Seven Federal Job Search Tips for Recent Grads and Current Students

A career in the Federal Government can be very rewarding, but the process for obtaining a position can be challenging. The federal job search involves a different process and a different resume style than the conventional job search. Here are seven tips to assist you with landing a federal opportunity.

1. Research federal occupations by major and determine your target agencies.

Did you know there are more than 400 federal agencies and that job titles in the Federal Government differ from the private industry? Because of the volume of federal jobs, I recommend narrowing your search by using the USAJobs federal occupation by college major tool. It’s not all-inclusive, but it is a great place to begin your search.

2. Get familiar with the student and recent graduate program.

The Federal Government offers various pathway programs from student internships to full-time employment for professionals who recently completed a graduate degree program. When conducting your search on USAJobs, select the “Students” or “Recent Graduates” filter to display all jobs open to those groups.

3. Apply through a special hiring authority (if you’re eligible).

Special hiring authorities are used by agencies to appoint specific groups of individuals who meet the respective eligibility requirements to positions in the Federal Government. For example, federal agencies have the authority to non-competitively appoint a qualified covered veteran to any position for which he or she is qualified.

4. Prepare a federal resume.

Use the USAJobs resume builder to ensure you have the most up-to-date format. In addition, be certain that you do not leave out any necessary components that may not typically be included on a private sector resume, such as your employer’s complete street address or the number of hours worked per week.  After building your resume, you can download it and customize the order of the sections and format to best showcase your career history.

5. Read the qualifications thoroughly.

Federal recruiters will not make any assumptions about your experience. Therefore, be sure to include information on your resume to show your basic qualifications and more if applicable. If you do not qualify, do not apply.

6. Expand on your duties with details to illustrate your skills, knowledge, and abilities.

It is not enough to simply state that you have the required qualifications. Recruiters are seeking examples of what you were responsible for along with outcomes and quantifiable information to paint a story that will build creditability to your application. The average federal resume can be 3-5 pages long and may be longer given the length of your work history. Therefore, do not be concerned with the length of your resume as recruiters need to see such detail to accurately score your resume, but do be concise. Also be sure to include relevant volunteer experience. Recruiters account for all relevant experience whether it is paid or unpaid. However, details must be included for credit. Format the description of your unpaid experience in the same way that you would for a job to provide valuable insight on competencies, knowledge, or skills that you demonstrated.

7. Use the job announcements occupational questionnaire as your check list.

Recruiters will be cross-referencing your responses with your resume, so you should do the same. Review each assessment question and ensure details that match your claim are included on your resume.

Allow yourself enough time to complete your federal application, as it may take a while to gather the necessary information and documents (including academic transcripts) needed to complete your application. For additional insights, watch the recording of our webinar, Federal Job Search Essentials featuring myself and UMGC alumna, Ileana Turner, Recruitment and Outreach/Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement Specialist for the Food and Drug Administration.

Cathy Francois, MBA, GCDF, is the assistant director of career programming for Career Services at University of Maryland Global Campus and a certified Global Career Development Facilitator. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida and a Master of Business Administration from Kaplan University. Cathy’s career began in advertising sales and customer service, after which she transitioned into higher education, working as an admissions advisor. She also served as an academic advising and career services for over seven years. Cathy has a passion for helping people succeed and uses her diverse experience and interpersonal skills to bring a personalized approach to career coaching.