Categorized | Career, Featured

How to Get a Job with the Federal Government

So you are job searching and have turned your eyes towards the Federal government. After all, the chances of losing a federal job are far less likely to happen than in private industry.

But how can you find job openings and what is the process like?

Where to Go

If you are in search of a Federal job, go to USA Jobs (If the internet is an issue, here are the phone numbers: 1/703-724-1850 or TDD 1/978-461-8404). USA Jobs is the official job site for the United States Federal government. In fact, any job that is available is required to be placed on the site. At any given time there are thousands of jobs posted. At publish date, there are more than 45,000 Federal government jobs available worldwide. Out of curiosity I typed in a few different cities to see the availability:

  • Washington DC: 13,968
  • Baltimore: 1,922
  • Philadelphia: 7,682
  • New York: 3,149

I searched the North East because that is where I am from, but when looking at a few random cities on the West Coast there were plenty of jobs available there, too.


The Application Process

The first thing you should do is click on the tab “My USA Jobs.” By doing so, you can upload your resume, get noticed by recruiters, apply to jobs in the job bank, and create alerts that will notify you when a job is available.

Next, click “Search Jobs” so that you can search for jobs of your interest in whatever area you intend to work in.

After reading through the job listings and finding one that suits you, applying for the job will be as simple as clicking the “apply” button and following the instructions. In the cases where there is no “apply” button there will be instructions on how to apply on both the internet and standard mail.

Federal Process

Everyone is familiar with the job application process for a private company. You contact the companies directly, get them your resume via email, mail, or fax, and then you get an interview. However, with federal agencies the process is slightly different because of all the laws and executive orders that govern employment.

Some agencies fill jobs like private companies, but there are still some underlying differences.

There are two different classes of jobs in the Federal government:

  • Competitive Service jobs –These jobs are under the Office of Personnel Management’s jurisdiction and must obey the civil service laws passed by Congress. These laws were passed to ensure equal treatment for all applicants while ensuring the selected candidate meets the qualification requirements.
  • Excepted Service agencies – Excepted Service agencies set their own qualifications. They do not have to abide by the appointment, pay, and classification rule in Title 5 of the US Code. However, they are still subject to the veterans’ preference. Agencies like the FBI and CIA only offer these types of positions. Jobs can get classified as excepted service by law, executive order, or by the act of the OPM.

To make the process more “friendly,” the OF-612 (Optional Application for Federal Employment) is option in place of a resume. Previously, the SF-171 had to be filled out. Now it is rarely accepted.

Make Yourself Stand Out

Other than that, all of the typical rules apply. Use your resume as a way to make yourself stand out. Use action words, be concise, make your results stand out, focus on measurable accomplishments, etc.

Good luck!

Let me know if anyone here has used USA Jobs to get a Federal job and how you liked the process!

If you have any suggestions for anyone going through the process, please comment and share!

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MLR is passionate about saving for his future while maintaining a high quality of life. He currently resides in a great town, has a wonderful girlfriend, adopted the cutest puppy ever, and works for a Fortune 500 company.

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26 Comments For This Post

  1. Adam Says:

    All I can add to this is to be prepared to wait. The Government has a very slow hiring process in just about anything. I applied to a position at the IRS in March and the process is still going on. I recently completed an online assessment and am waiting for MORE instructions.


    MyLifeROI Reply:


    The government… slow?! No way! :) What IRS building are you applying to? Washington DC or Philadelphia? I know those are 2 of the large ones…

    You are definitely correct, though. Good point to add. Don’t quit your job, people. It may take a while!



    HR Specialist Reply:

    I work as an HR specialist for a large government agency. The most helpful things I can offer are:

    1) look at the area of consideration for the job and make sure you are in the area of consideration. This means “the pool of candidates we are looking at for the job”. If you are not in the area of consideration, don’t even bother applying.

    2) Your application must must must must must be complete. Include ALL of the information we ask of you. Yes we will read ALL of it and your WHOLE resume, much to our dismay. (we are legally required to). However, we will not forward your resume on to a manager unless we can verify that you are eligible and qualified for employment. This means that if you are in the area of consideration, such as you are applying as a candidate under the VEOA (Veterans Employment Act) you must make sure you at least give us the dates of your military service or the medals earned to show us you are entitled to veterans preference. If a DD214 is requested to prove your eligibility, you have to include it. Same with things like, including the # of hours per week that you worked at each job. We do not assume every gig is full time. If you don’t include hours, we cannot consider that experience. Also we need to know at least roughly what dates you worked at each job to see how many years of experience you have at each job. Bottom line, be COMPLETE and include ALL information. If you don’t we easily can toss out your application as incomplete for something as little as leaving out some dates. It happens all the time, don’t let it happen to you.


