Federal positions offer meaningful work, competitive salaries, great benefits, and oftentimes portability. On the surface they sound like the perfect employment opportunity, and for many, they are. Federal positions are often highly competitive, so as a military spouse, your challenge is to understand the federal hiring process and prepare yourself appropriately to be competitive.
It’s great to be enthusiastic, but you must also be realistic. Obtaining a federal position can take time. If you need a job quickly or within a few months, federal employment probably isn’t a good choice for you. A better option may be pursuing a job in the private sector or investigating a non-appropriated funds position as a stepping stone towards federal employment. Don’t give up on your goal of obtaining a federal job, but understand you might need to continue your search after you find immediate employment.
Get assistance by using available resources
The federal hiring process is extremely competitive. Many times, huge numbers of applicants apply for open positions. You may be competing against other qualified candidates who have already held a federal job, are from a preferred candidate pool or have more targeted experience. But there are steps you can take to prepare yourself, build a better résumé and be more competitive. These include:
- Take a federal résumé class at your local installation or Career One-Stop center. Get an overview and collect information on the federal hiring process, résumé and application.
- Visit USAJobs, the federal government hiring website. Familiarize yourself with the resource materials. Create a profile, search for jobs, locate a position of interest, review the application and start your draft résumé. Write a list of questions and contact your employment counselor for clarification and advice.
- Meet with an employment counselor at your local installation or call a SECO counselor at 800-342-9647 to discuss your background, qualifications and interests. Ask for their input on the types of federal positions you qualify for and should seek. Request tips to develop your application and résumé.
- Review federal agency websites and learn more about the agencies, their missions and their goals. Determine how your skills, experience and education make you a great candidate. Call the listed agency contact to ask questions or obtain clarification.
- Consider excepted service positions and non-appropriated fund – “NAF” – positions if this is your first time seeking federal employment – it may help get your foot in the door. Be aware, however, the hiring process can take up to a year.
Everyone you speak to about federal résumés will have different opinions and approaches. There is no guaranteed format or methodology for gaining federal employment, so weigh the information you receive and utilize what makes most sense to you.
Your goal is to “sell yourself” to the evaluator(s) so they will mark you as a qualified candidate. Illustrate how your education, background, skills and training make you the best candidate for the agency and the position.
You may want to use these tips as you develop and refine your résumé:
- Analyze the vacancy announcement to determine if you are qualified and decide what type of résumé you need to use.
- Tailor your résumé for each position. Show you meet the specific requirements of the job and the goals of the agency. Focus on your job related knowledge and skills. Demonstrate how your skills match those needed for the position.
- Target your work experience (paid and unpaid) to the position you’re applying for.
- Focus on the past 10 years of work or volunteer experience unless highlighting experience prior to 10 years adds tremendous value to your résumé.
- Highlight achievements, awards, results and accomplishments. Don’t brag – be honest.
- Include job-related certificates, licenses and training courses with title/year.
- Incorporate keywords you find in the job announcement and mirror the wording using your accomplishments. Use keywords when possible throughout your résumé.
- Résumé appearance. Your résumé should be easy to read, with plenty of white space and perfect spelling and grammar. Have others review and edit your résumé to ensure perfection.
- Résumé length. Federal résumés average four to six pages. If you need additional space to highlight your qualifications and accomplishments, that is acceptable.
Researching the process and obtaining assistance with your federal résumé and application will save you a tremendous amount of time and frustration as you navigate the federal hiring system. To achieve maximum results, use your resources, understand the rules and tailor your résumé to the specific position you’re applying for.
If you have questions or need additional information on the federal hiring process, visit Military OneSource/SECO or call 800-342-9647 to talk with a career counselor.