How to Apply for a Federal Government Job — 7 Things Everyone Should Know

by Nindo Mom on May 26, 2011

As a mom or dad supporting a family, having job stability is probably something that’s important to you.  And the Federal government is known for its ability to avoid layoffs, even when such practices are rampant throughout corporate America.

Working for the Federal government has lots of other benefits, too. But there several things to remember when applying for these positions that will help keep your private information safe and increase your chances of getting hired.

1. Apply for Federal Jobs at

The official website for applying to Federal Government jobs is This is the best–and only–place you should use to submit your application for a job with the government.

I have seen plenty of other sites that act as unofficial intermediaries, of sorts, for Federal jobs. I even applied for a couple of jobs through these sites before realizing that it was an extra–and unnecessary–step. All you’re accomplishing is feeding your personal information through one more company’s system. This is something we should all avoid, whenever possible, to avoid unwanted spam in our inbox–and even more importantly, to help prevent our private information falling into the wrong hands.

From time to time, I’ve seen legitimate government jobs–ones actually posted by the Federal agency that’s doing the hiring– listed on other websites.  But if you can apply for the job right through the website, why not do it?  It’s the official site for Federal hiring, and it’s easy to search for any job you may be interested in, anywhere in the United States–or even abroad. Not to mention, once you have your profile completed on the USAJobs site, applying for additional jobs is a lot faster (and easier.)

2. Always Put Your Best Foot Forward

Making sure that your USAJobs profile is complete and accurate is vital in attaining a Federal position. Every time you apply for a job through the USAJobs system, you’ll be forwarding a copy of your profile to your prospective employing agency–so doing a great job on your profile will be time well-spent.

Part of your profile will include your resumes–yes, that’s resumes, PLURAL. The ability to store several resumes in your profile is a tremendous  benefit when you’re applying for different kinds of jobs because you’ll be able to tailor a resume for each one.

3. Be Persistent — and Patient

You may submit quite a few applications before you start getting requests for interviews.

I submitted more than 100 applications before I started getting offers for interviews. I know this because USAJobs allows you to track all the positions you’ve applied for right there in their system when you’re logged in.

Why might it take so long for the ball to get rolling? In many cases, it’s simply a matter of you becoming proficient at filling out the online Federal job application. Believe me, it’s a ton easier and more efficient than having to fill out the old SF171 form which was what was used before the Internet got big. But filling out the online form is an art form, in its own right.

4. Only Apply for Jobs for Which You’re Truly Qualified

When completing your application for any particular job, the most important thing to remember is to read the job announcement carefully before you begin. If you don’t have the required experience, you’re only wasting time filling out the application–time that could be used to find a job that you are qualified for. In the past, I would have said to go ahead and apply for a job if you have most of the qualifications–but in today’s tight job market, that tactic isn’t likely to get you very far. Stick with the jobs you’re fully qualified for, then work on beefing up your skills for higher-level once you get your foot in the door.

5. Complete and Submit Your Application Before the Closing Date

Unless a job is open for continuous submission–which only happens when an agency is  compiling an applicant pool for future hiring needs–all jobs on USAJobs have deadlines attached to them–and they’re not flexible. You must submit your application, including any required KSAs, which are they essay questions you thought you got away from after you got out of school.

To be safe, it’s smart to take it a step father than simply meeting the application deadline–you should beat it. This will help prevent last minute oversights or technical difficulties from destroying your ability to apply for the position. For example, if you wait until the last minute to submit and THEN you notice you missed answering one of the KSAs–well, you’re just out of luck. But if you noticed your oversight the day before the application was due, you still have time to complete it. Technical problems could include a power outage at your home, a problem with the USAJobs server, or an Internet outage in your area.

6. Give Great Answers for Your KSAs

As mentioned earlier, KSAs are essay-style questions about your Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities–and for applications that require them, they’re extremely important.

When I first started submitting applications on the USAJobs site, I made some mistakes when filling out the KSAs. And by mistakes, I mean that I didn’t answer them in a way that got my application through to the next level of consideration. My problem was that I thought a couple of sentences was a sufficient answer. (It wasn’t) As time went on, I started writing more detailed answers for my KSAs, with some answers being 5 or 6 pages in length. Only then did I start getting referrals–meaning that I was moved forward to the next level of consideration.

Honestly, I was shocked at how much was expected for these KSA questions. But the proof is in the putting; only after my responses were MUCH longer than a few sentences did I start seeing the results I wanted.

7. Don’t Sit Around Waiting for an Answer

Once you’ve applied for your first Federal job, keep on applying for others! Hearing back from an agency  can take quite some time–and in the mean time, you could be increasing your chances at being hired by sending out more applications. In addition, the more practice you have with completing applications, the better you’ll get–and the more you’ll increase your chances at landing that Federal job you’re after.


Further Reading

A top-rated resource on Amazon for Federal job hunting is How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Jobby Lily Whiteman. Many reviewers say that it’s quite humorous and uplifting, in addition to being a good resource. And sometimes a chuckle is just the thing we need when in the throes of job hunting!

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