If you have decided the first or next step in your career should be getting a job in a governmental agency, there are a few things you need to make yourself ready for. The entire job hunting process is different than with private companies and simply navigating the usajobs.gov website may prove difficult. Hopefully, we can make things easier for you.
Finding the Federal Job for You
Job offers on usajobs.gov may seem easy to read at first glance, but you may soon find yourself lost among the bureaucratic writing and specific terms. They are also extremely detailed, and you will have to read through its entirety if you decide to apply.
Most terms can be easily understood after a bit of research, but one in particular deserves special attention: Series & Grades. For example, GS-0511-7/9. This is the way the Federal government categorizes and defines jobs. The series is a four-digit number that defines the field of work the job is in. Someone working in IT will have a different job series than a contractor will. The 0511 series in the example above is for an auditor position.
The Grade series is a number from 1 to 15, which shows the level of complexity, responsibility, and the experience required to get the job. A high-school diploma or about 3 months of experience will qualify you for a GS-2 position, while college graduates can aim for GS-7 positions. Higher positions require work experience and anything above GS-11 will require a doctorate.
What is a KSA and How You Should Write It
A KSA, which stands for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities, is a written statement for your knowledge, skills, and abilities, related to the job you are applying for. More simply put, a KSA is a story about your past experience, both personal and professional, where you state the things you’ve learned, the knowledge, skills, and abilities you’ve accumulated, and why you should be hired.
The government official, or officials, as in the case of some jobs a committee is required, will read your KSA first of all, which makes it extremely important. A KSA lacking any details, or one which stretches a few pages long, can take you out of the race before you even start. Sometimes, the job announcement will give indications as to how long your KSA should be, which makes things a lot easier.
But, in the cases where a length is not given, a one page KSA should be concise enough and also leave you room to go into details. A good trick is to pick two of your most relevant achievements and elaborate on those. Do not, under any circumstances, use bullet points throughout your narrative. It is supposed to be a story about yourself, where the person who reads it gets to know you better, not a list of qualities and flaws.
A Different Kind of Resume
Federal resumes are similar to regular ones, but have some key elements you won’t find anywhere else. You will have to incorporate these differences and write a different resume for each job you apply for.
From top to bottom, after you state your name and contact details, you will need to write a “summary”. This replaces the objectives section in both place and purpose, as it has to be a 3-4 sentences long statement that explains who you are and why you are suited for that job in particular. Which is why you should use words from the job description.
The experience section also has a twist to it. It has to be written in reverse chronological order and focus on the skills the employer is looking for. The last section has to contain your accomplishments, how those changed the workplace, and brought value.
And, lastly, the education section will have to go after the experience section. Most employers will be more interested in experience rather than studies. List it in reverse chronological order and include graduation dates, GPA and related coursework. Include the titles of any projects you’ve worked on as well as any papers you’ve written.
Of course, when writing both the KSA and your resume, check for punctuation, formatting or tense mistakes. Several times over, before you decide to submit your application. Make sure you understand the job you apply for as well, and focus your resume on that job application in particular. Federal job seeking is also made difficult by the fact that the resumes and KSAs are not interchangeable. So, start looking and start writing!
Amanda Wilks is a Boston University graduate and a Contributing Editor at Job Application Center. She has a great interest in everything related to career-building and job-seeking and loves helping people reach their true potential.