Having Trouble Getting a Federal Job?

Beautiful details of government building with clear blue sky in the background.

Getting a federal job is a lengthy and difficult process. Many postings receive hundreds, or even a thousand or more applications. I tell most clients that 9-12 months is the time that it can take to get a federal position; while it can happen sooner, this is a realistic timeframe. Even if you are transitioning from the military, you should not expect to get a federal job immediately.

In my view, getting a federal job takes three things:

1. Applying for jobs for which you are truly qualified. By this I mean that you already possess the specialized experience required in the job announcement AND you can provide the highest and best answer to every question on the occupational questionnaire. If, when you review the questionnaire (and I always recommend reviewing the questionnaire before applying), you cannot provide the highest and best answer to each question (or at least 90%), you should pick another announcement.

2. Using a targeted, federal style resume. Federal resumes are much longer and more detailed than their private sector counterparts. Your federal resume should include all required information; use the key words from the announcement and questionnaire; prove your answers to the questionnaire; be in the federal style; and include accomplishments to show you can get results.

3. Patience. As noted above, getting a federal job is not quick.  A recent client who was transitioning out of the military just wrote, “I just wanted to say thank you for the great resume and let you know that my number finally came up!  It took me over a year and some months, but I stayed patient and applied for the right jobs until I got the one I wanted!  When I started this journey you told that patience was one of the key factors when looking for a federal job and you were definitely right!”

Of course there are no guarantees but there are a few other things you can do to maximize your opportunities for success:

Nancy Segal is a federal career and job search expert. She is also the author of The Complete Guide to Writing a Federal Resume which is available at www.fedweek.com. 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.

If you have any questions for Nancy concerning your federal career or the federal job search process you can email her at fedcareer@fedweek.com.