Are you thinking about expanding your job search to and looking for a job within a federal, state, or local government agency?
If you thought the modern job search was frustrating, time-consuming, and discouraging before, let me introduce you to the federal job search...
There are three things you need to know before starting a federal job search:
- You’re not battling Applicant Tracking software; you’re battling requirements that have no wiggle room.
- To adequately demonstrate that you are minimally qualified, your federal resume will likely be 3-5+ pages long.
- When all is said and done, your federal application must earn over 90 points on a 100-point scale by a Human Resource Specialist physically reading your resume for you to be considered “Best Qualified and Referred” (which means you’re moving forward in the application process).
You may still be ranked as “Qualified” with at least 70 points which indicates that you are minimally qualified but you may not be referred to a Supervisor for consideration to move forward in the process. The next steps are reserved for the top-ranked candidates.
Did I lose you yet?
Yes, the federal job search process can be daunting. Luckily, you have a Certified Professional Resume Writer in your corner and ready to help you succeed. I’ll be publishing a new federal resume writing guide or resource every month for the rest of the year to help you navigate the federal job search.
Your country of citizenship is required on a federal resume or application because you must be a U.S. citizen or national to work for the Federal Government. There are some exceptions, though.
A federal agency may hire a non-U.S. citizen for excepted service positions (positions at agencies who set their own qualifications requirements and are not subject to the appointment, pay, and classification rules in Title V code) and are not subject to or Senior Executive Service positions (executive positions filled based on leadership qualifications) if the Appropriations Act, the Immigration Law, and the agencies internal policies allow it. A federal agency may also request to hire a non-U.S. citizen for a competitive service position (positions subject to the civil service laws passed to ensure fair and equal treatment in the hiring process) if no qualified U.S. citizen is available.
Hours Worked Per Week
There are compliance details required on a federal resume for each job you’ve held for the last ten years. One of these details is listing the average hours you worked per week.
HR Specialists reviewing your resume will be looking to ensure you meet the minimum requirements for the job which includes one year of Specialized Experience. The Federal Government defines one year as 40 hours a week for 52 weeks. Listing your average hours worked per weeks will determine whether you meet the minimum requirements for one year of Specialized Experience (more on Specialized Experience below!).
Supervisor Contact Information
Another major compliance detail that agencies need to see on your federal resume is your supervisor’s contact information. This includes your supervisor’s name, phone number, and the indication as to whether or not this supervisor may be contacted.
This is a requirement for background checks. Federal agencies will be using this contact information and permission not just for a reference but to verify your employment, position title, average hours work, and salary which can give some context to your level of responsibility (more on context below!). Don’t start to panic if you had personal differences and workplace conflicts with a supervisor, though. You can indicate that this supervisor may not be contacted or to contact you first.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs)
Your federal resume must have examples of experiences and accomplishments that prove you can perform the tasks at the level required for the job you are applying for. In fact, your federal resume must address every required qualification on the job announcement.
In addition to the listed qualifications, your resume must address the knowledge, skills, and abilities (also known as KSAs) which are typically listed in the “How You Will Be Evaluated” section. For you to demonstrate that you are minimally qualified for the job, your federal resume must showcase specific examples from your background that relate to these KSAs (such as knowledge gained from education or training, skills and abilities demonstrated throughout your work history, etc.).
Specialized Experience is the experience you have that is directly related to the position you are applying for. This experience will prove that you have the particular KSAs needed to do the job well, and nearly all job announcements will require you to possess and demonstrate at least one year of Specialized Experience at the equivalent or next lower grade in the federal service to qualify.
I can’t express enough the need to meet all of the minimal requirements before taking the time to write a federal resume and apply for a federal job. You will not be considered if you do not meet the minimal requirements. This may seem harsh, but the Federal Government has strict requirements due to its demanding responsibility to this country.
Context explains the factors, surrounding environment, and circumstances that affect your role. Adding context to your federal resume could be describing what instigated the challenges you faced, what your budget or time constraints were, and what organizational or external changes affected you and your responsibilities. Context should also describe your role more clearly. Were you a team member or a coordinator? What was your level of responsibility?
You should use context to quantify and qualify KSAs and Specialized Experience. Adding context to different areas of your federal resume will differentiate you from another candidate with similar skills.
If your federal resume doesn’t include accomplishments, then you are not demonstrating excellent past performance to federal agencies. Your accomplishments should be tailored to the KSAs required in the job announcement, too.
If you don’t have an accomplishment for every KSA, that’s okay. Having zero accomplishments to showcase for any of the KSAs is a serious problem that will affect whether you are ranked as “Best Qualified and Referred” or not. Consider the following questions if you’re struggling to come up with accomplishments:
- What have you done in this role that you are proud of?
- How did you contribute to your organization’s mission?
- More questions to consider…
Core Competencies (or Transferable Skills)
According to the Office of Personnel Management, core competencies are basic qualities that employees should exhibit in the workplace to maximize their potential for the government.” These are the transferable skills that can apply to a wide range of careers including:
- Building positive relationships
- Handling conflict and negotiations effectively
- Collaborating with others
- Communicating clearly
- Managing complaints and concerns promptly
- Remaining calm in high-pressure situations
- Solving problems creatively
- Encourages lifelong learning
These traits will help you stand out from other candidates with similar skills and should integrated into your Work Experience section for a stronger federal resume.
Stop applying to government jobs with a private sector or corporate resume, and create a separate resume that will land a federal job.
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