How to Get a Job through USAJOBS

applying for a government job

Did you know that the federal government is one of the largest employers in the United States?

A recent study published by the Congressional Research Service revealed that the U.S. government has approximately 2 million employees—and that’s not including the military or the postal service. That same report showed that there are an estimated 90,000 federal job openings each year.

Many people believe that getting a job working for the federal government can be a near impossible task. But that’s just not true. As a premier military-to-civilian resume writing service, Empire Resume has helped thousands of Veterans and recently separated servicemembers get jobs with the federal government.

Whenever a client asks us how to get a government job, we immediately point them to USAJOBS as a starting point.

What is USAJOBS? 

USAJOBS is the government’s official employment site. The purpose of the site is to easily connect jobseekers to federal employment opportunities within the United States’ borders and worldwide. You’ll find job openings within department and agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Department of Education to name just a few.

On any given day, there are approximately 10,000 federal job openings listed on USAJOBS. If you want a job working for the federal government, you must have a USAJOBS account.

7 Steps to Getting a Job Using USAJOBS 

It takes some time and effort to get yourself set up on USAJOBS. But once you’ve set up your profile and have a resume that you’re happy with, you’ll have the ability to apply to thousands of jobs.

Follow these steps to get set up on USAJOBS.

1. Create a Account

Before you do anything, you’ll need to set up your account. This part of the process just takes a few minutes.

With one account, you’ll have the ability to log onto USAJOBS as well as services offered by multiple government agencies. The goal of having a account is to help you more easily manage your federal benefits, services, and applications.

After you’ve finished the process to set up your account, then click the link that says Continue to USAJOBS.

2. Create Your Profile on USAJOBS

Once you’ve reached the USAJOBS homepage, click Complete Profile.

It’s important that you take the time to fill out your profile as completely and accurately as possible with your name, address, military history, federal employment history, and other information employers will need to know. Every time you apply for a job, the information you have in your profile will be shared with your potential employer.

After you’ve filled out your profile to the best of your ability, click Create My Profile.

For additional information on how to create your profile on USAJOBS, please check out this video.

3. Upload Your Resume

applying for a government job

Part of completing your USAJOBS profile is uploading your resume.

To do so, click the Documents tab within your profile. Then, click Upload resume. Find the resume you want to upload on your computer and click Open. Then, select Complete Upload.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when uploading your resume:

  • Make sure your resume is formatted correctly.
  • Make sure the file size of your resume is no more than 3 MB.
  • Your resume must be saved in one of these formats: JPG, JPEG, PNG, RTF, PDF, or Word.
  • You may save a maximum of 5 resumes.

You may ask how long should my federal resume be? Years ago, federal resumes were 5+ page documents of lengthy job descriptions to try and match every keyword in their systems. Federal hiring managers were inundated with candidates applying with these lengthy “resumes” that included every job description and KSAs possible, but it did not show any true value the candidate brought. As a result, most federal hiring authorities shun upon these types of resumes.

Today federal resumes (like civilian resumes) are two-page documents that need to clearly showcase your skills, qualifications, experience, and the value you bring. Hiring managers spend under 10-seconds reviewing resumes and it is essential to be clear and concise.

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 relate to all the qualifications that are specific to each role that may not be listed in your resume. 

After your resume has been uploaded, click the Searchable button to add it to the USAJOBS resume bank. Hiring managers from federal agencies often look for talent within the resume bank of USAJOBS. If your resume isn’t searchable, then they won’t see it.

If you don’t yet have a resume, contact Empire Resume. Our professional military resume writers will expertly transform your military experience, skills, and achievements into a compelling civilian resume that generates results.

Another option is to use the use the Resume Builder within USAJOBS. This tool will help you create a resume step-by-step, but you’ll still need to identify your achievements since that’s what will “sell” you to hiring managers. 

4. Search for Jobs

applying for a government job

You can perform a basic job search in USAJOBS by typing a keyword in the search bar at the top of the page. The keyword can be a job title, a department, an agency, or even a job skill. The more detailed your keywords, the better your results will be.

For example, if you want a position as a financial analyst, then type in “financial analyst” rather than simply “analyst.”

Once you get your list of search results, you can use the filters on the right-hand side of the page to refine your results and get to the job listings that are more likely to match your interests.

For example, you may get 100 results on a single keyword search, but you can filter out all jobs that require travel or don’t meet your pay expectations. You’ll be shown fewer results, but the ones that will remain will meet your specific requirements.

Some of the top filters on USAJOBS include:

  • Pay scale
  • Job grade
  • Department or agency
  • Location
  • Remote work availability
  • Part-time/full-time eligibility
  • Security clearance requirements
  • High demand positions
  • Relocation assistance availability
  • Travel requirements


5. Set up Job Notifications

applying for a government job

With USAJOBS, you can save your job search criteria and be automatically notified by email when a job that matches your specifications appears in the jobs database.

To set up a job notification, start by conducting a job search as outlined in step 4. Then, click Save This Search on the search results page. You can create up to 10 unique searches. Just keep in mind that saved searches will expire after 365 days. 

It’s important that you name your search—especially if you’re setting up more than one. For example, you may name one search Department of Agriculture Jobs, while another job search might be Software Engineering Roles, and another might be Remote Opportunities. 

You can choose to have email notifications sent to you on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. If you are looking for a very specific role, we recommend that you set up daily notifications. Sometimes, if a job is highly sought after, the job posting won’t appear on USAJOBS for more than a week.

6. Read Job Postings Carefully 

Now that you’ve set up your profile, added your resume, and created job notifications, you should start seeing jobs openings that interest you.

It’s important to review any job posting very carefully to ensure you’re qualified. You should pay particular attention to:

  • The Vacancy Announcement, which provides a general description of the role and duties.
  • The Who May Apply section, which tells you who may and may not apply for the job. For example, some jobs may only be available to Veterans or those already at a certain job grade.
  • The Qualifications section, which lists the experience, education, and skills candidates need to have before applying.

Please Note: You should not apply for a role in the federal government unless you have the specific experience and education the role calls for.

In the private sector it’s common for people to apply for jobs even if they lack some of the experience or education required. However, it doesn’t work that way when applying for federal jobs. If you don’t meet the required criteria, you won’t be called for an interview.

7. Apply for the Job

applying for a government job

If you’ve reviewed the job announcement and have determined that you’re qualified for the position, then it’s time to submit your application. The competition for these positions is tough, so it’s important that you apply as soon as possible.

For most jobs, you’ll begin the application on USAJOBS, then you’ll be routed to the appropriate agency to finish your job application. You can expect the entire application process to take 30 to 45 minutes depending on the position and which agency you’re applying to.

After you’ve submitted your application, return to the Application section of USAJOBS. Look under the application status field. If you see the word “received,” then you know you’ve submitted your application correctly.

If you don’t see “received” right away, don’t panic. Sometimes, the agency you’re applying to will need to complete a virus scan on your resume before accepting it, which may take a few hours.

Keep your eye on the status of your application. If it updates to “referred” that means your application has been sent to the hiring manager. But if it updates to “not referred” then you are no longer being considered for the position. 

Get a Federal Job on USAJOBS 

There are thousands of federal jobs available on USAJOBS, so you can absolutely find the one that’s right for you. Just remember these 3 pointers:

  1. Sign up for a USAJOBS account as soon as possible.
  2. Make sure you have the right resume that outlines your skills and experience.
  3. Only apply for the jobs for which you are truly qualified.

Actually, there is one additional point to remember. You don’t have to do this alone! Empire Resume is here to guide you in your search for a federal job. Contact us today to get started.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was 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.   

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