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Recent Grad? Start Your Federal Job Search Early

Recent Grad? Start Your Federal Job Search Early

Kathryn Troutman /

Government jobs offer you plenty of room to grow, so keep trying. There are usually about 15,000 jobs listed on USAJOBS every day. Listings can also be found on Avue Central.

As for why you haven’t succeeded so far in your search for a federal job, I’d look at two things: One, you may not be searching in the right places or in the right way, and two, it may be your resume.

Here are a few tips for your entry-level federal job search:

Understand Federal Job Titles and Being Qualified

Be sure you’re qualified for the jobs you’re seeking. Read the duties and qualifications carefully from federal vacancy announcements, and make a point of learning government jargon. This has two benefits: If you’re not qualified, you won’t apply for jobs you’re not likely to get, but by learning the lingo, you might find that you are indeed qualified for jobs that, at first glance, might have seemed out of reach.

Write Your Federal Resume

Federal resumes are longer than typical private-industry resumes and are usually two to three pages. Federal human resources specialists consider the resume your application, the examination for the job and sometimes even the interview. In fact, some candidates are offered jobs based on their resume alone — no interview required. A federal resume needs to include lots of information about your experiences and skills and more detail than you would use in a private-sector resume.

Related Links
  • Do you want to learn more about careers with the federal government? Find one here.

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Federal resumes should include some language from the vacancy announcement. If the announcement states that the position includes “researching, analyzing and compiling information for briefings,” then these words should be used in your resume. And if you don’t have the briefings experience but have done everything else listed, note that, and use the terms the announcement uses. The federal HR reviewers will look for these important keywords, and if you don’t have them, you won’t get the call.

Federal resumes need the compliance details listed in every vacancy announcement, including your Social Security number (mandatory for government jobs), citizenship, any military experience, and addresses and ZIP codes for colleges and employers. You can read this list in each job announcement.

Having two resume formats will help your federal job search. You might need a paper version to fax or mail to some agencies. And you will definitely need an electronic version to submit online into databases.

Prepare for Writing Tests

Knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) narratives, short essays and examples are frequently requested with federal applications. These are usually 350- to 450-word essays that demonstrate a certain skill. These are very important and are actually graded by the HR reviewers.

Know What to Expect from Federal Job Listings

Almost every agency has its own resume builder system and database. So be ready to copy and paste your resume and follow the directions.

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