The Federal Job Search
How to Prepare a Federal Résumé, KSA Statements, and Find a Federal Job
The Government as an Employer
Largest employer in the U.S. Between 16,000 to 18,000 jobs open daily. Special opportunities for veterans, disabled, and students. Some jobs repay student loans for recent grads who qualify. Doesn’t mean working in Washington, D.C. – only 15% of federal employees live in D.C. Opportunities are available for all majors. Salaries are comparable to those offered in the private sector.
The Federal Job Search vs. the Public Sector Job Search
The federal job search is conveniently online. By law, most government agencies must post job vacancies open to outside applicants on the Web. Most government jobs are posted on the government’s Web site, USAJobs. Some agencies choose to post positions on their own agency Web sites. Search for these at Avue Central: www.avuecentral.com. The federal résumé is longer and more detailed. Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) statements are required. Sometimes forms are used. Obtain forms at http://www.opm.gov/forms. Three different application processes are possible depending on the agency: – Apply online through USAJOBS or other online résumé builders – A paper résumé for agencies that are not automated yet – A Resumix résumé (searchable keyword résumé)
Federal Job Categories
Most federal departments are on the General Schedule (GS) pay system. There are 15 grades of pay (GS-1 through GS-15). There are 10 steps within each salary range. Federal employees also receive locality pay that ranges from 10.9% to 24.21% of the base salary depending on the location.
Pay Grades for Occupations for College Graduates
Professional – pay grades GS-5 through 15 Administrative – pay grades GS-5 through 15 Technical – pay grades GS-6 through 9 Clerical – pay grades GS-1 through 5 Other (includes law enforcement occupations, research psychologists, social scientists, and other occupations that do not fit the other categories)
What pay grades are suitable for my education and experience?
If you have a bachelor’s degree, generally begin searching for jobs in the GS-5 to 7 pay range. If you have a master’s or doctorate, begin searching for jobs in the GS-9 and above pay range.
USAJOBS Web Site
Operated by the Office of Personnel Management Provides job vacancy information, employment fact sheets, job application forms, and online résumé development Users can create a “My USAJOBS” account and store up to 5 résumés and can receive alerts about job postings. The USAJOBS system automatically reformats your résumé to match the requirements of different agencies. Résumés are deleted from the database after six months.
The Three-Step Federal Employment Process
Search for vacancies online. Obtain and analyze the vacancy announcement. More analysis is required than for a public sector job search. Follow the application instructions. There are generally more application requirements to fulfill than for public sector jobs.
Step One: Search for Vacancies.
Nearly all federal jobs are posted online. Start your search at these Web sites.
– Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Web
site: www.usajobs.opm.gov – AVUE Central: www.avuecentral.com – www.fedjobs.com (fee charged) – www.federaljobsearch.com (fee charged)
Step Two: Obtain and Analyze the Vacancy.
Obtain and analyze the vacancy to make sure you are suited for the position and to identify skills required of the position to include in your KSA (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities) statement.
Step Three: Follow the Application Instructions.
Follow all application instructions in the vacancy announcement exactly as prescribed, or your application will not be considered. For jobs that are unique or are filled through automated procedures, the vacancy announcement will specify forms or provide special instructions. Be sure to meet the application deadline. Allow at least 45 minutes to an hour to apply for a job online; allow longer if you need to create your résumé.
What is a Federal Résumé?
