Federal Employment Application Tips

Hi, my name is Emily Gomez and I'm a Assistant Director here at University Career Services.  I will be offering you a few Federal employment application tips if this is an interest area. I typically work with students who have an interest in applying to a federal agency that posts and recruits for their positions through USAjobs.  There are many Federal agencies that use their own websites to manage their recruitment process and are happy to help with questions surrounding that as well, but just know that this presentation will focus more on how to navigate USAjobs. So, I wanted to start out with one of the most common reasons someone would come to see me.  So, I completed a pretty extensive training through The Resume Place, that is a private firm that works with people who want to have Federal resumes completed. And one of the things to consider is how the industry resume differs from a federal resume. So, for the most part federal resumes are much more lengthy, the writer assumes that the reader would think that have no skills whatsoever. So things like softskills, communication, writing, reading, analytical skills, that sort of stuff, that you would assume the reader knows.  In a Federal resume, it needs to be explicitly there.  You also have with these accomplishment statements, where you might think of answering an interview question about what was impactful for your role in an internship, volunteer, previous work experience, and that sort of stuff.  You'll also have hours per week worked, address, supervisor information, where that would not be appropriate to include on an industry resume.  So I just wanted to give you a quick snapshot about how those two documents differ, but essentially it will just be really lengthy.  Another thing that's helpful when I meet with students is to talk about how they search on USAjobs, so it can be a little overwhelming.  By just searching keywords, or just searching agencies.  So what I encourage students to do is think about searching by groups and series so I've screenshot a rather large document from the Office of Personnel Management and there are many, many groups and series, so I'm just showing you one here and this is just a common one for undergraduate students studying here...so that's why I chose to show that.  And here, we'll have common entry-level positions like economists, foreign affairs, international relations, the Intelligence Series, sociology, history, psych, social work positions as well.  So, what the groups and series search allows you to do is to search across different agencies for the same type of role.  So, that may allow you to kind of open up your search a little bit more, because many of us know the really large agencies, but we may not know that Hey, this agency that I never thought about also would hire someone with my background.  So, like I mentioned, there are many, many different groups and series, so if you're unsure about how your academic background might kind of coincide with one of the groups and series, I'm happy to kind of look over what you've worked on and kind of relate that to one of the series, and there may be several groups that sort of align with your background.  The next thing I do get questions about is how to kind of understand what GS levels you should be searching.  So, for the most part, your bachelor level positions are going to  be a GS-5.  If you've done well, and you have a 3.0 or above, you would have what's called a Superior Academic Achievement, and you may be able to enter into the same position as a GS-7.  Master's level folks, GS-7, GS-9, depending on how many years.  And then your higher level PHD degrees, JD, that sort of thing, would be your higher levels, but for the most part, undergrad students are going to search GS-5- GS-7.  I wanted to screenshot a couple of parts of announcements from a position from USAjobs, so there are several ways to search, I mentioned the groups and series, there's also on their homepage, a recent grads link, and you can certainly search that, and then filter by GS level, if you wanted to, so this particular position is a GS-9 with promotion potential to a 12, so that's you  know, what you saw on there the highest level that's not really like an appointed position, so that's really a nice kind of 'grow professional development role'.  Other things to note:  So, this is a position where you can actually apply through the USAjobs page.  Some agencies will have what they call Public Notices so it's just a 'Hey, we're going to open up recruitment soon...you'll need to go to our agency page and complete the application through our portal".. So, in that case, it would have like Public Notice in parenthesis typically, and there would not be this 'Apply online' feature.  The other thing that's nice that this position notes is if you are expected to graduate within 45 days so that's you know, you are applying at the beginning of the semester that you are going to graduate, you can definitely apply.  Some agencies are very explicit and they'll say you can't apply for this role until your degree is printed on the transcript.  So, just make sure you're reading every line of the announcement to make sure so you don't get disqualified for a position related to when your degree posts on your transcript.  The other thing I wanted to mention is how you'll be evaluated.  There's many different steps.  There's obviously the profile, the resume, and your responses to the Occupational Questionnaire.  When I meet with a student for the first time, and they show me a position, I immediately  go to the Occupational Questionnaire and look through that to figure out if it's something that they are actually qualified for, or something that they're like "Oh, this is really cool position, I would be really interested in doing, but I don't really have experience in every aspect, but I think I could learn'.  So, that sort of approach would maybe work in a private industry, but in Federal, you really have to have a degree of competency in every single one of those areas, duties and qualifications.  Always, always, always preview the questionnaire.  It's usually embedded towards the bottom, so you'll get this link, and we'll go to that in a second.  But I wanted to share this part here it's category A,B, and C.  And this can also be best qualified, least qualified, you know, that kind of scale.  And so, the questionnaire has many questions and they're all weighted differently and then agencies have different cut-offs associated with their questionnaire responses, so some of them are fairly high 90 - 85, and so in order for your resume to even get read, you must score in that highest category on the questionnaire.  So, that's why it's so important to really look at that and really ask yourself do I have this competency from any kind of experience?  They don't really care if it's a class, volunteer, work experience, internship, that sort of thing.  A class maybe, but,  you need to give yourself credit for how much you might have led a project or consulted with others, you might have worked with an industry partner, that sort of thing.  So, if we go ahead and look at a part of the questionnaire, these questions here, 4-7, are just yes/no questions.  Some of them, I've seen after you hit Yes, another box will pop out and it would say "Please indicate where in your resume, the evidence for this competency is'.  You'll just have to put in the context from your resume.  So, as you can also see, I wanted to point out, is this is a new page, so many of these agencies have these application managers.  Some of them are through Monster, some of them are through Indeed, just know that you're going to get pushed through another site to complete the Occupational Questionnaire.  So, again, you must be answering positively to all of these questions so that you don't get a score that is too low.  The other types of questions are the scaled questions, so questions 8-9 here are asking you to kind of rank yourself and consider the prompt above, so please select the one statement that best describes your experience with regard to developing these applications, so again, you should be answering with these bottom two statements and then knowing that there's evidence on the resume for your competency.  So, on a private industry resume, you may just have a course title listed.  On a Federal resume, because you will need to prove that you know how to develop all those...you might have the course title, a ';', then a whole bunch about the course concepts that were covered that you did really well in the course, that you participated in and tutored other classmates and more information than you would have ever thought that you would ever share.  But again, you have to show evidence for why you are giving yourself that grade.  So, hopefully this was helpful and gave you a few more ideas about how you might go around looking at positions on USAjobs as well as kind of understanding all of the details that are on announcements.  I'm happy to support you in whatever stage you are in the process, whether you are just beginning or you've found a position and are ready to apply.  My email and contact information is there.  Feel free to schedule an appointment on the Career Services website and just select me as your counselor.  (As of June, Ms. Gomez is no longer working at UNC.  Please schedule an appointment with Tamara Taylor)