Resume Place Survey of USAJOBS Database Shows Thousands of Open Federal Jobs

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The federal government is hiring. The jobs, pay and benefits are the best in the United States; the application process for these highly competitive positions is complex.

Ten Steps to a Federal Job(r)

Write a list of your top five accomplishments and add them to your resume. This is a great way to stand out and get an interview.

Despite all of the economic uncertainties that Americans are facing, the US added 146,000 jobs in November plus there are thousands of civil service jobs are open to applicants, according to a recent examination of the USAJOBS federal employment database.

The current status of federal hiring is misunderstood by many. "The sad truth is that government jobs are frozen." So writes a disgruntled – and misinformed – job seeker. "The only way to get a government job is to join the Army. The government is not hiring."

Yes, there’s lots of gloomy news affecting the jobs economy these days: the "fiscal cliff," gaping budget deficits, Europe's troubles, military drawdowns, some agency freezes, and a still-tentative recovery. So it's not surprising that many professionals are feeling discouraged about their job prospects, even with that most dependable of blue-chip employers: Uncle Sam.

But the truth is, there is no overall broad freeze on government agency hiring at the moment; on any given day there are likely to be thousands of jobs available. From a Resume Place survey of job postings at just a few of the larger federal departments on Dec. 9, 2012, here are the facts: Homeland Security had 368 openings posted on USAJOBS. The Department of Agriculture advertised 463 jobs. Health and Human Services was looking to fill 766 positions. Veterans Affairs sought to hire 3,237; civilian job openings at Defense numbered 4,602 (including 2,359 Army Civilian jobs - which is rumored (or partiallly) on a freeze)..

With the myth of a federal job freeze put to rest, the question remains: How do job seekers go about navigating the byzantine government application process to secure a job offer?

A popular federal job search author and trainer recommends that you take Ten Steps to a Federal Job:

STEP 1: Focus the Federal Job Search – Find out which federal jobs are right for the qualifications and education. Search the Office of Personnel Management Classification Standards and find jobs that will match experience and education.

STEP 2: Networking Success – Candidates should set up a LinkedIn account, search LinkedIn for people who work in their favorite agencies, then write to them to introduce themselves and their skills and experience and ask them about jobs in their agency.

STEP 3: Target Top Accomplishments – Write a list of top five accomplishments and add them to the resume. This is a great way to stand out and get an interview.

STEP 4: Find the Perfect Job Announcement – Go to and find an open position that is within the target salary range, geographic preference and with duties matching experience. Apply for jobs every day.

STEP 5: Identify Keywords – For each opening, analyze the USAJOBS announcement to identify at least five keywords to add to the resume. Federal human resources specialists look for resumes that contain the keywords that appear in their job announcements.

STEP 6: Master the Federal and Electronic Resume. For each vacancy announcement, customize the federal resume to match the open position and feature transferable skills and competencies. The federal resume is very specialized and detailed, and should be longer than the typical private-industry resume.

STEP 7: Conquer the KSAs and Questionnaires – The federal process includes a self-assessment questionnaire which functions as a pre-application test. This is an important part of the federal application; take time to answer each question with care.

STEP 8: Apply for Jobs with USAJOBS – The federal job application process is entirely online. Copy and paste the customized federal resume into the USAJOBS resume builder. Read the directions and follow them carefully.

STEP 9: Make Sure to Follow Through – Track applications for federal positions with the USAJOBs account system.

Applicants will know soon if they were designated eligible, best qualified, referred, or not. The HR specialists do update the tracking page.

STEP 10: Interviewing 101. – Hopefully the job seeker’s applications will soon bring an invitation to a federal job interview. Be ready to give examples of accomplishments. The behavior-based interview is a test, so be sure to practice for it.

In summary, the federal job application system is highly technical and specific. Be prepared and read the job announcements carefully. Be sure to match the resume to the qualifications in the announcement.

The federal government is hiring. The jobs, pay and benefits are the best in the United States; the application process for these highly competitive position is complex. Be ready to earn your federal government job by putting time and effort into each step of the application.

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Kathryn Troutman
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