How to Get a US Government Job?

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Whether you are looking for the security and stability of the civil service or want to better yourself through public service, there is a government job to suit your goals. However, the job search and application process can be long and complicated. Knowing where to start and how to use the tools provided by the government can help you land the job of your dreams.

Federal government jobs are divided into 3 categories:

  1. The Competitive Service.
    This service is the largest federal service and typically what comes to mind when people think of government jobs. Jobs for this service are the focus of the process described below.
  2. The Excepted Service.
    This service is for positions outside the “traditional” government jobs which can include positions in the intelligence agencies or other authorized agencies.
  3. The Senior Executive Service (a.k.a. “SES”)
    These are the executive level of our government, just below the top Presidential appointees. This is the smallest service with only about 8,000 members nationwide.

Steps to Land Your Competitive Service Job

Create your USAJOBS account (applicants MUST apply through USAJOBS).

If you don’t already have a USAJOBS account (USAJOBS.gov), create one. You must have complete a profile to apply to any job on USAJOBS. Because this will be used for all job applications, it is important to be accurate and thorough.

With a USAJOBS account and profile you can:

  • Save jobs that interest you to review or apply later.
  • Set up and save automated job searches.
  • Upload your resume files, or use the USAJOBS resume builder to create one. USAJOBS allows you to store up to 5 resumes in the system.
  • Upload and save required documents.
  • Apply to job announcements posted on USAJOBS.
  • Review and track your application status.

On any given day, USAJOBS includes as many as 10,000 job announcements. Announcements are posted daily, so it is important that you look at USAJOBS frequently.

Search for the right jobs.

USAJOBS uses your profile information to improve your job search results, so it is better to create an account before searching and, also, to search while signed in to USAJOBS. However, you can also search without having an account.

Available jobs can be searched by typing in a keyword or location and can be further narrowed by pay grade, salary, job series, agency, and more.

Sign up for daily emails when you find a (job title, agency, location) that you prefer.

As mentioned above, after entering certain job criteria, USAJOBS will automatically look for jobs that match your desired criteria. You can then request that USAJOBS email you the search results daily, weekly, or monthly.

Request daily updates for faster, more effective information.

Since some jobs are only posted for a short period (as little as one week), the frequency can make a difference.  Because many job announcements are only available to receive applications for as few as 3 days, it is important that you check USAJOBS on a daily basis so that you do not miss an opportunity.

Late applications are not accepted, regardless of reason.

Do not read anything into the fact that a job announcement is only open for applications for a few days. Given the number of applications received for each posting, federal HR offices are trying to limit the number of applicants.

Apply immediately, but VERY carefully.

On line resume submission and job application vecton concept

Competition is stiff, so apply immediately when you find a position that you are qualified for. Don’t waste your time applying if you don’t meet the requirements.

Read the How to Apply section of the job announcement before starting your application so that you are fully prepared to respond completely. This section tells you what is required to apply, including any required documents. To have your application considered, be sure to meet each of the requirements specified.

After you begin the application (and your resume and documents are uploaded and complete), the system will take you from USAJOBS to the agency online application system.

Then, you may be required to complete other agency-specific required steps such as:

  • Providing more personal information.
  • Providing additional documentation.
  • Answering eligibility questions.
  • Completing an occupational questionnaire.

    Tip: look for a preview of the questions under the Qualifications OR Required documents section before you begin so that you can ensure your resume content supports your answers to the questions.

The time it takes to apply varies and depends on the job and the agency’s requirements. Allow yourself at least an hour, maybe a little longer if you are new to the process.

After submitting your application, go back to the Application section of your USAJOBS account and verify that your application is indicated as received by the agency. The application status field should display “received” if the application submitted correctly.

Note: The agency may take a few hours to update the application status. Sometimes, the resume and other documents have to complete a virus scan or similar security check before they show as “received” on USAJOBS.

References are not generally required. If you included references in your application, it is unlikely that they will be checked before you are interviewed.

Check to see if you have been “referred.”

Once the job announcement is closed, the hiring agency will review your application.

Applicants typically will then be placed into qualification categories:

  • Qualified
  • Highly qualified
  • Best qualified

These quality categories can be thought of as bronze, silver, and gold.

When your application has been put into a qualification category, the hiring agency may update your application status to “reviewed,” but not all agencies provide this level of detail on the status.

The hiring agency will then send the highest qualified applicants to the hiring official, and those applicants may see their application status updated to “referred.” Applicants not being considered further will see a “not referred” status.

The interview process begins.

Woman having a job interview with Businessman HR. Flat style vector illustration isolated on white background.

Hiring officials will review applications and decide who to interview based on agency policy. Interviews can include:

  • A panel interview
  • In-person interview
  • Video interview
  • Phone interview

The agency will contact applicants directly to schedule the interviews. This may take some time depending on the number of applicants. In most cases, there will only be one round of interviews (although more are allowed).

Federal interviews are highly structured; all candidates are asked the same questions in the same order. And, all interview questions are job related.

Interviews can be over the phone or in person and typically last between 30 minutes and 1 hour. References are usually checked after the interview and before the offer.

