5 Tips for Applying to Federal Jobs

Kristen Ross
Latest posts by Kristen Ross (see all)

When searching for a federal job, you probably notice the federal hiring process and the USAjobs website can be complicated. In a competitive hiring process, HR specialists and hiring managers rely heavily on an applicant’s resume and responses to the occupational questionnaire. It will be used to determine if the applicant is a strong candidate for the position. This puts a high burden on the applicant to develop and align strong content to meet the position requirements. But with all the information on a federal announcement, it can be difficult to determine if a position is a good fit.

Here are 5 tips to help you start searching for a federal position:

1.) Know your skill set. Take time to identify the roles you’ve held in previous positions, both official and unofficial. Only you know your value and contribution. Identify the skills used to accomplish the required tasks for each role. Now, compare this list to the skills you see listed in your target job descriptions and ideally, you’ll notice similarities. This is a great check to validate alignment. 

2.) Do not limit yourself to specific job titles. Job titles can be a helpful search tool, but positions with similar qualifications, duties, and responsibilities may be listed under various job titles. Depending on your employment goals, you may search and review positions differently. For some, it may be more important to find a position that aligns with past military experience. For others, it may be more important to find a position that explores a new career field or to achieve a particular salary. 

3.) Every federal position belongs within a job series. These are general position classifications that can help narrow down particular types of positions. Searching by a particular job series can give you a good overview of the types of positions available, the grade levels, or general position expectations. 

4.) Explore the types of positions offered at different agencies. It is helpful to make a shortlist of agencies that have missions that are important to you. An entire list of federal agencies can be found here. For example, a Park Ranger position can have the same duties and responsibilities as a Program Management and Analyst position. It depends on the needs of the agency. 

5.) Consider positions that align with your current experience. If you are interested in continuing a career you started in the military, explore the Maryland Department of Labor Crosswalk. It can provide other types of positions that are similar to your work experience. Job seekers must balance their goals in a job search with the priorities of HR specialists and hiring managers. Remember, federal HR specialists and hiring managers cannot make assumptions about your potential. There must be clear and specific content within your resume to justify the level of expertise indicated in the occupational questionnaire (remember to preview this within the job listing). 

In most cases, the “Duties and Responsibilities” section on a federal job announcement provides a good expectation of the position at full operating capacity. The “Qualifications” and “How you will be evaluated” sections will provide information on the experience an applicant needs to demonstrate when they apply. It is important to review each of these sections when identifying positions. 

Once you identify the positions you are interested in, you can set up automated searches within USAJobs. You have the ability to customize by location, grade, agency and even how often you’d like results sent to your email. There may be some trial and error to find the positions that best align with your background, but taking the time upfront to focus your job search will yield better results in the long run. Learn more by accessing Hire Heroes USA resources on federal employment and pick up a few more tips in this blog post. 

Kristen Ross is the Federal Sector Program Manager at Hire Heroes USA.  If you would like more information or need assistance getting in contact with your Transition Specialist, log into your MyTrak or register at www.hirehireosusa.org to be assigned a Transition Specialist.