Posted by: rmorrisey | February 27, 2009

How to Find the Federal Job That’s Right 4U

Even though the economy is going to hell in a hand basket, the federal government is still hiring and may be your best bet for job security.  As I write, there are over 36,000 jobs posted on the USAJobs website – the federal government’s main portal for employment information.

Just to get an idea of the broad assortment of federal opportunities, do a basic search.  Select All Locations, All Job Categories, and click “Yes” for Applicant Eligibility.  Then click the Search for Jobs button.  This will bring up a comprehensive list of federal employment opportunities currently available.  Browse through announcements to get a feel for which jobs and agencies appeal to you and match your skill set.  You can then refine your job search to focus on specific geographic locations, job categories, key words, salary range or pay grades.

You can also do an agency search.  If you have a background in security or criminal justice, you may be interested in working for Homeland Security.  Perhaps you’re an accountant interested in working for the Internal Revenue Service or a finance major interested in working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  Take a look at the list of agencies.  I’m sure you’ll be surprised to find agencies you never even knew existed.

You can also choose to search by job series.  In the federal government, every job category has a specific numeric series assigned to it.  For example, all accountant jobs are in the 0510 series.  Heavy equipment operators fall within the 0350 series.  Geneticists are 0440, painters are 4102, park rangers are 0025, registered nurses are 0610.  Again, you can narrow your series search by geographic location, salary range or pay grade.

The advanced search option let’s you combine all of the above options with keyword and title search functions.

Each of the search mechanisms shown above will ask you about your Applicant Eligibility.  Your Applicant Eligibility determines which positions you can apply for.  When you’re viewing the job announcements you’ll notice that each posting has a field that says “Who Can Apply”.  That field will say either “Status Candidates” or “Public.”  You can apply for the “Public” announcements if you’re a U.S. Citizen of at least 16 years of age.  Yes, I said 16.  The federal government will consider student applicants under the age of 18 for certain temporary appointments.  In order to be eligible to apply for the “Status Candidates” jobs, you must be a current or former federal employee or be eligible for a special hiring authority such as the Veterans Recruitment Appointment or Student Career Experience Program.

Did you find a job you want to apply for?

The next step is to sign up for a My USAJobs account and create your online resume.  Once you’re signed up, you can sign up for automated job alerts.  You tell them what kind of jobs you’re interested in, and USAJobs will send you an email alert whenever there is an opportunity that matches your criteria.

Before you apply for a job, read the job announcement word for word at least twice, paying special attention to the application procedures.  Every agency has their own procedures and requirements.

Once you have applied, you’ll have to be patient.  The federal hiring process can be frustratingly slow.  I’ve applied for jobs where I heard back within two weeks and others where I didn’t hear anything for over three months.  As more and more agencies move to automated application systems, the response time seems to be getting better.

NOTE:  While the vast majority of federal job openings are posted on USAJobs, if you’re serious about getting hired, you can’t rely exclusively on USAJobs.  Agencies like the FBI and CIA are exempted from civil service hiring rules and have their own hiring systems.  They are called “excepted service agencies” and you have to visit their agency websites to learn about their employment opportunities.

Resources for Federal Job Applicants:

<a href=”http://www.rangercareers.com/parkrangersalary/parkrangersalary.htm”>Federal Salary Tables 2009</a>

<a href=”http://www.custhelp.usajobs.gov/cgi-bin/usopm.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php?p_sid=RaIM1tlj”>Frequently Asked Questions About Applying for Federal Jobs</a>

<a href=”http://www.federaltimes.com/index.php?C=career_information”>Federal Times Career Information</a>

<a href=”http://www.govloop.com/”>GovLoop</a>

<a href=”http://www.younggovernmentleaders.org/”>Young Government Leaders</a>

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