The preferred candidate is selected, and a job offer is made.

The hiring agency will select the qualified candidate — and contact him/her to start the job process.

Only HR can make an official job offer. HR will offer a salary and grade (if the job was posted at more than one grade). This is negotiable, but agencies are not required to do so.

Once a candidate accepts, HR will initiate the security clearance process. This can take an additional 3-6 months, depending upon the type of clearance required.

The job offer is final only when the background investigation and additional security checks are completed. The hiring agency will contact the candidate directly to determine a start date.

Applicants who were not selected will see their application status updated to “not selected.”

Tips on How to Prepare a Government Job Interview:

The interview tips which we have mentioned are completely unique and also tried and tested ones. Following these tips will surely help you crack through the job interview successfully.

  1. Be Ready for the Challenge
  2. Research well about the department you have applied
  3. Cover every info about the government job
  4. Use a solid and authentic reference (if any)
  5. Make a list of all the points to speak in the interview
  6. Gather details about other government jobs too
  7. Prepare all the common type of questions usually asked
  8. Ascertain the competition for the job
  9. Overnight preparation doesn’t work
  10. Practice Makes a Man Perfect
  11. Take the help of your family and friends
  12. Practice in front of a mirror
  13. Overcome your fear by proper preparation
  14. Participate in the quiz and similar kind of interviews
  15. Try mock interviews
  16. Meet your seniors who have cleared the interview
  17. Should be updated about all the government jobs
  18. Get coaching for clearing government job exams
  19. Try to give more actual interviews
  20. Prepare well to face any situation during the interview
  21. List out a few questions that you want to ask the interviewer
  22. Prepare well to face panel interviews
  23. Prepare yourself psychologically and mentally
  24. Work on your Emotional Quotient (EQ)
  25. Have a positive attitude during the interview day
  26. Have a smile on your face
  27. Body language should be positive
  28. Eyed contact and firm handshake
  29. Dress formally
  30. Avoid using strong perfumes or deodorants
  31. Attire must match your personality
  32. Personality matters but not physique
  33. Keep it simple not glamorous
  34. Prepare a simple and elegant resume
  35. Avoid Over-designing your resume
  36. Avoid over-describe yourself in your resume
  37. Study your resume carefully
  38. Explore More about resume on the web
  39. Wake early on the day of the interview
  40. Have a light breakfast
  41. Visit the interview venue in advance
  42. Use personal vehicle for commuting
  43. Be Punctual
  44. Have all the relevant documents handy
  45. First Impression is the Last Impression
  46. Carry fewer things to interview
  47. Do not talk with the rest of the candidates before the interview
  48. Give Interview with an Open Mind
  49. While entering the room, follow all the protocols
  50. Ask permission before you do anything
  51. Know About Interview Protocol
  52. Pitching should be Perfect
  53. Always Greet With Good Morning
  54. Prepare the most elaborate introduction of yourself
  55. Do not hide anything about yourself
  56. Eye contact is important
  57. Words and Actions Must go Hand in Hand
  58. While talking, use formal English
  59. Avoid using if’s and but’s
  60. Try to be in commanding position
  61. Avoid being talkative
  62. Do NOT be Argumentative
  63. Have a good presence of mind
  64. Remain Calm and Composed during Interview
  65. Talk about your interests and expertise
  66. Answer confidently
  67. The sense of Humor works in interviews
  68. Be honest
  69. Be sharp and objective
  70. Do NOT Ask too many Questions to Interviewers
  71. Avoid Open-Ended Questions
  72. Share Good & Bad Experiences
  73. Do NOT Ask for Salary during interview
  74. Do NOT Start Growing Weary
  75. Be Humble
  76. Share At Least one Weirdest Moment of Your Life
  77. Explain your Point with Examples
  78. Avoid using too Many Fillers
  79. Your conversation must revolve around the job
  80. Avoid bringing out personal prejudices
  81. Do not panic if something goes wrong
  82. Talk about your academics Only If it is Good
  83. Share about Your Personal Life
  84. Be Natural
  85. Completely Engross Your Interviewers
  86. Use thank you and greet them after the interview
  87. Ask for Feedback
  88. Make a List of Points Where You Went Wrong
  89. Do NOT Show frustration at Interviewers if Rejected
  90. Do NOT Lose Heart
  91. Cracking a Government Job Interview is All about Personality
  92. Start Developing Personality From Now On
  93. Personality is More Important than Academics
  94. Think positively
  95. Improve listening Skills
  96. Overcoming Stress, Fear, Anxiety & Nervousness is vital
  97. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
  98. Strengthen Your Communication Skills
  99. Improve your Analytical Skills
  100. Work on Your English Language
  101. Have good general knowledge
  102. Clearing an Interview is all About PERSONA

Another reason being that after you have passed the preliminary tests and exams, you might be called for an interview for the second stage of the selection process. Here, the candidate is expected to have foundational knowledge in English and they should able to keep up a basic conversation completely in English.

They might also be called out for group discussions where the candidate has to impress the interviewers by raising and stressing on important facts and points said during the general discussion.

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