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Phoenix Forward

5 tips to apply for federal government jobs

Applying for federal government jobs

Thinking about a career with the U.S. government? More than 5,000 federal jobs are listed on the USAjobs® website, and the application process is simpler now since essays are rarely required.

You’ll still have to provide a detailed employment history and tailored resumé, says retired Army Col. Garland Williams, associate regional vice president of the University of Phoenix Military Division, but you’ll have a better chance of landing a position you want and are qualified for by following these five tips:


Focus your approach.

Figure out your preferred federal agency, job title, geographic area and salary, Williams advises, and don’t apply to just anything that piques your interest but doesn’t fit your experience and goals. Above all, make sure you meet the job’s qualifications.

“The federal government is pretty black and white,” says Williams, who has a doctorate in international relations. If the job requires a bachelor’s degree but you have an associate degree, then “don’t waste your time going through the process,” he warns. “You won’t make it through the first round.”


Beef up your resumé.

Be prepared to expand on your work history from what you’d typically submit for a nongovernment job, Williams says.

On federal job applications, you must provide details such as past supervisors’ names, phone numbers and business addresses, as well as your salary history. If your former bosses have moved on, Williams recommends providing their current employment and contact information, if available.


Fill employment gaps.

A break in your work experience may be overlooked in the corporate world, but it won’t be on a federal job application. “Gaps in your work history raise questions about your qualifications,” Williams says.

If you stopped working to return to school, make sure you explain that. Another strategy is to provide information about any volunteer or community activities you’re involved in, especially if they relate to the vacancy’s skill requirements. If you’ve been laid off, try to find time to volunteer while you seek work, Williams suggests, and add that to your resumé.


Follow directions.

Fill in every section on the application so it isn’t automatically disqualified, Williams emphasizes. Answer every question, too, such as whether it’s OK to contact past supervisors. “That’s the information employers want to know, and leaving it blank can be viewed as something you’re trying to hide,” he stresses.


Look outside USAjobs.

Openings at some federal agencies, such as the FBI and U.S. Postal Service, and in occupations such as U.S. attorneys, are “excepted,” meaning they don’t have to be posted on USAjobs — although they can be. If you’re interested in those agencies, Williams suggests contacting them directly about employment opportunities.

USAjobs is a registered trademark of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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