How to Get a Government Job

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Over the past two years, I have researched tips, tricks, and tools for helping individuals advance in the learning economy. This research was a follow-up to my research and career development program designed in 2009-2013 that has been endorsed by over 1200 HR departments, Federal and State agencies, and has helped countless job seekers to advance their careers

Applying for jobs in an effort to advance your career is often a frustrating experience for many individuals. However, it may come as a surprise that the candidate experience for government jobs actually outranks the experience in the private sector!

The government sector candidates in my research received more updates from prospective employers, greater clarity of job qualifications requirements in job postings, and far greater clarity of pay-ranges. Research participants reported far less “hurdles” than experienced when applying for corporate sector positions.

In fact, compared to the private sector where less than 25% of companies rely on a 3-part job interview process, most government jobs still hold true to that method. As a result, your experience applying for a job can be more positive than in the private sector.

Unlike the private sector, the government is bound to hiring regulations which means the positions often provide greater clarity. As a candidate, you will find that government jobs typically provide detailed information about relative qualifications, experience, and associated pay grades for the job outlined. Whereas in the private sector this is an on-going guessing game.

Therefore, a focused candidate can rely on the added information common in government job openings to ensure they are applying for positions that are the best fit for their career. But to land a government job, there are some tips and efforts needed to ensure you stand out from a very qualified and competitive candidate pool!

Tip one: Government job applicant tracking systems

First, for those applying to government jobs at the US Federal Government, start with USAJobs. This site will help you identify openings, store documents, and integrate application data into job openings.

For state and local jobs, many agencies are now using governmentjobs.com. This is hands down one of the best client applicant systems of all the programs out there! The system is built around research that I first published in 2013, a process known as the “modern resume method”(Rand & SLA, 2013).

The modern resume acts as a hybrid between traditional resumes, CV and executive profiles. More on tips and tricks are included in the Career Development System at www.strategiclearningalliance.org

This site allows you to then upload more focused “mini resumes” to then drill down from your broad experience to the very detailed experience that can advance you toward an interview.

This is especially important for mid-career professionals that might have a broad range of professional experiences with very specific job roles in the private sector. The system provides updates on the status and continued consideration.

Compared to private sector applications you are more than twice as likely to be updated on your status for a government job (not when applying to universities, that’s an entirely different category). However, there is a specific process to maximizing your performance using a proven career development method.

Unlike private sector sites you do not need to manage multiple resumes, versions, formats, and can really focus your effort one-time with your first government job application, but then benefit from reduced on-going effort as you continue to rely on this site to apply to future opportunities (whereas other resume sites require more regular updates to ensure top performance within the applicant tracking system).

Tip two: Know where to go fish for a job

Obtaining a government job goes beyond capturing data to knowing where to search.

My firm’s research reveals that Indeed has the best and most updated listing of jobs in the government sector. While LinkedIn is better for the corporate sector, there are many recruiters and tech-based systems that post-government jobs that are expired or closed. Indeed.com, however, is the best site for accurate and up-to-date government jobs.

Be sure to check the job opening review dates. In 9 out of 10 instances, if you have missed the first review you are too late. While you may apply for these, be realistic that you may not hear back until a candidate is hired. This is not a fault of the system, just a reality of applying too late.

Government jobs are posted regularly and routinely. Most agencies are limited in their HR and recruitment budgets. As such they post opportunities, review candidates and make decisions in a far quicker pace than the private sector – and yes this is based on evidence! Not what I would have thought myself!

Candidate preparation: the right resume for the right role

To help in this process of mastering the RIGHT resume for government job websites, I strongly suggest the “Career Development System

This system has been evolved from research including insights from over 1200 HR professionals, thousands of application applications (students, military, government, and executive candidates alike), recruiters, and hiring authorities.

It is designed to reverse engineer the process of being considered for a job. In fact, in two separate research reviews, candidates using the CDS have outperformed the average applicant success rate by over 3-fold.

To start, the system has each candidate focus on integrating their resume with a specific strategy. The system blends looking beyond just immediate opportunity for promotions or new hire into a job opening by providing tools, data, and trends impacting economic and personnel decisions.

The system is built on a human-design method to ensure your ability to articulate who you are as a professional, to emphasize your soft-skill and technical-skill strengths, and to strategically align your efforts to obtaining a job while also learning what steps to take for the long-term for optimized career and professional performance (in other words, not just how to get hired, but how to be promoted!)

The system also works to create a master “modern resume” that blends a cover letter, recruiter-format, executive-format, and CV into one functional resume (this is what you would upload into the Government Jobs site recommended earlier).

