Getting Hired By the Federal Government

By Ted Daywalt

When one transitions out of the military and starts looking for employment, a natural inclination is to move to a Federal government job as the skills one picks up in the military are directly transferable to government work. The Federal government is the largest single employer in the United States with hundreds of thousands of employees. But applying to the government for a job can be a daunting task. This article will detail where to begin looking for jobs in the Federal government.


One looks for a job with the Federal government in much the same way one finds a civilian job. But there are major differences. Searching for a federal job can be more complicated than other job searches due to certain regulations. The type of resume required for a Federal government job is more detailed and job qualifications are more specific.


The Federal government hires people with nearly every level of education and experience—from high school students with no experience to Ph.D.’s with established careers. Jobs in some occupations, such as engineer, ecologist, and lawyer, require that employees have a bachelor’s or graduate degree and credit for specific college classes. Other occupations require experience, education, or a combination of both.


There are two basic levels when looking for government jobs: General Schedule (GS) and Senior Executive Service (SES).


GS Jobs


The GS assigns every job a grade level from 1 to 15, according to the minimum level of education and experience its employees need. Jobs that require no experience or education are graded a GS-1. Jobs that require a bachelor’s degree and no experience are graded a GS-5 or GS-7, depending on an applicant’s academic credentials and an agency’s policies.


To find GS level jobs, one will go through U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which maintains a central database called USAJOBS (www.usajobs.com). USJOBS lists nearly every federal job opening available to the public. USAJOBS will also let you know what federal forms you will need to fill out for a federal job. So, searching the USAJOBS database online is one of the first steps you would want to take in finding a federal job. Jobseekers can also contact agencies directly for assistance and for information about special hiring programs. Other ways to find federal GS jobs include reading classified ads, attending job fairs and commercial internet job boards. Many agencies use these sources to supplement their recruiting efforts.


USAJOBS and commercial job boards are effective tools to use in looking for a federal job as an applicant can search by job title, skill set or location. There are federal jobs in every state. Surprisingly, 87 percent of federal jobs are outside of the District of Columbia and 3 percent are located overseas.


In addition to using the USAJOBS database, you can contact Federal Government agencies directly. This method is especially important when searching for jobs that are not required to be posted on USAJOBS. A quick Google search can take you to a specific federal agency’s web site and you can search their career page. This is also an effective approach if you already know what federal agency you want to work for.


SES Jobs


Obtaining a SES position is the pinnacle of federal employment. SES reflects the culmination of many years of leadership experience gained in corporate America or from climbing the ladder through the GS job system.


The SES seeks candidates bring unique and productive solutions to address serious issues in government and have the vision to anticipate the needs, challenges and issues of tomorrow. SES candidates must demonstrate passion and initiative with the ability to motivate and lead people to embrace change and new ideas while increasing productivity and getting results. Those selected for SES positions are capable of managing large amounts of resources, integrating technological advancements into government activities and tapping the expertise of coalitions to ensure the sharing of information and networking across organizational and international boundaries.


The SES application package requires a detailed resume which fully articulates ones career history by recounting top-level leadership accomplishments. The application also requires detailed accounts of these accomplishments through mini-writing samples. Applicants will benefit by using a Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) model to describe their experiences. Finally, the application process includes behavior-based interviews, references, and a background check.Applying for SES positions has become so complicated that an entire industry of SES application consultants has grown. If you seek an SES position, a great reference would be The New SES Application by Kathryn Troutman and Diane Hudson Burns, published in 2011.


Finding a federal job takes time, but offers great job security. If you are patient, do your research and in some cases use a good consultant, you can find a federal job that will provide you with a great career!




Ted DaywaltTed Daywalt is the president of VetJobs, the leading military employment site on the internet. Mr. Daywalt retired from the Navy after 28 years of service and has held senior management and C-level jobs in steel, chemical, biomedical waste and the recruiting industries. He earned a BS from Florida State University, an MA from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the Goizueta School of Business, Emory University. He can be reached at tdaywalt@vetjobs.com or visit www.vetjobs.com



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