Getting Hired: Federal Employment
Civil service recruitment, onboarding, and retention is a completely different ball game than that in the civilian sector. It is important to understand how to effectively navigate fundamental practices when applying for federal employment. In this blog post, we will explore the necessities for your federal application package, understanding special / direct hiring authorities for veterans and military spouses, and free federal resources from Hire Heroes USA.
Should your civilian and federal resume look different? Yes, a federal resume is formatted quite differently. They are usually at least three pages long and fairly basic – this is not the platform to show off your graphic design resume skills. Failure to follow the required resume format may result in your disqualification for a position. This is particularly true for GS-7 and above vacancies as the requirements tend to be far stricter. Make sure your federal resume includes:
- – A chronological listing of positions
- – Your historical salary data
- – The number of hours worked per week
- – Your various position timelines in MM/YYYY format
- – Any training you possess
- – Your higher education and affiliate GPA(s)
The easiest way to generate a federal resume is to create a free USAjobs.gov account and paste your civilian resume into the site’s resume builder. Save your work as you go and remember to export the final copy of your resume as a word document for your own records.
You must include Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) throughout your resume, verbatim with the keywords included in the vacancy announcement. You don’t need to copy and paste full text blocks from the announcement into your resume, but you do need to make it explicitly clear that you have the necessary experience by citing your relevant experience in your federal resume.
You may be asked to complete an application online in addition to submitting your cover letter and resume. Do not leave any text blocks blank and never state “see resume.” The application process may be redundant, but it’s important that you follow the instructions on the announcement. Include all of the requested documents in the application instructions.
Federal Occupational Assessment
Demographic surveys or occupational assessments are frequently used in federal applications to identify whether you have the necessary skills for a position. Within the assessment, you will see requested demographic data and key-skill experience – based questions using a rating scale of A-E, [A] being unfamiliar with the skill and [E] being well versed in the skill. The assessment will affect your overall rating score; therefore, it is important to select the highest levels of your skill familiarity and aptitude. When you select your level of skill familiarity, you must create a citation for the item on your resume that shows a recruiter your relevant experience.
You can complete your occupational assessment as many times as you need and resubmit your application all the way up to the close date of the vacancy. Take a look at the occupational assessment, pull KSAs from the questionnaire, and build specific bullet points to address your competency in all of the questioned skill sets. This is critical to the overall success of your application. If you are struggling to place yourself in the highest categories of skill competence in the survey or listing the KSAs in the vacancy announcement, you may want to consider applying for a role better suited for your skillset. Resumes can be somewhat ambiguous and everyone’s experience differs, so this survey could be what gets you an interview.
Special Hiring Authorities
Federal employers often offer direct-hire authority or special hiring authority opportunities, in which a veteran or military spouse may compete for a vacancy against current members of the civil service or with a point advantage against civilians. In some cases, you may work directly with the hiring manager and may not need to apply online, depending on the agency. Some of these special hiring preference options include:
Veteran Recruitment Authority
Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) is an excepted authority that allows agencies to appoint eligible veterans without competition. If you:
- – Are in receipt of a campaign badge for service during a war or in a campaign or expedition –or–
- – Are a disabled veteran, –or–
- – Are in receipt of an Armed Forces Service Medal for participation in a military operation, –or–
- – Are a recently separated veteran (within the last 3 years), AND separated under honorable conditions (this means an honorable or general discharge), you are VRA eligible
Veteran Employment Opportunity Act
VEOA eligibility applies to the following categories of Veterans:
- – Preference eligible candidates (In hierarchical order: TP – 5 points & no service-connected disability rating; XP – 10 points & 0-10 % service-connected disability rating; CP – 10 points & 10-30 % service-connected disability rating; CPS – 10 points & 30 % or more service-connected disability rating).
- – Service personnel separated after three or more years of continuous active service performed under honorable conditions.
The Schedule A appointing authority for people with certain disabilities, 5 CFR 213.3102(u), is an excepted service authority that agencies can use to appoint individuals, including veterans who have a psychiatric, intellectual or severe physical disability. Check out FedsHireVets.Gov for more information to determine if you qualify.
A 5 – point Spousal Preference applies to the following categories of Military Spouses:
- – A spouse of an active duty member of the armed forces.
