If it has been a while since you’ve looked for a new government job, it may be helpful to go over the basics before you get started.
First, make sure that your USAJOBS account is up-to-date. Test your USAJOBS user name and password to make sure that they work. If they don’t, or you cannot remember your user name or password, work on resolving the problem before you start applying. You do not want to find yourself unable to get into your USAJOBS account at 11:58 PM on the night the job is closing! Contact the USAJOBS Help Desk for assistance: https://www.usajobs.gov/ContactUs.
You should also check your USAJOBS Profile. Make sure that you have properly identified all of your hiring eligibilities. Are you a veteran? If so, are you 5 or 10 points? Are you a 30% or more compensably disabled? Are you eligible under the Veterans Recruitment Act (VRA)? Do you have a non-military related disability? If so, you may be eligible for consideration under Schedule A for people with disabilities. Are you currently in the competitive service? If so, it is likely that you have “status.” If you are currently in the excepted service, you may be eligible for apply as a status applicant—or you may not. It is not uncommon for people to forget to include one or more of their hiring eligibilities on their profile. Human Resources (HR) can help you determine your various hiring eligibilities. You should be sure that you understand and you’re your various hiring eligibilities on your USAJOBS Profile before you apply for jobs. Once you apply, HR will determine your eligibility based on your profile; if it is not on your profile, you will not receive consideration. Likewise, if you have identified veterans’ preference, be sure that your documents are uploaded and readable.
Other things to think about in your USAJOBS profile include location, level of work, and objective. None of these are required fields in the USAJOBS profile and I generally do not recommend completing any of these sections. A lot of applicants check off 20 or more locations where they are willing to work. When your USAJOBS resume is printed, these display vertically on the page and take up a lot of room. Instead, I recommend not applying for positions in locations where you do not want to work. And, if a job is offered in more than one location, it is likely that the occupational questionnaire will ask you to identify the specific locations for which you wish to be considered so having this information in your profile is unnecessary. I do not find level of work to be particularly useful either. The HR people do not generally look at this and I do not think it adds anything to your application. Finally, I think that putting an objective in your profile is limiting. Sometimes I see objectives which say something along the lines of, “to find a position where my skills can be used…” Who doesn’t want a job where their skills are used? Besides, most employers are not interested in what you want, but rather how you can help them! Or, sometimes an objective might say, “to obtain a job at the Veterans’ Administration.” What if you apply for a position at the Department of Agriculture? Are you going to remember to change your profile each time? To avoid these issues, I recommend leaving the objective section blank. You want your profile to include all of the required information but not include extraneous information.
With federal job postings receiving hundreds, and sometimes thousands of applications, you want to keep your information accurate and complete but not “overload” HR with information that they do not need or want.
Nancy Segal is a federal career and job search expert. Following her own senior-level federal HR career, she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC to provide HR management perspective to astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy is also one of our premier management and career development trainers for our online webinars.