With the recent election, when's the best time to apply for a gov. job?
November 21, 2008 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Given the recent presidential election, what's the best time to apply for a job with the Federal Government?

I'm interested in applying for a job within the Federal Government.

Given the recent talk in the Washington Post et al. about job turnover, reform, and overhaul coinciding with the Obama Administration's transition into office, all other things being the same, when should I send in my application to give myself the best chances?

Right now? Right before inauguration? Right after? A few months into the new administration? Long ago, before the election happened?

(I suppose one would also have to take into account things like how long an application will take the float up to the top of HR's pile, and the like, but I'm not sure how long to estimate for that. Assume large-ish agency.)

Throw-away email at aspiring.jobsworth@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Checkout this site for jobs with the Obama-Biden administration. I applied, but I seriously doubt my chances, mainly because (a) I didn't go to a prestigious university, (b) I don't have any highly-esteemed people in my network who could vouch for me at the White House, and (c) well, there's probably tens if not hundreds of thousands of applications.

But you didn't clarify if you meant the federal government as in CIVIL SERVICE (as in, a career job doing something non-partisan for some agency or department) or if you meant explicitly POLITICAL WORK, the kind where you lose your job once Obama isn't president anymore.

As for the TIME to apply--uhhh...yesterday?
posted by AlbatrossJones at 7:01 AM on November 21, 2008

or if you meant explicitly POLITICAL WORK, the kind where you lose your job once Obama isn't president anymore.

In theory anyway.

Seriously, if the Civil Service is what you are after, apply now. There will also be more positions opening up once there is a Federal budget passed.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:05 AM on November 21, 2008

Federal civil service hiring is a mysterious thing. Apply early and often, is all I can say, and expect the process to take a long time.
posted by footnote at 7:09 AM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Apply immediately and continue applying. This goes for any job.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:35 AM on November 21, 2008

I'm a federal employee (non-political, Dept. of Interior.)

In reality, and without snark, the time to apply is when a job is open that you are interested in and that you are qualified for.

If there are budget cuts that result in cutting employees, the cuts often handled by attrition; encouraging early retirement, not back-filling positions as employees move on, having a hiring freeze, etc. But even during those times, new employees are still being hired, probably for different positions than the ones being phased out.

So, if there is a position open, go for it. As with any organization, you can't predict the future; but the federal government probably has a little more security than the private sector, because there are certain rules in place as to how employees can be let go.

Here's the USA Jobs direct link.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:38 AM on November 21, 2008

But even during those times, new employees are still being hired, probably for different positions than the ones being phased out.

Does the hiring slow down during the transition? I understand these are not political jobs, but the higher-ups are political jobs, and that seems like it would cause a lot of turmoil. Replacing the whole management layer and such.
posted by smackfu at 7:43 AM on November 21, 2008

I second USAJOBS....I work in the government and I can tell you it works.

A few things to consider -

If you have a security clearance (even just a interm secret) you'll be pushed through and to the top of the list like nobodys business

If you have prior military service (called Veterans Preferance) you'll be pushed through quick as well

If you have neither one, expect a 7-8 month wait.
Further more if you are interested, you can apply to each branch of service (like Dept of State, US Navy...etc) and cut the middleman out (middleman being Uncle Sam)

Here is a decent starting place (Navy)


Grace and Peace -
posted by TeachTheDead at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2008

For the Schedule C political jobs (the vast majority of Obama's appointments will be lower-level Sched. C's), early in the administration is the toughest. First in line will be those who worked on the campaign or are otherwise well-connected in Dem circles. It will be easier to compete for those jobs two or three years into the administration when the first group moves out of govt. or moves up the chain of command.

But you might as well apply now and get your name "in the mix". You never know when the phone will ring...
posted by BobbyVan at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2008

Does the hiring slow down during the transition?

From my tiny piece of ground, I wouldn't be able to give a concrete answer. Maybe there are statistics somewhere. Ultimately, my job is subject to the Secretary of the Interior, which is a cabinet position. So, if the newly appointed Secretary, at the behest of the President, is told to cut expenses, it could affect hiring.

My department is involved with managing dams and reservoirs. This still has to be done, regardless of who is in office. The President or Secretary might decide to handle it in a different way, including turing over certain properties to states or private entities. But this can and does happen at any time, not just during a new administration.

I also can't see any reason for hiring to slow down during transition. The current Secretary isn't going to implement an incoming President's policies. And the new President has no power until he takes office. It's after the new administration is in place that things can change, but, again, there is no way to predict how that will affect any specific position, especially at the lower end, where the vast majority of federal employees work.

So, my opinion, as already stated is: if there is vacancy, go for it. You are at least as likely to have it turn into a decent career as working anywhere else.

Keep this in mind as well: once you are hired as a federal employee, a lot of other jobs open to you that are not even available to the public. I always receommend that people take any federal job, even if it's not what you want to ultimately do. You can always apply for better jobs, in countless locations around the world. The key is to get in. The job you really want may never be available to you until you are already a federal employee. As a test, go onto the USA Jobs site linked above, and check the box that says you are a federal employee before conducting your search. Compare that to the jobs available when you check "no."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2008

Let us know how it turns out and where you land.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:48 AM on November 21, 2008

followup from the OP
I noticed there was some confusion about which sort of government job this applied to. To be clear, I was asking this in regards to direct-hire, civil service positions (probably starting at around GS-10, if that matters).

I have no illusions that I'd be useful at all as a political appointee (though I suppose other people reading this might be interested, so if you have information about that too, share away).
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on November 21, 2008

For civil service jobs, set up a search agent or two (or three) at USA Jobs and start applying for anything and everything. Don't give up. It took me a long, long time.

Be prepared to spend an hour or more on each application. You can't just attach your resume and write a cover letter; each and every job has it's own questionnaire.

I always recommend that people take any federal job, even if it's not what you want to ultimately do.

posted by JoanArkham at 3:28 PM on November 21, 2008

Department of Commerce employee here. My advice would be to apply early and often. Hiring will depend on what agency you are going for and their budget situation. Positions in my agency have been slow to post (a co-worker got promoted a month ago and his spot still hasn't shown up on USAJobs). However, it's uncertain whether it's due to a pile-up on someone's desk or as rumor says, a way to save costs by holding positions open. Either way, if you see an opening you are interested in, go for it.

Pay attention to the announcement (and the questions that come with it). Play up your resume and put in key words to match the position's Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA's). Take a look at this site. If you go to the "Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families" you can find descriptions of the series you are interested in. If you click on the link to a particular series, it will take you to a detailed description of what they are looking for at each grade level (GS-5, GS-7 etc). You can then put the keywords they have in those descriptions into your resume.

In addition to taking any federal job as suggested above, you may want to consider moving to get the position you want, especially if you're looking for something specialized. Yes, moving to BFE Montana may not be ideal, but it is another way to get your foot in the door.
posted by weathergal at 5:19 PM on November 21, 2008

I have a friend who started working for the State Department a few years ago. From initial request for applications to hire date was a year.
posted by garlic at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2008

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