College Counselors’ Top Tips for Students Applying for Federal Jobs

Many students and new grads are interested in federal employment. However, as a recent Washington Post article noted, they need to be better informed about how to apply. The Resume Place, Publishers of the Student’s Federal Career Guide, 3rd edition, recently interviewed career counselors at two colleges. The counselors emphasized learning how to write the longer, more detailed federal resume and offered other important tips.

About one-fourth of US college students list government as one of their three major targeted employers, according to the 2013 Student Survey. Yet just 8.5% of all federal workers are younger than 30. In a recent Washington Post article, Tom Fox of the Partnership for Public Service wrote that a crucial strategy for bringing more young people in is strengthening their understanding of the fed’s application process.

The Resume Place — publisher of the new Student’s Federal Career Guide, 3rd edition and a certifying trainer on the federal hiring process — recently talked with federally trained career counselors at two colleges. Tamara Golden at the University of California, San Diego and Emily Gomez, MS at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill shared tips for getting the inside edge in the federal job market.

Tip #1:  Learn how to cast a wider net on (the US government’s official job site). Both Gomez and Golden agree that many students make the mistake of searching for openings on USAJOBS by the limited number of federal agencies they know. “They don’t realize that there are a lot of similar positions and similar agencies,” says Gomez. Instead the counselors recommend searching by “occupational series.” The Student’s Federal Career Guide walks you through determining which occupational series would fit you best. “By searching by occupational series, you can find those hidden gems,” advises Golden.

Tip #2:  Be sure you’re actually qualified before applying. “The vacancy announcements will literally describe who will be eligible to apply,” observes Golden. And the Student’s Federal Career Guide explains how to understand the complicated announcements, adding that they must be looked at carefully. Golden recommends that you also spend time reviewing the “Occupational Questionnaire” linked to the announcement. If you can’t score yourself at the highest level across most skill areas, then you won’t be qualified, she says. Avoid “status” positions only open to current or recent federal employees. And students interested in “Recent Graduate” positions need to note how close to graduation they need to be to apply.

Tip #3:  Know that federal resumes are longer, and different, than private industry resumes. You can’t just attach a private industry resume if you want to land a government position. Fed resumes must be longer (3 to 5 pages) and more detailed. “Just this afternoon, one of my students expressed frustration at repeatedly being designated ‘best qualified,’ but never getting an interview,” says Golden. “The student had been using a one-page resume, which is a big no-no.” She told him to change to a multi-page resume at the least and also steered him to using USAJOBS’ online resume builder. Many USAJOBS announcements even require applicants to utilize the resume builder option only .

Posted in Blog, Federal Job Search, Federal Resume Writing, Student Internships, USAJOBS, Veteran Federal Jobs

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