The Hiring Process

In compliance with a 2010 presidential memorandum, the hiring processes of most federal agencies will someday be simplified to closer resemble the processes used in the private sector.  For the time being, however, many agencies still require applicants to submit:

a Federal Resume, which follows a prescribed format and is often much longer than a standard resume.  After creating an account on USA Jobs, you will be able to save up to five Federal Resumes and then edit them to match specific job postings.  Some jobs (especially in the military) will have additional resume requirements explained on the “How to Apply” tab.  When in doubt, contact the agency posting the job; never guess.  For instance, graduate students in the Department of Statistics do not have GPAs (grade point averages), but many agencies ask for them.  Call the agency rather than calculating an “estimated GPA.”

KSAs, which are essays addressing one’s knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Each essay should be 1-2 paragraphs in length.  Many agencies screen applicants by searching for keywords within KSAs.  Use the exact language of the job posting in your KSA, not synonyms.  Follow along with this worksheet the first few times you write a KSA.

Federal hiring timelines are often longer than those in the private sector.  Students planning to graduate in June should start the application process in early autumn.  This is especially true for jobs that require security clearance.  When applying for such jobs, review and prepare for the clearance process.  The process does not begin until after you have received a job offer; being unprepared for the process can delay your start date.

Unlike private-sector employers, government agencies have few recruiters and are rarely authorized to hire on-the-spot.  Be patient and persistent throughout the hiring process.  In your account, you can see the status of every job for which you apply.  Always feel free to get in touch with an agency directly using the contact information from the “How to Apply” tab. USA Jobs is a centralized database; however, its postings come from hundreds of different agencies, each with its own rules and timelines.

Peruse our guides to careers in government:

Email Kirsten Wellman with comments, updates or recommended additions.