In the Conejo Guardian’s January issue, I wrote that Federal civilian employee jobs with the Navy could be very desirable jobs in terms of competitive wages coupled with better than average benefits over many private sector positions. A Federal employee can accrue annual leave and sick leave, have ten (10) paid holidays a year, pay into an affordable health care plan, and obtain life insurance, retirement plan options, and alternative work schedules,
It seems that a lot of people are looking for Federal jobs these days, considering the large number of jobs that are available due to rapid advances in information technology, cybersecurity, the computer sciences, and many engineering disciplines. If you are one of these people, it is important to consider the options you have and do your homework before you jump-start applying.
USA Jobs is designed to be the central posting location for many Federal Government jobs, delivering a streamlined application experience for applicants. However, some features and requirements for finding and applying for government positions are unique from non-government jobs. Here are some tips to help an applicant navigate the USA Jobs website:
- Creating a Profile: Create a USA Jobs account that gives you access to their extensive selection of employment opportunities. Your profile allows you to customize your federal job search and sends you updates when employment opportunities become available for jobs you may be interested in and qualified for. Start with this link: https://secure.login.gov/?request_id=1cdb860e-9d01-4439-80ed-0c095c54bdb9.
- Application Eligibility and Hiring Information: Analyze—this section carefully as some jobs are only for “Status” candidates, which covers veterans, Merit Promotion (internal candidates), or other special programs. See the Office of Personnel Management (OPM.gov) link for more detailed information: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-information/hiring-authorities/.
- Security Clearance: Many positions require a security clearance, particularly with the Department of Defense. Evaluate if you are willing to undergo the thorough background investigation required for a security clearance or even take a polygraph test. The process can take several months, depending on the position for which you are applying.
- Closing Date: All USA Jobs’ positions have a “window of opportunity,” specifically a determined opening date and a closing date for a job announcement. It is important to pay attention to these dates as they all differ, and you do not want to apply for a job only to realize that the application date has closed.
- Location: I almost applied for a job that I was qualified for with the government, only to realize it was in Djibouti. Although I like to travel, I was not sure this would be a good selection for me. Every job announcement has a drop-down menu for desired locations as the Federal Government also requires a mobility agreement for most jobs. You do not want to apply for a position in a location (out of state or overseas) that you are not ready to relocate to.
- Pay Plan Codes: Pay plan codes are used to identify important information about an employee’s pay system and the authority governing the pay of an employee’s position. The U.S. Federal Government compensation is based on a series of complex pay banding systems. Many agencies are on the GS pay schedule, while others are on the DCIPS schedule or another pay system. You may need to do some additional research on this. See this site: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration/fact-sheets/pay-plans/.
- Resume: Five to seven pages, according to the USA Jobs format. Follow the drop-down menus on the site for step-by-step guidance and be as concise as possible. The Resume Builder feature in USA Jobs allows an applicant to create up to five (5) different resumes and ten supporting documents, such as cover letters, student transcripts, and writing samples. Consider using the site’s portal resume builder to create one of your resumes, as it will guide you through all the required categories for a federal resume.
- Details Are Important: Only provide details if they are relevant to the position you are seeking. If your current job is not relevant to the job for which you are applying, leave it out of the resume.
- Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA): Read the announcement’s required skills and professional requirements questionnaire. If you cannot honestly say that you have the knowledge, skills, or abilities they are looking for, do not apply.
- Professional Summary: Include a professional summary and make it relevant to the job.
- Extracurricular Work and Volunteer Activities: If you are involved in activities outside of work relevant to the job, have won awards, or have special accomplishments, make sure to include them in your resume.
- Applying for the Position: Another benefit of utilizing the USA Jobs site is that the application feature guides you through a five-step process:
- Step One: Select Resume
- Step Two: Select Supporting Documents
- Make sure you read the “Required Documents” section on the job announcement, as it will detail specific documents you must include to ensure a completed application.
- Step Three: Review Package
- Step Four: Update Personal Info
- Step Five: Complete Application with Agency
USA Jobs will redirect you to the hiring agency’s application system to complete the rest of the application process. Note that some agencies may require you to create a separate account on their site and possibly complete an Assessment Questionnaire that collects information about your experience, education, knowledge, and skills to determine your qualification for the position. Make sure to follow the instructions to complete the application and submit it for consideration. After you have submitted your application, you will receive a notification by e-mail that the agency has received your application.
BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):
It is important to take time to strategize and decide what positions you are qualified for. Read the announcement thoroughly and identify key words and requirements and use them throughout the resume where appropriate.
All opinions are my own and not those of my agency or the federal government.
Tim Buchanan works for the Navy in the civilian personnel workforce at Point Mugu Naval Air Station.