Federal jobs offer rewarding career opportunities for military veterans with excellent benefits and pay. Veterans who want to land a federal job have many resources to take advantage of, some before even leaving military service. If you know you want to apply for federal jobs, you can steer your transition assistance briefing questions in that direction, get advice from people you may know who have applied or are applying soon, etc.
But some leave the military and later decide they want a federal job–it can take time to sort out your post-retirement or separation plans. What should veterans do when looking for positions open for employment at the federal level?
Change Your Resume
It’s one thing to apply for a typical job in the private sector using a resume template or style you prefer; it’s another to try to use those resumes on the federal level. Your resume for federal jobs should be longer and more detailed.
Be prepared to significantly alter your resume writing approach for federal jobs. The level of detail is especially important, and that’s not advice from us, that’s advice from USAJobs.gov, the official job site for the federal government, which advises job seekers not to be stingy about describing their work history.
“Federal jobs often require that you have experience in a particular type of work for a certain period of time.” according to the official site. Applicants are expected to know that they must use their resume to describe how their skills and experiences “meet the qualifications and requirements listed in the job announcement to be considered for the job.”
Applicants are also urged to list not just paid experience, but also “relevant volunteer work” as well as “community organization roles that demonstrate your ability to do the job.”
And what about USAJobs Itself?
Create An Account At USAJobs.gov
USAJobs.gov is, as mentioned above, the official job portal for the federal government. That is not to say that you won’t find federal jobs at other government official sites, but this is a centralized application portal that allows you to create multiple resumes, apply for multiple government jobs or federal positions, etc.
Newcomers are required to create an account, login, and password. Once your account has been created you can search for federal job listings and create new resumes.
When creating resumes at this website, the level of detail you will need is different from shorter resumes such as curriculum vitae or functional resume styles. For federal job applications, you will need to list:
- Job starting and termination month and year
- Hourly commitment per week
- The depth of your experience and responsibility levels
- USAJobs advises, “Your experience needs to address every required qualification” on the job description.
Finding Federal Jobs
USAJobs.gov is not the only way to find federal jobs. If you are interested in working at the Department of Energy, you can review the DOE official site to find its Careers page (most federal agencies have one, often found by scrolling to the “footer” of the site’s main page) and look for listings there.
USAJobs.gov is the main site for all federal jobs, but each agency is responsible for listing its jobs on their official site, where applicable. The CIA, FBI, ATF, and other federal agencies will advertise both internally and externally for certain positions.
Your base’s career office and Veterans Affairs also provide information about available career opportunities. Be sure to check often as jobs are posted daily.
During your military career you’ve likely worked with federal employees. You may be able to utilize this relationship to gain insight into openings or additional networking opportunities to get your foot in the door. They may be your first source of information pertaining to future career possibilities.
Job fairs are another opportunity that can lead to federal jobs for military veterans. Attend any job fairs in your area to grow your network circle. Use this experience to connect with recruiters and hiring managers and to gain information about upcoming and current positions. Remember to dress for success and bring copies of your resume and business cards with you.
You can also turn to social media for your job search. LinkedIn can connect you with millions of other professionals and important social circles. Joining is free and grants you immediate access to job information, members in your network and helpful insight. Keep in mind that many organizations now promote job openings directly through other social media platforms as well, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Applying For And Interviewing For Federal Jobs
No matter where you apply for the job, it’s important to fully understand the nature of the position and the skills required. Always read the entire job announcement to make sure you fully qualify in the following areas:
- Technical qualifications
- Ability to properly follow federal job application instruction procedures (yes, this is a real thing)
- Educational requirements
- Time in service requirements
- Positional requirements
Of that list, “positional requirements” is crucial–some federal jobs are open only to those who have held a certain level of responsibility or rank in their last job or jobs. Other jobs are open only to those with a specific and narrowly defined set of skills.
Some openings are more lenient in these areas, but the farther up the management chain you go, the more requirements you are likely to find.
If you don’t meet these specific requirements, you won’t be considered. This is also true in cases where the job ad specifies the opening is only for those with current employment status in the federal government. Not all job ads are that specific, but some are.
In both the application process and the interview process, there are some good rules of thumb to follow. The first is to understand that your resume reviewer and interviewers will have seen hundreds of resumes before they get to yours. The same goes for your interview answers–the interviewers have heard many hours worth of interviewee responses.
That’s why it pays to be vigilant about avoiding cliches and common mistakes in the process–make your resume stand out and your interview answers get noticed by refining your information so that your main credentials can be understood quickly, that your resume’s most important data is immediately noticeable to the reader.
Also insure that your interview responses are engaged, appropriately enthusiastic, and that you sell your abilities while emphasizing your feelings about teamwork and working for the overall success of the projects you are involved with. Be concise on paper and in person, but don’t be evasive or defensive.
It is a very good idea to read the job description and look for keywords–especially where skills, education requirements, and experience are concerned. Memorize those keywords and be sure to reference them in your resume and cover letter, and again in the interview.
Keywords are an important part of any automated resume screening process, and they are important again when you are interviewed–interviewers are looking for a level of familiarity with the world they work in and expect you to work in.
You may have little to no experience in a federal agency, but those who show themselves to be adaptable, agreeable, and suitably experienced in other areas have an advantage in the hiring process.
Beware Of Scams
There are plenty of third parties offering to help land you a federal job. Unfortunately, what many job seekers don’t know is that these third parties are relying on the exact same resources the job seekers rely on–USAJobs, Monster.com, and other job boards.
Many third party companies use software known as “scrapers” to harvest federal job content from USAJobs.and other sites, then repackage that data and present it to customers for a fee.
Don’t pay third parties to “help” you find federal jobs. You can find them without paying and without investing disproportionate amounts of time looking thanks to the government’s centralized approach to advertising positions open at the federal level.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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