    MyLifeROI Reply:

    @HR Specialist,

    In re: to point 1, how many of the applicants do you find do not belong applying? Do you just toss those apps?

    And for point 2, very good information. I didn’t realize it was THAT stringent. But I guess it makes some sense? They probably don’t want to get into judgment calls and put themselves at risk of lawsuit.

    Thanks for the insight!



    HR Specialist Reply:


    A LOT OF APPLICANTS apply that shouldn’t be applying because usually the area of consideration is limited to only current federal employees or only certain status candidates such as veterans, for instance. We don’t toss the apps, we have to keep them for 3 years, but we do not consider them or forward them to management because they are outside of the area of consideration. It all goes back to fairness. Someone may have seen that announcement and not applied because they realized they were outside the area of consideration. To now forward someone that read the same announcement but applied anyway would not be fair to that person that followed the rules. It really depends on the announcement but I would say at least 25-50% of applicants who apply do not usually fall within the area of considerations on jobs I post. However the jobs that I work with typically do not have a wide area of consideration (they do not need a wide area, most of the time a current federal employee or a former military will have the experience they are looking for, so narrowing the field speeds up recruitment for them, which is already a long and arduous process). There are jobs out there that consider all US citizens. If you otherwise do not fall into a status category, you should be applying under those announcements.

    The federal government gets sued all the time in relation to jobs and HR issues. Yes it is VERY strict and stringent as the consequences of HR not following the rules can be extreme (retroactive hiring and backpay, even if the job is no longer funded or existent even).

    Bottom line is that a lot of effort is put into a federal job announcement. Every word is chosen carefully for a reason. If we ask you to include something or mention something in your application, it is for a very specific reason. To not follow our direction on the announcement could lead to your losing consideration for a position.


    Natalia Reply:

    @HR Specialist,

    Hello I have a question not sure if you can answer but I am applying for the position you are in. The position is in Dallas TX and I really want my chances to be atleast considered. Is there any advice on my resume or are you allowed to view my resume? I know I have to fill out the questions I just do not want something in my resume to hold my chances of getting tossed because of qualifications!



    Trae Reply:

    @HR Specialist, So my current job status says, “Application under consideration”. In my email it also stated that my app was sent to a selecting officer, can you break down where I am in this process?


    Natasha Reply:

    @Trae, did you ever get the positon? and if so how long did it take from Application under consideration to an offer? I’ve been at that status for about a month now.


  2. Roger Says:

    Not bad advice, MLR; USAJobs has been high on my list of places to apply for much of my job hunting the past few years. So far, no luck, but I’m trying to remain optimistic; the Federal Government offers some terrific benefits. I’ll second Adam’s comments, though; it is a long process, even by job application standards.

    Roger’s last blog post..Mid-Week Update: New Job Report!


    MyLifeROI Reply:


    No luck why? Have you been getting the run around, no jobs available, or just hard to navigate?

    And they definitely offer GREAT benefits. My uncle worked for them until the day he died, and he didn’t have to worry about his medical bills and my Aunt doesn’t have to worry now as far as I know.

    And yeah, I’ll emphasize that again for readers: It is a LONG process!


    Roger Reply:


    Mostly, just having the trouble of applying online and then having the information disappearing into the ether. Plus of course, the length of application process and the time needed to fill out the information each time. But yes, the federal government is quite the good place to work, benefits-wise. And so, I will keep applying, as long as I find decent jobs in my field nearby.

    Roger’s last blog post..Mid-Week Update: New Job Report!


    MyLifeROI Reply:


    What departments, just out of curiosity? Obviously different sectors have different demand.

    As far as filling out the info each time, does’t USA jobs allow you to create an online profile w/ resume to make submitting applications easier?


    Roger Reply:

    @MyLifeROI, mostly the Department of Environmental Protection, although I’ve also applied to other branches as well. And though USA Jobs allows you to save a resume and other information, if you are redirected, you frequently have to fill out a new contact form. Which can mean a half hour or more work per job application, just for initial application.

    Roger’s last blog post..Charity Spotlight: Operation Smile


  3. Joe Says:

    I have a question I hope someone here can answer. I am a veteran with 5pts vet preference who applied for a job with the Dept of the Army. My resume was reviewed and I was selected as one of the qualified candidates. They informed me that my resume was forwarded on from the Army central resume processing center to the hiring authority at the base where the job is located. This was 5 weeks ago and I have not been contacted by anyone.