A new federal job application process Replaces the SF-171 form Should be used instead of the OF612 form if there is a choice Includes special information required of federal personnel Fulfills specific formats required by government agencies
How a Federal Résumé Differs from a Traditional Résumé
Includes more detailed descriptions of work experiences Social Security number is required Supervisor names and telephone numbers are listed Beginning and ending salaries from your job history Complete addresses for employers
Military status ZIP codes for colleges Name of high school and year of graduation Much longer, usually 3 to 5 pages Must include job announcement, job title, job-grade classification
Federal Résumé Paper Format
Chronological Font: Times or Arial Type size: text (11 pt.), headings (12-13), name (14-18) Headings: Bold, caps, or combination caps & lowercase Margins: 1 to 1.25 in. Ivory or white 20 or 24 pound weight paper
Name and vacancy number on each page Page number on each page except page 1 Length: 3 to 5 pages Employers, titles, college names & degrees may be in bold to set apart
Required information on the Federal Résumé
Job information Personal information Education Work experience Other qualifications
title Job-grade classification
Your full name and mailing address Day and evening phone numbers Social Security number Country of citizenship Veteran status Reinstatement eligibility Highest federal civilian grade held
school name, city, and
state Colleges’/universities’ names, cities, states, ZIP codes Majors and types and years of degrees received
Job title Duties and accomplishments Employer’s name and complete address Supervisor’s name and phone number Starting and ending dates (month, year) Hours worked per week Salary Indicate if your supervisor can be contacted. Prepare a separate entry for each position held.
training courses (title, year) Job-related skills Job-related certifications and licenses Job-related honors and awards Special accomplishments
Focus your résumé toward the specific job through the use of one or more of the following:
statement Critical skills statement Accomplishment list
Summarize your qualifications and develop a targeted response to the job announcement in a profile statement. Example: Secretary/Administrative Assistant/Accounting
Aide with seven years solid experience in federal government offices. Experienced in Taxpayer Services, Quality Assurance, and Planning and Special Programs Departments. Able to effectively support 5 to 15 professionals with projects, word processing, correspondence, schedule and telephone management. Completed ten months of professional secretarial training.
Critical Skills Statement
Identify critical skills and specific expertise required for the position in a critical skills statement. Example: Detail oriented, efficient, able to design
administrative systems to improve location of information and accessibility; word processing with WordPerfect 8.0, Windows, Lotus 1.2.3, keyboard 70 wpm; Coordination of projects; Administrative and computer problem solving; Producing accounting and budget reviews and reports; Monitoring and maintaining client files.
A three- to five-line statement focusing on the result of an accomplishment. Include between three and eight statements. Example: Saved agency $50,000 in printing fees by
recommending and coordinating in-house printing of large biannual publication. Received Superior Performance Award and $250 cash bonus for recommendation. (Position: Records Management Technician)
The Resumix Résumé
The Resumix résumé is a keyword résumé format that is searchable by keyword on the Resumix system. Resumix is used primarily by Department of Defense agencies.
General Guidelines for the Resumix Résumé
Use black ink on 8 ½ x 11 inch white bond paper. Print on one side only. Do not staple, fold, bind, or punch holes. Avoid faxing your résumé. Use a minimum 1 inch margin on all sides. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations unless common industry jargon.
Use Courier or Times New Roman. Use 10 to 12 pt. Type. Use bold and capital letters for headings. Do not use graphics, boxes, bullets, it alics, underlining, shadow s, fancy fonts, twocolumns, or vertical or horizontal lines. Use white space effectively.
Five Rules of the Resumix Résumé
skills, skills. Be concrete. Include specifics. Use industry jargon. Be brief, but don’t cram.
Skills, Skills, Skills
Make an extensive list of skills to include in a skills section at the top of the résumé. Limit it to 200 skills. Be specific! The computer will search your résumé for skills identified for the position.
brief. Avoid fancy explanations. State the facts in a clear, concise writing style.
Include computer programs you know. Include certifications and licenses you have. Use key phrases and words from the duties and responsibilities section of the vacancy announcement. Include job-related awards and honors and any other job-related accomplishments specific to the vacancy.
Use Industry Jargon.
Employers look for buzzwords in their areas of expertise. Include the jargon for that particular industry in your résumé.
Don’t cram information into your résumé that is not directly related to the job. Use white space effectively to give your résumé an organized, uncluttered appearance.
Strike a balance between writing for the computer and writing for the human manager who will hire you. Write using appropriate keywords for the computer, formed into sentences for the hiring manager.
