I want to work for the gubmint
June 19, 2007 6:01 AM   Subscribe

I need help on the Federal job application process

I'm an attorney and have been in private practice in various positions for the last 3 years. Recently, I decided to make a change to the government sector.

I've been checking the USAJobs site, and applying like crazy.

My problem is that I cannot really find any examples of successful or good Federal resumes, cover letters, or KSA responses. I have a book from the library that was published in 1995, which has some good advice. But, I wonder how much of that advice is outdated.

So, hive mind, can you please point me to any websites, books, or other sources that deal with how to write a winning Federal job application packet?

Thanks a ton!
posted by reenum to Work & Money (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have a hard copy of my (successful) Federal job application; unfortunately, I don't have a soft copy. I'm not a lawyer, and the thing is almost 7 years old now, but you can have a look at it, if you like. Shoot me an email, and we'll figure out how to get it to you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:39 AM on June 19, 2007

Just do a standard, 1 page unless absolutely necessary, neat, resume like you would do elsewhere.
posted by Amizu at 7:03 AM on June 19, 2007

I have a copy of the 2004 federal resume guidebook that I got for free, and since I'm trying to get out of the government, I'd be happy to mail it to you, if you'd like. I'm sure there's a newer version, but not much could have changed, I think. Email me if you want me to send it to you. And good luck!
posted by lagreen at 8:24 AM on June 19, 2007

You need to go into a lot more depth when you do a resume for a federal job. You are basically writing a narrative. For example, "As a whatever I did this, this, this and that." You have to write everything you did.

Also, you have to use so many "magic" words, ie. facilitate, communicated, conducted, etc.

You need to go to opm.gov (see link below) and get the position classification standard and use a lot of that to help you write your resume:


Email is in profile if you want more help.
posted by govtdrone at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2007

I'm afraid I can't be very specific on this, but I have spoken with people who have succesfully applied for federal jobs (in parks/wildlife), and they all basically say the same thing. Of course, this may be different for your field, but: your entire application is given a score, and that score determines whether you get a second look. The score is based on work experience. There are books out there that can help you improve your score. On top of that, you can always request to see the score you received on an application. I don't know whether they always release that information, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I knew one person who went from ~800 to ~1200 just by re-doing his resume in such a way that it was scored differently. It's all about gaming the application to get the highest score according to the qualifications they're seeking.

For the next year and a half, I would suggest putting "life-long Republican" as your hobby.
posted by one_bean at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2007

Also, you have to use so many "magic" words
This is a good point. One thing I did was to echo, as much as possible, the language of the KSA. If it used the word facilitate, I made sure to use it in my answer. My answers were definitely narrative, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

For the next year and a half, I would suggest putting "life-long Republican" as your hobby.

Actually, unless the position you are applying for is a political appointee, I'd steer away from this. And, actually, you might find there are more Dems in Federal jobs if you really took a poll. -g

That aside, I am a Federal worker. And my recommendation is this: in a nutshell, give them what they want. In most Federal jobs, people in the Human Resource department read the applications and rank the applicants, sending to the office in which the job resides a "cert" (a certified list) of the top "n" number of applicants. You, of course, want to be on that list as those are the people who get interviewed.

People in OHR are reading your application and matching your résumé, KSA, etc. with the requirements listed on the job announcement. They may know nothing about the job itself (and more than likely they don't). So, you have to answer the questions as specifically as you can. If they ask for "x,y,z" experience, make sure you state clearly that you have that experience and go into whatever detail they ask for or you feel is germane.

The people in OHR are looking for as good a match to the job announcement as possible. Good luck.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:30 AM on June 19, 2007

one bean,

Could you please provide a list of the books you know of? I would really appreciate it.
posted by reenum at 7:48 PM on June 19, 2007

If I didn't know better, I would think that you are me. I also have been an attorney in the civilian sector, and have been trying to move either in-house or "in-government". The following are some resources that I have used--although I cannot say they have been successful so far:

Katherine Troutman of The Resume Place, Inc. is supposedly the guru of federal jobs, and I did use a couple of her books to get started. Check out the website.

Also check out the Federal Job/Career Planning and Development bulletin board at FederalSoup.com

I also have a few pdf publications that I will send you via e-mail. I obtained them by scouring the websites of various federal agencies.

I have several friends who are in federal service, and my wife was. It's a pretty difficult area to break into, and, I think, even more difficult for attorneys.
posted by gm2007 at 4:12 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

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