How to Land a Government Job

Federal government jobs are highly sought after because they are generally stable and provide good benefits. Moreover, many employees like the idea of contributing to their country’s success by working in a government job.

There is an impressive number of government jobs available, as the government currently has over two million civilian employees. In addition, these jobs are located all over the country and overseas. You can find a government job regardless of your interests, background or education, as there are wide-ranging jobs available in this sector.

The process of applying to a government job is complex, with multiple websites listing an overwhelming amount of current job openings. You must consider the guidelines and requirements for each job type and government level. You need to know what jobs you are qualified for, which agencies may consider you and how to apply correctly in order to increase your odds of landing a government job.

Know Where to Start

Despite the fact that nearly every government agency has its own website, combing through each individual website would be a nearly endless endeavor. As such, the first place you must visit online is USAJOBS.gov, where nearly all federal job openings are posted.

Generally, the website will include information on the duties, responsibilities, benefits, necessary qualifications and application guidelines for each position. When you find jobs you are interested in, visit each individual agency’s website to find more information about the job and the agency itself.

Be sure to register on the USAJOBS website, as some jobs require you to apply through its employment portal. The site lets you save jobs of interest, upload your resume or CV, apply for employment opportunity updates and track your job applications as they move through the system.

Learn How to Apply for the Right Jobs

Applying for multiple jobs and hoping something sticks is not a good strategy when looking for a government job. Take the time to review the job description, often called a vacancy announcement, carefully.

Related Article: Little-Known Job Search Tips

Read the whole announcement and complete the entire occupational questionnaire before applying for any position. Here are a few tips for navigating government job listings:

  • Look under “Who May Apply” to see if you are eligible.
  • Only apply for jobs listed as open to “all sources” unless you have worked for the federal government in the past or are a military veteran.
  • Review the “Qualifications” to make sure you meet the minimum required standards.
  • Be sure you have the required education before applying.

How to Take Advantage of Preferential Status

Military veterans get preference for nearly all government jobs in the United States. If you have served in the military, you have an edge over a similarly qualified individual who does not have military service on his or her resume.

In order to qualify for veteran’s preference, you must show documentation of a general or honorable discharge from service. Volunteers who have just returned from serving in AmeriCorps VISTA OR the Peace Corps are considered a high priority for government jobs.

The key is to apply for government jobs within a year of successfully completing your volunteer service. Most agencies can interview and hire these volunteers without having to go through the usual, lengthy process of posting the job and following complex hiring guidelines.

Be Thorough When Applying

You cannot simply upload your resume or CV when you apply for a government job. If you see a job you are interested in, apply right away, as many jobs are in high demand.

Under the How to Apply section of a job description or vacancy announcement, look for the list of required documents. Make sure you have all of them before you begin the application process, as your application may not be processed if any documents are missing.

After applying and uploading all required documents, you may need to provide additional personal information, more documentation and answers to qualifying questions.

When you have finished the application process, double-check to make sure your application is shown as having been received by the agency. It must read “received,” but if it does not, check back in a few hours. Some sites do not update immediately.

How to Tailor Your Resume or CV to Government Jobs

An all-purpose resume does not get you the government job you are seeking. Comb through the job description to see what the responsibilities and duties are so you know what to highlight on your resume.

Summarize your job skills and experience on the top half of the first page of your resume. Hiring managers often receive thousands of applications for a government job.

By highlighting your qualifications up front, you ensure your resume is reviewed in more detail later. Do not let your qualifications get buried too far down the page.

Normally when you apply for a job, you want to keep your CV as short and concise as possible though this is not the case with most government jobs. Government jobs have specific requirements, so you are required to submit more details than usual.

A CV or resume four or more pages long is considered desirable. Use keywords found in the job description and any technical terms used in the vacancy announcement. Show proof of your proficiency in these areas with specific examples.

Be Patient

Unfortunately, government job requests rarely process quickly. Most jobs are not filled for three to four months, with some taking even longer. Check the status of your application online to see if there is progress.

If you do not hear anything after several weeks, you can send an email to the contact person listed on the vacancy announcement. Keep in mind you may not have been ruled out just because it has been two months since you have applied.

Rock Your Interview

When you get a phone call asking you to interview for a government job, take the time to prepare properly. Do your homework on both the job and the agency. Detail how your qualifications can further the goals of the agency and why you are excited to contribute to their mission.

Ask questions about your role in the organization and the organization’s role in the world. Reading press releases about the organization and visiting the agency’s website are both helpful in this regard.

Do not ask self-centered questions about the perks and benefits. At this point, it is all about what you bring to the table and how you fit the agency’s mission.

Related Article: Best Types of Questions to Ask an Interviewer

It might also interest you: