Federal Government Jobs

How to find, apply for, and land your dream job with the federal government

With relative job security, opportunities for career growth, and stable benefits, it makes sense that landing a position with the federal government is a goal for many job seekers. According to federal workforce statistics prepared for Congress in October 2019, there are approximately 2.7 million people employed in federal agencies (including the U.S. Postal Service) and working in roles that vary from clerical and administrative to skilled scientific, research-based positions. Navigating just how to find, apply for, and ultimately be hired for one of these coveted positions can be intimidating. That’s why we’ve put together a walkthrough on what to expect about using USAJobs.gov, the official employment website of the federal government.

According to USAJobs.gov, “the Federal Government offers unique hiring paths to help hire individuals that represent our diverse society.” You’ll find there are several different areas of the site dedicated to leading special populations like veterans, students, and recent graduates, individuals with disabilities, and others through the job application process. Depending on your eligibility, you could qualify for priority programs or special assistance during your search. For example, family members of overseas service members could be eligible for priority placement with overseas positions at the U.S. Department of Defense. For jobs categorized as open to the public, anyone who is a U.S citizen is eligible to apply.

Applying for a federal job is similar to the application process at large private companies but with a few extra steps. First, you need to create an account with login.gov and then create a profile on USAJobs. Once your profile is created, you can apply to jobs on the USAJobs website. You will have the ability to upload resumes and other documents. There is even a resume builder tool if you need to create a new resume. You can also save jobs you’re interested in and set automated searches so you’re alerted when a job title that matches your skill set becomes available.

When you’re ready to apply, read each job announcement carefully to ensure you have the minimum necessary educational and experience qualifications to make sure your application is accepted. Each announcement contains sections that detail important information you need to know before applying, such as the job’s overview, locations, duties, requirements, required documents, benefits and how to apply.

Once you build your application, you will then be sent to the application system of the specific federal agency that is advertising the job. The steps will vary depending on the agency, but you may need to provide additional personal information, provide extra documentation, or answer more in-depth eligibility questions. The hiring agency will start reviewing applications once the job announcement closes and will place applicants into either “minimally qualified” or “highest qualified” applicant pools.

After the hiring agency reviews all applications, the highest qualified applicants are sent to the hiring official—these applicants will see  Referred  in their application status. All other applicants who are not being considered will see a Not Referred status.

After the agency completes the interview process, they will select a candidate(s) and contact them to start the job offer process. For those not selected, the hiring agency will update their application status to Not Selected. Interviews can be conducted via a panel, in-person or by video and phone.

If you are the final candidate, the hiring agency will extend a tentative job offer. Once you accept this offer, the agency will start a background investigation. The agency may require additional security checks for jobs that need a higher-level clearance.

As with any job search, some common-sense rules still apply. Make sure you follow all instructions when submitting application paperwork and give complete, accurate information. Take the time to tailor your cover letter to highlight specific skills and experiences that relate to the duties of the position you’re applying for, and always check your documents for spelling and grammar. Make sure you visit the USAJobs website for more information and to get started on your journey to a career with the federal government. Once you land your dream job, you can take advantage of Excelsior College’s educational partnership with the federal government, that offers a discount on undergraduate and graduate tuition and fees if you decide to advance your education. Earning an MPA will prepare you for career advancement at state, federal or municipal government organizations. Good luck!

Looking for more career tips? Visit Excelsior’s Career Services.