Sending a Résumé by E-mail
Federal agencies have stringent requirements for sending a résumé by e-mail. Follow the instructions carefully! Cut and paste the résumé into the body of the email message. Do not send it as an attachment unless instructed to! At the end of each line, press the delete key to remove invisible breaks inserted in your résumé.
Packaging the Federal Application by Snail Mail
Place materials in this order: Cover letter Résumé KSA statement Most recent performance appraisal Other required forms Course list (if needed) Also, Mail in 9 x 12 envelope. Do not fold or staple. Type or print vacancy number on bottom left corner of envelope.
KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities)
KSAs are supplemental statements to your application that give specific examples of paid and nonpaid work experience, education, training, awards, and honors that support each major skill area of an announced position. Four to six KSAs are usually listed on each vacancy announcement. KSAs require the ability to communicate in writing, understand instructions, knowledge of computers and programs, and knowledge of an agency’s mission. KSAs can make or break your federal job application.
How to Write Great KSAs
Write in the first person as a narrative statement in plain language. Use a separate page for each KSA and include the question at the top. Put your name and Social Security number on each page. Give at least one example for each KSA. Use a different example for each KSA statement. Each KSA statement should be one-half to one page long. Do not use acronyms. Include job-related education, courses, special training, certifications, leadership roles, internships, volunteer work, memberships in professional organizations, and awards. Write about a specific situation, project, or task. Include keywords from the questions and job announcement.
Five Approaches to KSA Writing
Describe a specific situation. Give an overview of your experience. Give an example of relevant education or training. Describe an award given for a specific accomplishment. Describe an experience from a previous job in history format.
Example of a KSA Statement
KSA: Applies knowledge of word processing and computer software programs, including desktop and web-based publishing. In my present position, I use Microsoft Word or WordPerfect processing software on a daily basis. In MS Word, I recently completed a proposal for restructuring our Branch. Using a pre-existing template, I developed a ten-page proposal using chapter breaks, several levels of headings and footnotes. In addition, I was dissatisfied with some of the pre-defined styles, so I modified an existing style to incorporate a larger font and small capitals.
Sample KSA Statement (cont.)
I also have prepared tables, merged letters, and columns, and have even created new templates in order to simplify some of my tasks. One template that I created and use daily defines the appropriate margins for our office’s letterhead and has date, address, and signature blocks. I frequently use this template in conjunction with merge letters. For an award dinner, I developed a merge form using the letterhead template to send letters to all interested parties. Since we had most of this information in the Microsoft Access database I designed, I merged the information directly from that database to the Word form. I used similar procedures to address the 300 invitations for the dinner in a flowing script font. This substantially reduced the amount of time necessary for preparing the invitations that had been previously addressed by hand.
Sample KSA Statement (cont.)
I have used Microsoft Publisher extensively for desktop publishing. When I first arrived at my office, the organization was not reaching its constituents and employees in other locations well. Using Publisher, I developed a new weekly publication that summarizes and reports on a wide variety of issues. The publication is normally two pages, and includes graphics, word art, shading, and text components. I have also redesigned the Branch’s information brochure in Publisher, developing a two-color shell as well as rewriting the text. I purchased existing shells from Paper Direct, and used Publisher to lay out the text accordingly. Finally, my most recent desktop publishing achievement was completely recreating the Branch’s annual award dinner program and guest list. In prior years, the program was a 4-page gray-scale brochure sent to the printer. . . . (She goes on to describe the project.)
For a Successful Federal Job Search…
Follow all instructions in the announcement. When given a choice, choose to apply by using a federal résumé rather than a form. Learn to write knockout KSA statements. Take advantage of the USAJOBS Web site. Create one comprehensive federal résumé. Most federal résumé builders will allow you to copy and paste your résumé into them. Learn proper procedures for e-mailing your résumé.
available in the Career and Experiential Learning Lab, Lucina 235 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Great Links to Explore
www.bsu.edu/careers/students/links/ Click on the category “Government” for a list of links to help you with the federal job search.
Resources for Careers in Government