The road to a federal job is sometimes rocky, never smooth, but navigable if you can follow their instructions.  Some folks apply without really knowing what they are doing and give up in a pique of frustration.  Below are steps to help you stay focused and, if you are willing to follow them, can lead to federal job search success.


Federal occupations have four-digit codes, called the series.  The OVERVIEW Section of the vacancy announcement has an element that reads “Series and Grade.”  It provides a two-letter code followed by the series, then the pay grade.  Researching the series for your profession, and using it to complete your search provides a comprehensive list of openings.


Taking the time to analyze the federal vacancy announcement will help you to avoid unintentionally applying for jobs for which you will not be considered.  Since it takes 12+ hours to complete each federal application, you want insure that you meet basic requirements before you start writing.

A 3-APPLY model for analyzing a vacancy announcement will help:

  1. Are you eligible to APPLY?
  2. Are you qualified to APPLY?
  3. Are you able to follow the How to APPLY instructions?


Review the Area of Consideration/Who May Apply line in the OVERVIEW section to determine if you are eligible to apply.  If you do not meet these requirements, your application is discarded.  Rule of thumb: if you understand their wording, you are probably eligible; if it says U.S. Citizen or The Public, you are.  If it says status candidate, CTAP, VEOA, etc., and you don’t know what it means, in you are probably not eligible to apply.


At this point in your analysis, skip the DUTIES section, unless the QUALIFICATIONS section refers back to it.  In federal hiring, if you are applying based on experience, you need at least 80% of the specialized experience reflected in this section.

Fifty-two weeks of experience at the next lower grade-level is required for every job, yet there is no easy way to research what that means.  Your current level of responsibility should help you to determine its federal equivalent: General Schedule (GS) 9-11 = lower-level management; GS 12-13 = mid-level management; and GS 14-15 = top-level managers.

There are three basic ways to qualify for a federal job: 1) education, OR 2) experience, OR 3) a combination of the two.  The QUALIFICATIONS section often contains federal jargon, so following these guidelines will help to analyze it effectively.

The occupational questionnaire contains competencies that absolutely MUST be addressed in your résumé.  Rate yourself as high as possible, and make sure your résumé includes the appropriate justification.  Your résumé should be a stand-alone document where your experience is clearly documented.


You absolutely must follow the HOW TO APPLY instructions exactly as they are written.  Do not read into them, do not interpret them, just follow them.  Federal hiring managers want employees who can follow their instructions, even if they are difficult to understand.


Using the USAJOBS résumé builder is advised because it contains the required information for federal Human Resources staff to complete their paperwork.  Without completed paperwork, your application will not be reviewed.  Without a review, it cannot be referred to the hiring manager for selection.


It is your job to earn 100 rating points for each application package, more if you have Veteran’s preference.  The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section can hold 20,000 characters, so take full advantage of this space.  A federal résumé can be as long as 5-6 pages so don’t be concerned about the amount of targeted information you include.

Following these directions will result in an application package that gets you noticed.  Knowing what you need to do and how to do it can remove your apprehension and keep you on track to a federal job!!

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