How to Land a Government Job
Considering applying for a government job? The application process differs from the private sector and applicants need to study up before embarking on a federal job search. AOL recently spoke to Kathy Troutman -- author of 'Ten Steps to a Federal Job' and 'Federal Resume Guidebook,' and president of The Resume Place, a career consulting and federal resume writing service -- to learn more about conducting a federal job search.
Q. What are the top federal jobs?
A. The top mission critical jobs are doctors, engineers, law enforcement and immigration personnel, accountants and auditors, lawyers, information technology specialists, program managers, program analysts, and administrators including contract specialist positions.
Q. What are the predictions for growth in the federal sector?
A. The predictions for job growth are excellent. According to The Partnership for Public Services' report, "Where the Jobs Are, Mission Critical Skills, 2009," more than 600,000 jobs will be filled in the next two years. That represents one-third of the entire work force. The increase in hiring stems from predictions of the number of baby boomers retiring and increased hiring in certain mission critical areas. The greatest growth is predicted in Washington, D.C., New York, Colorado, California (primarily in San Diego), Florida, Alabama, and Texas.
Q. What is the best way to find a federal job?
A. The best way is to begin looking for vacancy announcements on the Office of Personnel Management's official job website, USA Jobs. You can search from the homepage by typing in a job title, college major or job subject and a city and state. Or you can click on the advanced/international search option and improve your criteria by searching for geographic region, salary, job title, or agency name. It's a good idea to spend time looking at the postings to get to know the positions, agencies, missions, duties, and salaries.
Q. How does the resume and application process for federal jobs differ from the application process in the private sector?
A. The federal resume is much longer; the typical length is four to five pages for the average federal job seeker with 15 years' experience. The federal resume must include more information to prove specialized experience and the federal vacancy announcement will include a lot of information about the skills, qualifications, competencies, knowledge, and abilities that are needed. Applicants should make every attempt to match their resume to the announcement. This can be very taxing for most federal job seekers. They are often shocked and amazed at the amount of detail needed in the resume.
You cannot write a good federal resume until you have studied the vacancy announcement. The federal resume has to match an announcement in terms of matching the keywords and accomplishments. Many people make the mistake of writing the resume first, then applying for positions. This does not work. The resume will be too general and will not match the announcement.
The federal resume, questionnaire, and documents are like an examination. The package is scored and only the scores of 90 and above are referred to a supervisor. Veterans have preference points added to their application. Veterans with 30 percent or more disability get placed at the top of the list and people without military service or disability cannot rise above them.
Q. What role does networking play in finding a federal job?
A. Networking can be very helpful when looking for a federal job. If you know someone who works in a federal agency, you can talk to them about the agency hiring plans and possible position announcements in the near future. Introduce yourself and let them know that you would like to work for the federal government. It helps if you know the type of position that you could be qualified for when talking to your contact.
You can also find an agency that would be of interest to you, or that is in your city. Look up the organization chart of that agency to learn about the various departments and offices. Look for the managers of those departments where your skills fit. Send an e-mail directly to that person with your resume and an introduction. A federal resume is preferable and should include a cover letter.
If you are a LinkedIn member, you can look for individuals who are federal employees and try to gain an introduction. Government agencies are using Facebook and Twitter to communicate mission and program activities for the agencies. If you follow your favorite agency on Facebook, you can stay on top of news events, programs, and legislation that can help you write a better federal resume and write better introductory letters.
Q. What's the future of the federal job posting process?
A. Federal hiring reform is progressing, but changes are coming about very slowly. Vacancy announcements and applications are supposed to get simpler; but for the moment, the application process for a federal position is still complicated and requires patience, diligence, and determination.