- – A spouse of a service member who is 100% disabled due to a service-connected injury.
- – A spouse of a service member killed while on active duty.
Check out your local Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC) for support with local federal opportunities for Military Spouses using spousal preference.
Necessary Documents for Direct Hire Authority Recruitment
- – Member 4 Copy of DD-214 | Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214 Member Copy 4); or other official documentation (e.g., documentation of receipt of a campaign badge or expeditionary medal) that shows your military service was performed under honorable conditions. A DD-214 will always be the preferred document of choice for direct hire authorities using Veteran Preference.
- – Memorandum of Service | If you are currently on active duty, a statement from the appropriate Branch Personnel Office contains the following information: Name, Rank, Branch of Service, Active Duty time, Projected Separation Date and type of anticipated discharge must be provided. This document must be listed on Military letterhead with approval from your commanding authorities.
- – SF-15 | If you are a disabled veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, or widow/widower of a veteran, the spouse of a disabled veteran or the natural mother of a disabled or deceased veteran, you MUST submit a completed Standard Form (SF) 15, “Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference”, and the other required documentation identified on the reverse side of the SF 15 to support your preference claim. Documentation to support a disability must reflect the overall evaluation or percentage disability rating.
- – Spousal Preference | To use spousal preference, you must provide verification of marriage, current orders from your spouse, and proof of your spouse’s service in accordance with the type of spousal preference you are requesting.
- – Additional Documents | Always be prepared to provide a cover letter as a professional courtesy, despite there not being a requirement for one. Download a recent version of your unofficial transcripts if you are using your education to qualify for the vacancy. Have a copy of your references handy to ensure you are prepared for the next steps.
Preparing for a Federal Interview
It is common to receive an email regarding your notification of eligibility as your first point of contact. This email is based on your application, resume, occupational assessment, and preference. Your next point of contact will be a notification of a phone screening or interview. You will want to schedule a mock interview to prepare for these interviews as they are unlike military board interviews – even if you have effectively networked to land this interview. Most interviews are conducted with a board or panel of hiring authorities, who report their findings to HR and the hiring manager.
Note: The time between your initial notification of eligibility email and secondary contact could be months apart. Phone interviews are growing in popularity for federal opportunities to ensure your rights are protected by mitigating potential discrimination. Many interviews will include situational or behavioral questions and heavily rely upon the KSAs outlined in the vacancy announcement.
Tip: Some vacancies outline preparation techniques in the posting, which highlight the main topics of discussion listed under “How You Will Be Evaluated.” If you are selected for the role, you will receive a verbal or written offer. Unfortunately, if you are not selected for the position, you may not receive a notification at all.
Hire Heroes USA Federal Employment Assistance
Hire Heroes USA offers free federal resume reviews, resume tailoring support, and federal mock interviews for all veterans and military spouses.
If you are already working with a Hire Heroes USA Transition Specialist, follow up with him or her to request assistance from our Federal Program.
If you’re not yet signed up for Hire Heroes USA services, register today to access our free services: https://www.hireheroesusa.org/get-registered/
Does Hire Heroes USA write the Federal Resume for you?
While a civilian/private sector resume can be created within one business week, a Federal resume is more comprehensive and requires data above and beyond what our Transition Specialist can pull from your prior work experience or performance evaluations. Our Federal Team will review your federal resume against a position of interest, with the goal of ensuring that your resume demonstrates the qualifications required of the position. Recommendations may be made with regard to format and existing content but narratives or accomplishment statements must be written by the applicant.
Does a Hire Heroes USA federal resume review guarantee employment?
Unfortunately, there are elements out of our control, such as Federal funding reductions, timing, and agency contractual obligations. It is highly recommended that you apply for jobs in the private sector if you are in imminent need of employment, as the federal hiring process can take up to 12 months. It is also important to note that if your resume does not demonstrate experience in each required qualifications, the resume will not be referred to the hiring official.
Will Hire Heroes USA assist with multiple federal resume reviews?
Subsequent reviews are available once your initial federal resume draft has been updated. The updated federal resume should be sent to the reviewer with specific questions. Reviewers will follow-up via email with any edits or recommendations. New federal resume review requests should include an updated resume draft and a link to the position of interest.
Written by Ashley Owens, Hire Heroes USA Employer Relations Specialist