How to Find and Apply for Federal Jobs

August 8, 2007 – 12:23 pm

Most people think that working in the federal government means working in Washington, D.C., but that’s hardly the case. In fact, 84 percent of federal jobs are located outside the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Federal jobs span every possible area of interest. Before you begin your search for a job with the federal government, check out our interest-specific career guides to view jobs that match your interests and college major. In addition, to help find a job that’s right for you it’s important to familiarize yourself with the missions of the cabinet departments.


Getting Started: Finding Federal Job Postings

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a good place to start your search. By law, most government agencies must post any vacancies open to outside applicants on their Web site— Because not all government jobs are posted on, however, it’s also important to visit the Web sites of those agencies with which you might like to work.

Getting Started: The Application Process

After selecting the job to which you’d like to apply, we encourage you to consider the following tips:

  • Plan aheadThe application process itself can take time; to improve your chances of getting a job, be sure to allow plenty of time to thoroughly complete your application
  • Select carefullyApplications tailored for specific jobs that are a good match for your skills and talents will be more successful than sending out a standard resume for many jobs
  • Prepare for a waitIt can take weeks to months before you will hear back about an application and there may be little or no communication from the agency; security clearances can prolong this time period
  • Follow-up with an agencyContact the identified representative to learn the status of an application or to find out more about a job

To apply, you must usually submit:

  • A resume
  • A description of relevant knowledge
  • Your skills and abilities (KSAs)
  • Additional supporting information called for in the vacancy announcement

The information currently on your resume may not be enough to satisfy government employers. OPM’s “Applying for a Federal Job” booklet lists all the information an applicant needs to provide for federal employment. A resume containing all the required information is called a “federal job resume” although there is no mandated form. Federal resumes require more detail than standard resumes. Essentials include:

  • Information about the opening
  • Your personal information
  • Education and coursework levels
  • Work experience
    • Dates and number of hours per week
    • Location of position
    • Supervisor’s contact information
  • Other qualifications

When submitting an application, agencies also request eligibility information including:

  • Past or current federal employment
  • Veteran qualifications
  • Non-competitive appointment: Peace Corps and AmeriCorps

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