- Learn how to find federal job opportunities
- Understand the nuances of the application process
- How to prepare for your interview
A federal job search is much different than hunting for a new position in the private sector. It requires extra patience and determination because the government job application and hiring process is often more precise and time-consuming in comparison with a typical job. You can only apply for a federal job if you meet all the qualifications listed in the job announcement and submit every required document. With so many specifics, how do you find the right fit for your experience, skills, and education?
Getting a federal job may sound difficult, but it is possible with some perseverance and related knowledge. Federal positions come with many benefits, such as health care, paid time off, and pensions, which make all the hard work to secure a job worth it. Competition for federal jobs is fierce, so it’s important to know how to write a federal resume, quickly find vacancy announcements, and take advantage of special hiring paths. Learn more about the application process and how to get a federal job below.
A federal job is a position with the U.S. government. These jobs are available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, all U.S. territories and more than 140 foreign countries worldwide. Positions span across multiple industries, from administration to engineering.
The majority of federal government jobs fit into three service categories: competitive service, Senior Executive Service (SES), and excepted service.
Most federal positions are competitive service jobs, subject to civil service laws that ensure fair and equal treatment of applicants in the hiring process. To secure a competitive service job, you may need to complete a written test and evaluation of your education and experience, in addition to submitting a resume and participating in interviews. You may also be required to fill out various questionnaires about yourself.
The SES is the smallest service, with about 8,000 members nationwide. This service is where you will find executive-level jobs in the federal government — positions just below the top presidential appointees. Excepted service is any position outside of SES and competitive service, such as working for an intelligence agency.
One exception to these three main categories is the United States Postal Service (USPS), which fills job vacancies outside of the usual federal process. Special appointing authorities are another exception used to fill government positions. Noncompetitive appointing authorities are guided by law or executive order to directly appoint people with disabilities, veterans, and others who are exempt from competitive service.
More than two million Americans and foreign nationals work in the civil service, so the federal government is always looking to hire. USAJOBS.gov is part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and it’s the official job site for the U.S. government. All federal employment opportunities in the U.S. and abroad are listed on USAJOBS. Federal job seekers can create a USAJOBS profile to:
Hundreds of federal agencies use USAJOBS to find applicants and fill vacancies. Many federal agencies also list job openings on their organization’s website. If you know which agency you want to work for, you can sometimes find job opportunities faster by going directly to the agency’s site.
The U.S. government recognizes the diversity of our society and aims to reflect all Americans in their workforce. The government has a variety of unique hiring paths to help connect qualified individuals with federal jobs. Explore the following specialized paths at USAJOBS to see if you meet the requirements.
The established federal hiring process ensures all applicants receive the same fair and equal treatment when applying for a job. After you create a USAJOBS profile, you can search for and save federal jobs or automate searches. You can use filters like location, salary, work schedule, or government agencies to narrow your results.
The next step is to review the job announcement to see if you are eligible to apply. It will also list qualifications you need to fulfill. The job application is a five-step process you complete online, which includes attaching your resume and other required documents and submitting the application to the hiring manager of the agency. The status of your application is usually updated within a few hours.
Keep in mind that some federal resumes are first scanned for keywords by an automated system and applications with errors or missing information will be rejected. This process weeds out unqualified or ineligible applicants before sending the applications through to human resources. Be sure to include keywords from the job announcement in your resume and proofread everything so your application makes it through this checkpoint that some agencies use.
Are you unsure what to include in your resume? Check out these helpful federal government resume recommendations.
If you are selected as a highly qualified applicant, the hiring agency will schedule an interview with you. You may be subject to multiple interviews in person, over the phone, or via video conferencing. A panel of government employees may interview you, as well. Qualified candidates who pass the interview process are selected by the agency and given a tentative job offer.
If you choose to accept their offer, the agency will likely investigate to collect background information about you. You may also be required to pass additional security checks if the job requires a high-level security clearance. Once you pass all of these processes, the job is yours and the hiring manager will provide you with an official start date.
At Joblist, we know every job search is different. We use automation and advanced matching technology to help you find the right job as quickly as possible. Answer a few questions about yourself, then fill in your job preferences and we’ll analyze millions of jobs to find the best personalized matches for you. Take a quick and easy Joblist quiz to discover the top government jobs for you today.