Have you ever been told that you were the “runner up” when you weren’t selected for a job?
It plants a seed of fear in job seekers who are already overwhelmed by the federal job search process. Whether you were outperformed in the resume review phase or the complex interviewing process, being labeled as the “runner up” or being passed over by one or two other candidates can be so discouraging.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.
The federal hiring process is different, but that shouldn’t overwhelm you. There are steps you can take to improve your chances of being selected for a job before you even start writing your federal resume. Start by asking yourself these five questions.
1 | Am I eligible to apply for the job?
This may seem like a silly question, but government agencies aren’t as lenient as corporate recruiters and HR professionals. A USAJobs announcement even has an Eligibility section and specific eligibility questions on the Application Questionnaire. It’s that big of a deal.
Eligibility can be as limited as previous or current federal employees only or may include veterans, military spouses, or individuals with disabilities. If you’re not eligible, don’t waste your time creating a resume or putting together an application package. It won’t be seen.
2 | Am I minimally qualified for the job?
I’m not implying that federal job seekers are stupid by starting off with two very basic, and what may seem silly, questions. Government agencies have tight hiring rules and regulations meaning there’s no wiggle room when it comes to the qualifications for the job. In fact, there is a government agency that is responsible alone for establishing the qualifications needed for each job series (It’s the Office of Personnel Management if you’re wondering who to blame).
Minimally qualified means you possess the required Specialized Experience and the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) as determined by the specific job announcement and Application Questionnaire. If you don’t minimally qualify, writing a federal resume will be a waste of your time.
3 | Do my answers to the Application Questionnaire present me as the best candidate for the job?
This step is skipped by most unsuccessful federal job seekers. Most USAJobs applications will start with an Application Questionnaire that you can preview on the job announcement. Many questions will be eligibility-related but several will ask you to rate how well you meet the minimal requirements. Your goal is to rate yourself as high as honestly possible.
Here’s the next step commonly skipped. You must them write a federal resume with detailed examples that support your answers to these questions. If your answers don’t present you as the best candidate for the job, your federal resume won’t either.
4 | Do I have examples of how I demonstrated the Specialized Experience and KSAs from my work history?
These examples are critically important to being ranked as a “Best and Referred” candidate. Since your federal resume will be read by HR Specialists rather than computers, these examples are what will present you as the best fit for the job and what will make you stand out from other qualified candidates.
Your examples should be results-oriented and describe how you demonstrated the required Specialized Experience and KSAs from the job announcement and Application Questionnaire. If you can’t describe how you’ve used the skills and experiences the government agency is looking for an ideal candidate, your federal resume won’t stand a chance against other candidates with solid work history examples.
5 | Does my background reflect that I believe in the agency’s mission?
Do you know what the agency’s mission is? Do you believe in that mission? Then your federal resume should reflect that you both understand and believe in that mission. Job announcements on USAJobs.gov will provide some information about the agency and its mission. Reflecting on your background and integrating how you have exemplified that mission in previous experiences will set you apart from other candidates.
Don’t waste your time writing a federal resume if you don’t know what the agency’s mission is, don’t believe in it, and can’t showcase how you will support that mission. These details are not only critical to the federal application process but also to your answers to a federal interview.
Before diving in to your next federal job applications, take a few minutes to ask yourself these questions.