    I have called around at the base but no one can provide me with any information about the job or who is actually making the hiring decision. I have two other job offers right now that I am considering but would really prefer this position due to job security and benefits.

    My questions: Is there any chance I am still under consideration for this position? Why is it so difficult to find out the status of this position after the job announcement has closed?

    Needless to say, I am very frustrated with the whole process. Any information anyone can provide would be appreciated.


  4. Alona Says:

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing these tips.


  5. Natalia Says:

    I believe we all feel your pain. My husband and I are in the same boat. We are applying for several positions and the applications take about 3 hours to complete and what is fustrating is to go through all that and not get a call or anything is wrong! My brother works for EPA for like 10 years and he loves it there! My question is there an easier way to answer the questions without looking at looking at the computer for 5 hours? And also some of the questions seem like the same question and my examples seem to be for multiple questions should I put the same answer?


  6. Teresa Says:

    I have been filling out apps and taking tests since Nov 2009, I have scored 100, 99, 98 and 95 all in Information Technology. That’s as far as I get – I never hear anything but they have over 2000 IT jobs posted. It’s so discouraging.


    Randy Reply:

    It is frustrating. I’ve been applying for various jobs in supply chain and logistics for the past 7 years. I have the education and experience they are seeking. I even worked for a major Defense Contractor and had security clearance. But I keep getting rejection notifications. But I’m not giving up.

    Of course you know the old adage, “be careful what you wish for”. I have met some ex-military people who are real butt-holes and I often wonder, what if I finally get my “dream job”, but had to work for some of these people.
    Best of Luck!


  7. Get Back With My Ex Says:

    Some people act differently after a break up. Some people ignore their ex altogether. Others will stay friends with them. Then of course there are those who may act rude toward their exes. Think about how you have acted since the break up, and how the ex has acted since. This will help you to get a handle on your chances of getting back together.


  8. Franko Says:

    I think with the economic crisis going on it will be more and more difficult to get federal jobs and the gov. will cut in its budget wich is way over inflated.
    Franko´s last [type] ..- Mistakes You Can Do Trying To Win Back Your Ex Girlfriend


  9. ideas Says:

    Great ,It’s really nice post. Thanks a lot for sharing.


  10. Ed Tessmacher Says:

    My personal experience with the Federal hiring process is that it’s fixed, 99.999% of people who apply have their applications tossed, and that positions are not filled based on merit, qualifications, or experience.

    I have personally filed over 190 applications in the past 7 years, and only garnered 3 interviews. I make absolutely certain that I meet or exceed the educational and experience requirements, or I don’t bother wasting the time to apply.

    For one of those three interviews, I was told I was the candidate the “selecting official” wanted to hire, but that the OPM “ordered him” to hire another candidate because she had made complaints about racial discrimination in the past. No job for me.

    The second interview lasted about 5 minutes, and I was told, “I’d like to hire you, because you’re the most experienced candidate we have, but you live too far away, and we don’t want to make you move.” (exact quote, I wrote it down.) No job for me again.

    The third one involved four separate applications for the same position, because one sentence was changed in each of the four announcements. I made the “Notice of Referral” list all four times, and when I finally contacted the “selecting official” he told me that he had no idea who I was, that he “never looked at the referral list, and had already selected another candidate.” (I wrote that one down too.) Third time, no job. As it turned out, that “selecting official” hired someone who already worked at the office in which this position existed. How’s that for favoritism, and who-you-know?

    I think that most, if not all Federal “selecting officials” already have someone in mind for a job, and have to go through the process because its the law. They hire who they want to in any case. I think it’s a total waste of time, because one has a better chance of winning the lottery. If someone could explain to me how to get hired for a position I exceed the qualifications for, I would love to meet them.


  11. Matt Says:

    I was told that I have the position, A friend helped me how to get hired. I quite my full time job with out notice I been there for 11 1/2 years. Then I was told that they will call to see if I am still there. And if I quite with out notice I will not get the job. I really had bad problems with my old job and they would not let me go or transfer to other facility’s so I quiet. But can they really call them and see if I still work there and then not hire me because I quiet my last job.


  12. Matt Says:

    I worked for the state government and got a better Fed job this was to add comment above. Can they really call them and if they found out that I left in bad terms they can change there minds about giving me the job.


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I'm MLR. After graduating from college debt free, I decided to write a blog encouraging people to adapt responsible and sensible personal finance rules.

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