How best to leverage a recommendation for a government position?
February 29, 2016 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I am applying for a position within the US Government that will be evaluated via review board. I have met the director of the office that's hiring a few times (though he may not remember me) and currently work with a person who also knows the director and works on exactly the subject matter they're hiring for with me, so this person has both cred and can vouch for my skills. The person also reached out to the director to let them know I was going to apply and they could vouch for me (before I had applied and was ready for the person to reach out). How can I best use this connection?

I am confident there will be a **crush** of applications like any publicly posted job so anything that can help make me stand out and at least get selected for an interview would be useful.

I'd like to hear if anyone has experience in this area and have any advice on how to use recommending person's help on this. While I am grateful for recommending person's enthusiasm, I was caught off guard when she sent the email before I had said I was ready for person to do so and had an opportunity to note the connection through other means (say by asking person to call, or noting my work with the person in my cover letter and reaching out separately to the director). The email was a decent, formal recommendation. She also noted that I had asked her to reach out in the email, which wasn't the conversation I had at that point, just that I was thinking about applying for the job and was inquiring whether her offer to reach out still stands. I am also unaware whether director replied back to person, although i was copied on the initial mail out.

The job post asks that the application be sent to someone who is not the director and that the application will be evaluated by a review panel.

1) How can I best use recommending person's email to my advantage? Do I acknowledge her email in my cover letter, or separately reach out to the director after I have submitted my application to thank recommending person and let director know that i have submitted my application?

2) Do I even acknowledge the recommendation at all?

3) Or do I just note that I've worked closely with recommending person in my current position on matters that they are asking for in the cover letter? What about other people could give glowing references, but may not be known to the director?

4) Any other advice you might have for applying for these positions might be helpful. I believe the position here is an excepted position so it might not be subject to the standard competitive process, but I would still at least like to make it past the first cut for an interview.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total)
The person also reached out to the director to let them know I was going to apply and they could vouch for me (before I had applied and was ready for the person to reach out). How can I best use this connection?

1) I agree, simply make certain to apply. If they want you as much as they seem to, they will be able to get you from list of applicants given them by HR.

2) I would not recommend that you mention the email contact (or any personal connections to the organization) in your cover letter. That might even jeopardize their ability to hire as it might be interpreted as bias on the part of the interviewers. You might however, ask the person if you could use them as a reference on the application, as a former co-worker.

3) I would recommend this. You do want to make certain that you very closely match the requirements of the position, often mimicking the exact phrasing of each requirement followed by the reason(s) why you are a good fit. Here it's quite appropriate to note that "I worked with so and so on project X".

4) You may also need to have patience with them. It's a really formal process. They have to follow a lot of rules and you may have to jump through a few hoops. If you think this is worth it, you may have to do all sorts of things (e.g. exams) that you might not have to do for a less-formal private interview.
posted by bonehead at 1:30 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Put your "inside" person who vouches for you as your first professional reference, with the usual name, agency name, title, phone number contact info. No more. At least where I work (Fed Govt, sometimes doing the hiring) that's code for everything you want here, and is about as far as you can go without risking "shit, now I can't hire that person because it would look obviously inappropriate."
posted by ctmf at 8:47 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also see if you can get your contact to get you the official Position Description (PD) for the job. Some places are more controlling of those than others. At ours, they won't give them out to people until they're hired and they have to sign that they understand it, but I think that's dumb.

It's a huge advantage in the HR screening stage if your resume just happens to have a lot of exactly what the PD requires - most of the gazillion applicants are just shotgunning. This is why we don't give them out; it gives certain people an advantage others don't have.

So I think we should post them on a public website, which would solve the same problem (but also create a new one by making it easier to know what lies to tell)
posted by ctmf at 8:55 PM on February 29, 2016

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