with drawn-out, copied and pasted descriptions, keywords, matched KSA’s, and phrases.
Federal hiring managers were overwhelmed by candidates applying with these lengthy “resumes” that included every job description and knowledge, skills, and abilities possible, but did not show any true value the candidate brought. As a result, most federal hiring authorities shun upon these types of resumes and the attempts for the resume to be noticed by applicant tracking systems were oftentimes unsuccessful.
Today, federal resumes are 2-page documents, much like civilian resumes, that need to clearly showcase your skills, experience, and the value you bring to the table. Hiring managers only spend under 10-seconds reviewing resumes, so it is essential to remember the three C’s when it comes to providing resume information. Your resume contents need to be:
Be Sure to Meet All Qualifications
You’ll need to ensure that you meet all the qualifications and eligibility requirements for the position, which a well crafted master resume should already include.
These eligibility requirements are necessary to address; otherwise, your resume will automatically be disqualified.
Search Federal Job Portals
Federal agencies are hiring across the country each. The best and well-known federal job portal is USAJOBS.gov. It’s the official job site for the federal government.
Nearly every job portal requires you to create an account. Here’s how to create a federal account at USAJOBS:
- USAJOBS requires users to have a login.gov account. Sign up at gov.
- Sign into USAJOBS, create your profile, and upload your resume, along with other supporting documents needed to claim veterans’ preference.
- Search for jobs that interest you.
- Review the job announcements to see if you qualify.
- Prepare your application in USAJOBS.
- Submit your application to the federal agency with the opening.
- Search for Jobs at a Specific Agency.
Though most federal agencies post their jobs on USAJOBS, some post jobs on their websites.
If you want to work for a specific agency, you can locate its website using the nifty government tool, the A-Z Index of Government Agencies.
Keep in mind, there is never an application fee or a testing fee to apply for a federal job.
Apply for a Federal job
REMEMBER: The main thing is to ensure that you meet all the required experience, qualifications, and eligibility requirements for the position, which your master resume should already include. You can also attach additional documents that replies to all the qualifications that are specific to each role that may not be listed in your resume.
You may also be required to include the dates, hours, and level of experience for each role that you can simply add to your completed resume.
Here’s what to include if necessary:
- Start and end dates (including the month and year).
- The number of hours you worked per week.
- The level and amount of experience—for instance, whether you served as a project manager or a team member helps to illustrate your level of experience.
- Examples of relevant experiences and accomplishments that prove you can perform the tasks at the level required for the job as stated in the job announcement. Your experience needs to address every required qualification.
Program Analyst GS-343-11
If you’re required to submit a resume formatted from the USAJobs Resume Builder. Here’s how you’ll do it: https://www.usajobs.gov/help/how-to/account/documents/resume/build/
Remember to ALWAYS follow-up with a hard copy of your resume/targeted cover letter via physical mail that concisely showcases why you are the best candidate. This will guarantee that your resume will be seen by the hiring manager vs. just trying to manipulate the applicant tracking system to pull up on top.
Snag the Federal Job Interview
Once you submit your federal resume, you’re left wondering, “Has anyone looked at my resume? Will I get called for an interview?”
Instead of worrying, in the meantime, you should spend that time preparing for the interview.
Even though it seems like you have no control when it comes to how the federal job search plays out, you must remember that you have the power to significantly improve your chances of having your resume seen by a decision maker and getting called for an interview. Here’s how:
1. Identify key decision makers
After applying for those jobs, your next step is to identify who the hiring managers are. If you have a friend or colleague who works at the company, ask them for the information.
If you don’t know anyone at the company, let your research begin in these places:
- The company website
- LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network
If all else fails, contact the company and ask who the hiring manager is for the position you are interested in. The person answering the phone, also known as the gate keeper, may not be willing to share that information but you never know until you try.
2. Mail a Hard Copy of Your Resume and Cover Letter
After identifying the decision maker or hiring authority, be sure to snail mail a printed hard copy of your resume and a customized cover letter.
Make sure to tailor your cover letter to the job you want. Review the job description closely, and then give specific examples of how you’ve been successful in carrying out similar responsibilities in the past. You should also dedicate a few sentences to explain why you want to work for that specific company, just to show your interest.
Sending a hard copy resume may sound like an out-of-date tactic, but it’s the most important step if you want to stand out from the other candidates. This is especially true since most applicants simply apply online and wait to hear back. Be proactive!
3. Follow Up
Sometimes, hiring managers get overwhelmed with the hiring process and forget to reach out whether they want to interview you or not. It’s up to you to take the final step and understand the importance of the follow-up.
Send a follow-up email to the hiring manager once a week for 3 weeks. Keep the email short and sweet. Simply touch base to remind the manager that he or she has a hard copy of your resume and that you’re looking forward to the opportunity to speak to them further.
Don’t be afraid of the follow up because at the end of the day, following up can mean the difference between getting a federal job on a military installation and sitting by the phone or computer, waiting to hear from the company. Don’t worry about being a bother because this is one way of showing your interest in the job. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease!
If you do not receive a response after three emails, you can assume that you won’t be contacted for that position. This strategy allows you to focus your energy on other opportunities.
4. Connect with Recruiters
Consider working with recruiters or headhunters in your area. Doing so will only increase your chances of finding an employment opportunity. Think about major companies like Kelly Services, Aerotek and even some of your local recruiting agencies. Some of these companies work exclusively with recruiters, so there may be some positions you’ll never know about unless you hear about it from a recruiter.
Remember, recruiters will never charge you a fee. They get paid from the company that’s looking for talent. Here’s a quick guide to working with a recruiter.
Learn more tips at how to get an interview in 30 days.
And if you’re interested in bypassing the interview process, learn how to get a federal job without an interview.
Be Your Own Best Advocate in Your Federal Job Search
Don’t spend countless hours mindlessly sending resumes and cover letters and waiting for a response. It’s time to be strategic and take on a more proactive approach to your federal job search.
Even though the federal hiring process is lengthy, if you follow the guidelines above you can succeed in getting the federal job you want. Empire Resume is always here to help you navigate the federal job hunt.
- We’re an industry leading certified professional resume writing company that offers LinkedIn profiles, cover/follow up letters, and detailed job search guidance.
- We have a phenomenal success rate landing our clients interviews.
- We offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- Click here to learn more and get started today!
Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.