From there the system provides you concrete steps to optimize your job search, job application, and interview preparation process while aligning actions that build your confidence, clarity, and conviction needed to stand out from the crowd. This system emerged from evidence-based data during the Great Recession and continues to perform all comparable career development programs on the market.

Not sure what these terms mean? Precisely why the investment into the CDS is worthwhile!

Participants experience 4x the rate of resume views and interviews than those not using this system. One reason is the more advanced mini-resume method of the new system provided by the SLA.

This system helps candidates create very specific resumes to enhance performance while maintaining the master version online to maximize social media optimization where recruiters seek out the candidate (Note: this is applicable to those seeking private-sector jobs equally as much as those using governmentjobs.com

Within the CDS program, you can hire a coach or attend classes or work through an individual process. Mastering this method is very important to maximizing performance in both of the job application systems referenced above!

What’s more? This is the only system in the world that has been vetted by multiple cities, state, federal, non-profit, and for-profit agencies.

It has been fully accredited for undergraduate and graduate education. It is a robust system independently vetted and awarded and it does not cost hundreds or thousands of dollars or months to complete.

Tips from the 2019/2020 CDS Report specific to government jobs:

Be ready to interview with not just the hiring authority, but a peer and direct report panel

Government interviews tend to include insights from direct reports, peers, and supervisors. Questions will be standardized and scored candidate by candidate based on collective input from the entire interviewing team.

These tend to be time-bound responses, and the CDS system is ideal for ensuring you articulate your strengths clearly, consistently, and aligned to information in your resume and online social media profiles (government agencies will benchmark data and answers closely).

Be ready to provide concrete experiences in time-bound written and oral interview questions

Experience from the private sector is great but remember the government values social contribution so resume and interviews should highlight skills developed in non-profit and volunteer roles.

Government agencies seek representatives of the people to work for the people, so seeking a government job can be a great opportunity for those that have not been active in the workforce due to maternity, paternity, or educational leaves of absence.

Review the openings closely and be realistic about what you are applying for as an applicant

Many government jobs have very specific technical skill requirements. One of the best aspects as a job seeker looking to government jobs is that they tend to provide very clear and specific eligibility requirements.

So while the shot-gun application process might be understandable in private sector positions that are vague and often highly customized (making it easier to apply for a lot of “closely matched openings”), don’t take advantage of the government jobs that tend to very clearly define the skill, education, and desired work experience minimums to be an eligible candidate. Or at least do not expect that method to yield better interview rates.

It’s what you show, not who you know

Government hiring authorities have strict requirements for posting, interviewing, and offering jobs. Private sector networking is less effective then articulating your strengths and skills with confidence – the foundation of the career development system! However, if you opt to network, focus on government job recruiters versus fairs if you are a senior or executive level candidate.

These private contract firms tend to obtain the highest level of opportunities for government jobs across the country. They have very high rates of communication and do not over contact candidates. This is far easier than searching tons of community websites if you are seeking an executive-level opportunity.

In review: Government jobs

After two years of research reviewing the original data from the career development system and bench-marking modifications against the digital and learning economy, thousands of applications and data-points, and peer review of the findings, I continue to be amazed that government jobs rank among the highest of candidate experiences.

Jobs open quickly, close quickly, are clearly communicated. Decisions to advance candidates occur quickly. Most positions rely on a recruiter interview, a written response (sometimes profile assessments), and then a final series of interviews (often panel interviews followed the same day by interviews with the hiring manager).

As a result, the government sector moves far more efficiently than the private sector. But, as with private-sector jobs, getting a government job requires that you focus, articulate your strengths, and ensure clear alignment of your capabilities.

They often review your answers and complete more comprehensive background checks to verify accuracy on your resume, in the interviews, and in written responses.

Give yourself an advantage in obtaining a government job and consider investing in your success by checking out opportunities using the Career Development System available at https://www.strategiclearningalliance.org/registration-cds.shtml

About the Author

Website: J Paul Rand

Dr. J Paul Rand, MBA, CPCN is a performance psychologist, organizational development research authority, and published leadership scholar.

He has advised the White House, members of Congress, and multiple Federal Agencies. He is an advisor to C-level Big 4 executives and his Seattle based research firm boasts multiple global leading organizations.

His work in career and professional development was awarded by the Society of Human Resource Management for ten years running. He influenced Starbucks, Boeing, and Amazon Veteran hiring programs. He has presented at Forbes Speakers in NYC at Forbes on 5th.