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Ten Steps to a Federal Job for Veterans

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The federal government, which offers some of the best jobs, pay and benefits in the United States, is hiring veterans. If you follow the Ten Steps to a Federal Job below, you could increase your odds of getting hired.

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

The current status of federal hiring is misunderstood by many veterans. "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, it's true that thousands of veterans are competing for federal jobs, and 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 it's also true that 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 this week, 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 – even though there were rumors of a hiring freeze).

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

We recommend that you utilize the following 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. You can find out how Rifleman / Combat equates to a federal job: Security Specialist, Police Officer, Special Agent (requires a bachelor's degree).

STEP 2: Networking Success – Veterans should set up LinkedIn and other networking accounts on sites such as VA4Vets. Add your work experience, certifications, skills and objectives. Then research federal employees who work in the agencies of interest to you! 

STEP 3: Target Top Accomplishments – Get out your fitness reports and make a list of your accomplishments. They can be added to your resume so you will stand out. Accomplishments are impressive, interesting and can help you get Best Qualified and Referred to a Supervisor.

STEP 4: Find the Perfect Job Announcement – Go to and search for jobs in your salary range, geographic preference and with a keyword: such as administration, human resources, security, information technology. GOOD NEWS: Veterans can apply for most of the jobs listed on USAJOBS. The excepts would be positions that are open ONLY to that particular hirin agency.

STEP 5: Identify Keywords – Popular keywords for veterans could be: team leader, trainer, instructor, analyst, critical thinking, supervisor, data analyst. For each opening, analyze the USAJOBS announcement to identify at least five keywords to add to your resume.

STEP 6: Master the Federal and Electronic Resume. The federal resume is practically your ENTIRE application. This is important! The federal resume is on average 3 or 4 pages. Samples of the USAJOBS federal resume are available in the Ten Steps to a Federal Job publication. You can also see this article about resume tips.

STEP 7: Conquer the KSAs and Questionnaires – Conquer the Questionnaire Test! Give yourself all the credit that you can with the questionnaires. You will be demonstrating your Knowledge, Skills and Abilities with your answers. This is a No-Kidding Test.

STEP 8: Apply for Jobs with USAJOBS – Be patient and apply for the jobs online with your resume in the builder and ready to go.

STEP 9: Make Sure to Follow Through – Track down your applications. You can see your RESULTS on most applications in If you are "ineligible" or just "eligible" that's NOT great news. You want to see "Best Qualified" for the best results.

STEP 10: Interviewing 101. – The federal job interview is another TEST. Be ready to talk and get graded on your answers. This will take practice and preparation. For more interview tips, see this section.  

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 positions is complex. Be ready to earn your federal government job by putting time and effort into each step of the application.

Related Topics

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Kathryn Troutman is the creator of the popular book and curriculum, Ten Steps to a Federal Job. This is a proven formula for researching, applying for an landing federal jobs. This curriculum is taught in in AF, Navy, Army, USCG and USMC Miltiary Transition Centers around the world. This is a step-by-step system for learning about federal job search through the interview preparation. Consider a free estimate or federal resume review to improve your federal job search results at  Kathryn has written a SAMPLE book for military personnel seeking federal jobs, the Military to Federal Career Guide (also on CD-ROM). Kathryn has free samples of veteran federal resumes at

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