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Understanding the Federal Job Search and USAJOBS Application Process

Growing up in a city full of Federal employment opportunities, snagging a government job was pretty much akin to hitting the career jackpot. Truth be told, there are quite a few benefits that come with government jobs like higher salaries, comprehensive benefits, and competitive retirement plans, and increased job security, even during economic instability.

When your goal is landing a government job, it’s important to understand that the application process has some key differences from the civilian application process. There are some similarities like the importance of using keywords and spotlighting measurable achievements, but there are also some lesser-known differences in the federal hiring process like the use of occupational questionnaires, veteran’s preference, KSAs, the length and detail of federal resumes versus civilian resumes, etc. I’ll provide insight into the basic hiring process and application methods that could help you secure a government job.

Job Diversity

Whatever jobs are available in the civilian world can also be found in the government job market. You name it – jobs in foodservice and customer service, healthcare, education, childcare, purchasing, engineering, IT, project management, program management – if there’s a job you find interesting in the private sector, you’ll likely find a similar opportunity in the government sector.

So where can you find these jobs? Most federal job seekers are familiar with the USA.GOV job board.

How to Use The USAJOBS Platform

If you decide to search for jobs on the USAJOBS job board, understanding the application process is critical.

  1. Create an account and complete your profile. Once you set up your account, you’ll be able to search for and save jobs.
  2. Upload an existing resume or create a resume in the platform’s resume builder. Make sure the focus of the resume is in line with the qualifications of the job you’re applying for. That includes

Upload and save any other required documents.

  1. Start searching. With your new USAJOBS account, you can narrow your search based on salary requirements, work flexibility, and more. Another plus: when you save your searches, the platform emails similar matches.
  2. Review each job announcement strategically. When you find a job you’d like to apply to, take time to carefully read the entire announcement and review the qualifications to make sure you meet them. Pay especially careful attention to the Who May Apply and the Qualifications
  3. Prepare and submit your application. As mentioned before, you can apply for jobs directly within USAJOBS. I recommend reading the How to Apply section first.

Once your application is submitted, the receiving agency will review it to refer the most qualified candidates to a hiring official. If your application is selected, you’ll see a “Referred” status for the application. If you’re not considered, you’ll see a “Not Referred” status.

The next step is the interview. An agency will contact applicants to schedule an interview. If you receive a job offer, you’ll be instructed on how to initiate the job offer process which includes a background check and additional security checks for jobs that require a higher level of security clearance. The hiring agency will follow up with the other candidates that weren’t chosen and instruct them to change their application status from “Referred” to “Not Selected.”

The more you understand the USAJOBS job application process, the better your chances of job search success. Feel free to reach out with additional questions.

Image Credit: Andrew Neel

Now be honest… is the resume and cover letter you’ve been submitting for jobs getting you noticed? How about your LinkedIn profile? Are you getting interviews? If not, we should talk! Contact me by phone: 1-866-562-0850, email:, or text:
(256) 690-0564 to schedule a NO COST, NO OBLIGATION 15-minute consultation. 

Kimberly Ben is a multi-credentialed Professional Resume and LinkedIn Writer and Job Search Coach. She has written hundreds of resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and other career communications for multiple career industries and professions. Kimberly’s extensive education, training, and experience have resulted in a clear understanding of current hiring best practices and the most effective job search techniques, branding strategies, and insight on what it takes to gain the competitive edge and impress employers in a challenging job market.

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