Federal Jobs Spotlight: 4 Steps to Understanding the Federal Hiring Process

Marines, veterans and spouses get face-to-face with employers during the Marine Corps Air Station New River job fair, Sept. 5, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Martin Egnash)
Marines, veterans and spouses get face-to-face with employers during the Marine Corps Air Station New River job fair, Sept. 5, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Martin Egnash)

Applying for a federal career in the same fashion that you would apply for a private-sector job is not going to get you very far. There are some stark differences between the public and private sector, and that includes the way you submit a resume and application for a federal job.

The Partnership for Public Service - an organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of working for the public sector - wants to help you understand the federal hiring process, so that you not only know what to expect from this practice, but to also learn to become a better job candidate.

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

Here's how you get started:

Step No.1: Apply online. The PPS warns that you should know that the application process for virtually all federal jobs is conducted online through USAJobs.gov. After you select the job you're interested in apply for you proceed to the next step.

Step No.2: Select Carefully. Applications tailored to specific jobs that are a good match for your skills and talents will be more successful than sending out a standard resume for many jobs. Make sure to read about building your federal resume and knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) writing, on Military.com's Career Center, before you apply.

*Bonus tip: Keep in mind that your skills must match the position's prerequisites. Private-sector employers may have the flexibility to adjust the requirements of the position to a preferred candidate. This is not the case in the public sector. Federal hiring managers adhere to strict qualifications and if you're not familiar with those standards, it will hurt your chances.

Related: The Military Spouse Employment Manual

Step No.3: Plan ahead. The federal application process will have more steps than you may be used to. Allow plenty of time to thoroughly complete your applications.

Step No.4: Prepare for to wait. It can take weeks before you'll hear back about an application and there may be little or no communication from the agency, reports the PPS. Every federal job requires a background check, and if the position is related to national security you'll need to complete the security clearance process once you receive an offer. This may prolong the time period even more.

After you have submitted all of the necessary paperwork, the agency you applied for will review your application. The public sector review applications using the KSA process. Once the evaluation is complete, those who meet the minimum/basic qualification are ranked in order of scores (with veterans' preference applied) and referred to a hiring manager. If you don't meet the qualifications for the job, the agency will let you know.

If you want to get a more in-depth understanding of the federal hiring process, Military.com's Veterans Career Network has mentors that work in the public sector that can give you more information about the process.

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