3 Hot Tips for Landing a Federal Job

Photo courtesy of fbijobs.gov

It's fun to give bureaucracy a hard time, but sometimes it really can work in your favor.

That can be especially true if you've got your eye on a federal job. If you know how the system works, you can work the system. And while the federal job application process can be lengthy, once you know how it works, you can devise a strategy that will land you an interview.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Successfully applying for (and landing) a job with the federal government requires patience and a battle plan.

So what's the best way to tackle the process? Plan on applying to at least two to three targeted jobs per week, and keep track of all your applications in a spreadsheet.

In the civilian world, it helps to know the right people. And while the federal job application process prevents you from contacting the hiring manager, that doesn't mean you can't network with other federal employees in the agency you're seeking to join.

Ready for some tips? Here are our top three suggestions.

Related: Search for Veteran Jobs

1. Be Willing to Throw Your Net Wide.

Remember: Federal jobs are in high demand, and the larger the agency, the more applicants there will be. Consider applying to smaller agencies. There's no rule that says you can't apply for multiple positions spread across multiple agencies.

You may have your eyes set on a job with the CIA, but don't rule out other agencies that might offer similar positions.

Pro Tip: It might be easier to get into a smaller, lesser-known agency and then move sideways to your more desired agency. Don't limit yourself and your choices. Consider getting to your dream career by entering through the side or back door.

Related: How Federal Jobs are Filled

2. Never Shotgun Blast Your Resume.

Read each job position carefully. The federal job application process is designed to select the best applicants while also avoiding any hint of discrimination.

Always focus on measurable results. This is the language that hiring managers understand.

Pro Tip: Tailor your resume (don't lie) to highlight how your skills and experience match the position. Remember to show and tell. Be sure to show how you are results-oriented with measurable data. Let's say you are newly transitioned out of the military. Let's also say you were infantry in the Marine Corps. You might focus on your leadership skills, write about your mission-oriented nature and detail how you accomplished goals and thrive in a fluid, high-stress environment.

3. Keywords. Keywords. Keywords.

Take note of keywords in the job description. As long as you legitimately meet the specified requirements (don't be afraid to apply even if you don't meet all the requirements) or are able to do the job, then take those keywords and use them in writing your resume.

If the federal agency is using an applicant tracking system (an algorithm that reads your resume before a human ever does and determines whether you meet the basic qualifications), this strategy will help you get past it to an actual human who will read your application and resume.

-- Sean Mclain Brown can be reached at sean.brown@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @seanmclainbrown.

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