Make USAJOBS Work for You
Jonathan Zuk / GovCentral Contributor
When starting your search for a federal government job, it is important to realize that using USAJOBS to your advantage is not merely an option, it is a necessity. Even job seekers who have networked with federal managers or have completed a government internship are required to go through the process. While some agencies have started working outside the USAJOBS portal, and either use third party hosts or their own websites to post some vacancies, the processes they use are usually similar. Each agency must ensure that the federal hiring process is as objective as possible.
It is critical to know the USAJOBS portal inside and out before beginning the federal job search and application process. Below is an overview of the site’s primary features that help ensure that you make the most of the process.Site Overview
The USAJOBS homepage provides job seekers with the ability to search for positions based on specific keywords and locations and includes buttons where users can create an account and submit resumes. OPM also uses this page to showcase specific agencies and job positions on a rotating basis. Keep in mind, however, that these featured agencies and jobs are not usually those that are actually hiring the most. For that information, you should check out GovCentral’s Top Ten Fastest Growing Agencies and Top Ten Federal Career Fields.
The site’s top navigation links to six separate channels: Search Jobs, My USAJOBS, Info Center, Veterans, Forms, and Employer Services. If you are a U.S. military veteran, you should check out the Veterans Preference Guide to determine your eligibility and how to make the most of your transition to civilian federal employment. For links to specific OPM forms, visit GovCentral’s Federal Employment Forms page, which provides links to forms necessary for new government job seekers. The most important channels for new federal job seekers are the first two: Search Jobs and MyUSAJOBS.Search for Jobs
This page allows job seekers to search for positions by keyword, location, job category (i.e. career field), salary range, and GS pay grade. It is a good idea to cast a wide net when searching by location because postings are sometimes miscategorized. For instance, if you’re searching for a job in the Buffalo, New York area, you should select “NY-Buffalo” and “NY-Western New York” to ensure that you get a listing of all jobs available in your area. Federal agencies will sometimes include the exact geographic location of the job in the post description, but not always. If you are looking for a position in a more specific geographic area than those provided, you should enter the location in quotes in the keyword search at the top of the page (i.e. “North Tonawanda” AND “New York”).
Searching for jobs by specific job categories can be somewhat problematic as well. Each job position is categorized under one of them, but the process is not very intuitive. Job positions are often categorized differently than they would be in a private sector job search. Again, when first orienting yourself with USAJOBS, you should err on the side of caution, and use the keyword search. Once you become more familiar with the Federal Classification System, the job category search will be more useful.
Job seekers can also search by agency, GS series, and for senior executive positions by clicking the appropriate tab in the page’s secondary navigation. The process is similar to the basic search, but if you already know the agency or career field that you want, searching via these pages would be more appropriate.
As you go through the process, it is important to remember that federal hiring can take between 3-6 months and that the process requires a high degree of patience. Many job seekers often decide to seek work as consultants at government contractors, nonprofit think tanks, and law firms that specialize in government services. If you are interested in searching for private sector government and policy jobs, you should check out the GovCentral job search.My USAJOBS
Here is where job seekers can make their job search unique by adding their personal information and becoming USAJOBS members. There is also a tool to submit your resume. This makes your resume and qualifications more accessible to federal recruiters and retrievable by the agencies that you are applying to. The process is similar to that of other job search sites. First you must create a USAJOBS account where you must provide your personal information in addition to a unique username and password.
Once you have registered, you are able to submit as many resume versions as you want and they will remain stored on your account page. Also available is a job alert function, called “Agents”, where you can type in keywords, locations, or agency-specific searches whose results would be emailed to you on a regular basis. You may create up to ten such alerts. MyUSAJOBS keeps a log of every position that you apply for, and it will inform you if the vacancy has been filled.What Is Most Critical?
The most critical aspects of USAJOBS are creating an account and keeping abreast of when federal vacancies open. Despite the often slow pace of the federal hiring process, the earlier you apply for a federal vacancy, the more likely you are to get it. Though the postings on USAJOBS can often seem confusing and overwhelming, they remain the primary means for storing your employment information and quickly submitting it to federal agencies that you are interested in. Use GovCentral to learn more about federal career fields and what agencies and cities are seeing the most government hiring, but remember that USAJOBS will be necessary to complete the process.