Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Federal Job Application Tips

As you may have encountered, the federal employment application process is quite different from that of “corporate America.” So, what gives?

A recent article posted by the National Career Development Association (NCDA) discussed seven key tips to follow when applying for a federal job. Here is an outline of Andreas Lucido’s findings:

1. As a federal job applicant, make your resume as comprehensive as possible. Don’t worry about length; the more details the better! Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are commonly used as an initial screening tool. It is essential to include keywords from the job description to help the screener recognize you as a “good fit.” After you receive an interview invitation, consider sending your standard 1-2 page resume to the interviewer. It might be easy for a computerized ATS to quickly recognize your qualifications, but that likely is not the case for the human interviewer. Even federal interviewers can have trouble comprehending resumes built through the USAJOBS system.  By sending your standard resume, you are helping the interviewer identify your qualifications and relevance as a job candidate.

2. Networking can be your ticket to a federal position. Word of mouth communication can open doors and fill vacant positions. Informed job candidates who are well networked have an increased chance of being noticed, and selected for an interview.

3. Veterans have preference.  Lucido explains, “Veteran’s Preference is a federal law that gives eligible veterans preference over other applicants in most all competitive and excepted federal appointments.”

4. The interview process is developed to determine the federal candidates overall qualifications. This is the case for most job interviews, federal or not. You are selected for an interview because it is clear that you are “qualified” for the position. However, employers often want to learn more about what sets you apart from your similarly qualified competition. Your interviewers are often direct supervisors and potential colleagues. They want to learn about how you will fit into their company culture. Before going in for your federal interview, research the department, research your interviewers, know your strengths and weaknesses, and practice effectively communicating your accomplishments. A UK alumni career counselor would be happy to conduct a mock interview with you.

5. Tick Tock! Federal hiring is not a quick process. This is especially true if the target position requires a security clearance. There is currently no standard time frame for the federal job application process, as each federal agency varies in depth of screening, speed, and efficiency. I worked with a client once who applied for a position, underwent several computerized and in-person screening steps, interviewed over the phone and in person, only to result in a lengthy dead period with no activity. Nine months later, a job offer was made.  The moral of this story; It’s never too early to apply for a federal job.

6. Not much room for negotiation. Federal hiring is a bit unique in terms of salary negotiation. Due to the standardization and regulated hiring process, there’s not much wiggle room. For example, if you apply for a GS-12 position, you will get GS-12 pay. If you want to make GS-14 pay, you will need to find a GS-14 position and apply.

7. Know yourself and learn the system.  As Lucido states, “Knowing what you want to do and where you want to do it is not necessarily the best advice for federal applicants. For those who want to work in the government, I would say it is more important to know what rank you are looking to serve based on your qualifications and goals. In addition, you should apply to as many departments and agencies as possible.”

 “Key Job Search Lessons from a U.S. State Department Intern” by Andreas Lucido
  NCDA March 2012 Career Convergence Web Magazine

Posted by Kelly Allgeier