Tips to Get Government Jobs: Insider Secrets Federal Employees Won’t Tell You
I often have the pleasure of attending federal networking event. The information that I collected was very informative. Below are some of the tips that I received straight from a top executive at a federal agency.
1. FIRREA government agencies have the highest paying jobs.
FIRREA federal government agencies have high pay scales that are above the typical salaries listed on the GS pay scale. Most people do not know that there are analyst and mid-level federal government jobs that pay over $150,000 per year. These public service jobs are in various fields across the federal government. The FIRREA government agencies include:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Farm Credit Administration
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- Federal Housing Finance Agency
- Federal Reserve Board of Governors
- National Credit Union Administration
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
- Office of Financial Research
- U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
2. Don’t waste time applying to federal job postings that are open for less than a week.
On USAJobs the open period specifies the date the job listing opened, and the date it will close. If the vacancy announcement is open for less than one week, the job was likely posted for an internal candidate. If your federal resume is already closely tailored to the job posting then definitely apply. It is possible that the intended applicant may miss the deadline, giving you a shot at the job opportunity. But don’t spend lots of time tailoring your resume specifically for that position. It may not be worth the reward.
The only time this may not be true is for entry level federal jobs. In this case the federal job announcement may stay open for a short time period to limit the number of applications received.
3. Pay close attention to the job duties, requirements, qualifications and KSAs listed.
Be sure to read the job posting announcement carefully. Make a note of all key words when answering the questions and preparing your federal resume. Hiring managers intentionally plant fake answers within questions to weed out unqualified applicants. The answers may look correct but they will often have a point value of zero in the scoring system. Several zeroes will prevent your federal resume score from ranking high enough to reach the hiring manager. To avoid this, carefully read and compare your selected answers for each question to the KSAs listed.
4. Don’t lie about your skillsets.
This tip may sound obvious to most job applicants. However based on the discussions I have, it still happens very often. Federal employment candidates typically tailor their resumes to meet the qualifications specified in the job announcement. This can become a problem when the same candidate applies to different jobs requiring different KSAs. Managers can quickly spot candidates who copy and paste excerpts of a job announcement directly into their resumes. When a hiring manager finds a candidate with two completely different skillsets listed for completely unrelated jobs this is a red flag. Hiring managers will alert other managers and human resource professionals at the agency. This means you could be permanently blocked from all job listings within that agency as well as job postings with other federal agencies in the future.
5. Your resume should include lots of details.
In the private sector, the rule of thumb is the shorter the resume the better. In the world of government hiring, however the opposite rule applies. Resumes are typically two to five pages long. One federal hiring manager reported reviewing a resume that was ten pages long. I wouldn’t personally recommend this. But in this case, the candidate got the job offer.
When you submit a resume through USAJobs, a human resource specialist is the first to evaluate it. Often times, the federal human resource specialist has a limited understanding of the qualifications needed for that job. Do NOT assume that the reader will know all key words for your job industry. For example, if a job announcement calls for “business intelligence” and your resume mentions “analytics”, don’t assume the federal human resource office will understand that these two subjects are related. In this case the human resource professional may pass over your resume. To avoid this, be sure to provide as much detail as possible. I’d recommend using as many key words as you can find to accurately describe each job title in your resume.
6. Network, Network, Network
Join informal and formal networking groups that are comprised of federal workers. Attend their events. LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to start. However there are other events and groups that are frequented by federal hiring managers and top executives of government agencies. Sign up for Fedscoop and join AFCEA for other networking opportunities. YAFCEA which stands for Young AFCEA may be a better choice if you are under age 35-40. There should be local chapters in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas.
Make sure you’re friendly. Speak with as many people as possible. Be willing to help. Of course people are more willing to help when you have information of value to offer in exchange.
7. “Why are you interested in this position?”
Please prepare a good explanation for this question. Many excellent candidates have failed interviews because of this question. Responses that were rated as absolute no-no’s ranged from “I want a shorter commute.” to “I’m looking for a permanent job where I can work and retire.” Many hiring managers already understand that federal applicants want job security. It’s just not a statement that a hiring manager wants to hear.
This applies especially within the FIRREA agencies. FIRREA agencies are focused on Financial Regulatory reform. Because these agencies pay higher salaries than other agencies, hiring managers expect much more from the applicant. These hiring managers are looking for individuals who are eager to better the economy, not just someone who wants to punch a clock.
8. Apply even if the duties, requirements, qualifications and KSAs are slightly above your level.
Based on my discussions with several employees, the skills listed in many job announcements are more demanding than the actual job in federal service. This is especially the case when transitioning from the private sector to the public sector. Many federal employees with backgrounds in private industry report that the job they are doing does not use all of the skills that were required in the job announcement.
9. Behavioral interviews are becoming the gold standard.
Federal hiring managers are becoming more hip to interview techniques that reveal how candidates respond to situations on the job. Agencies are looking for people who have good leadership skills. Come prepared to talk about previous situations where you led a project or had a conflict that led to an specific outcome. Hiring managers want to know that they can trust you to make good leadership decisions. They also want people who learn from their mistakes.
Final word of advice
Be patient. It can take up to four months to complete the federal interview and hiring process. Good Luck!