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How to apply for federal jobs
Online federal resume formats
How to read federal vacancy announcements
How to write your materials
Employee benefits offered by the federal government
Why Veterans should apply for a Federal Job
The federal government is hiring! At a time when private sector jobs are shrinking, the federal government has posted tens of thousands of jobs from entry level positions to the Senior Executive Service. With millions of employees, the federal government is the largest employer in the United States. Over the next few years, more than half of the government current workforce will be eligible for retirement, which means even more opportunities in the future and great opportunities for advancement to more senior level positions as the workforce retires. In addition, government positions offer a much higher level of job security than is traditionally found in the private sector.
Military Resume Writers and CareerPro Global, Inc. specialize in developing entry to C-Level federal applications. Send us a federal vacancy announcement so we can provide a free critique to determine if you are qualified and have the experience to apply.
The government is currently seeking personnel with training and experience in virtually every discipline. Homeland security positions are in high demand, as well as security, telecommunications, IT, Intelligence, logistics and health care. Many positions require a security clearance, which is a big plus for veterans with a current or recent clearance. Skills gained in the military are directly transferable to many of the positions the federal government is currently seeking to fill.
The federal government values military experience, as many of the jobs are similar to work performed by military personnel. Some military jobs are now being performed by members of the civilian workforce. It is not unusual for a military veteran to be hired as a civilian for the same job or similar position once held while on active duty. Many of the skills and duties involved in military positions are directly transferable to civilian government positions with Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA, and many others. Many federal agencies also value the training and certifications gained in the military, such as contracting certifications, leadership training, and secret security clearances.
Experience can substitute for college degrees in many middle and senior-level government positions. Private sector jobs often require a minimum four-year degree for senior positions, but the federal government recognizes that military experience can often provide real world experience that is invaluable. A military veteran without a degree can often enter the government workforce at a higher level than in the private sector. With the federal government, you are less likely to start at the bottom and work your way up.
Military veteran candidates are often eligible for special preference over non-veterans when applying for a government job. In some cases, even the spouses of veterans who were separated under honorable conditions can receive the Veterans Preference.
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Since the Civil War, veterans have been given preference in appointments to federal jobs. Congress recognizes the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces by passing laws that provide hiring preferences to military veterans. Disabled veterans often receive a higher preference. Not only does this help veterans during the hiring process, but also give veterans retention preference during periods of reduction in force. Preference alone will not place a veteran in every federal job, nor will it apply to promotions or other in-service actions, but it does give the veterans an edge against the competition.
The rules can vary from job to job, but generally speaking, a veteran must have an honorable or general discharge to receive a Veterans Preference, unless the veteran retired at the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander or higher and is not disabled. Members of the National Guard and Reserve active duty for training do not qualify for preference unless they are disabled veterans. For preference to be considered, it must be indicated on the resume.
Veterans who served during specific periods of conflict may be eligible for a 5 or 10 point bonus to their application scores. A 5-point preference is given to veterans who served during a war, from April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955, on active duty for more than 180 consecutive days (other than for training) any part of which occurred between January 31, 1955 and October 15, 1976, during the Gulf War from August 2, 1990 through January 2, 1992, for more than 180 consecutive days (other than for training) any part of which occurred between September 11, 2001 and an ending prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge, including El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia or Haiti qualifies for preference. NOTE: a campaign medal holder or Gulf War veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980 (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982) and has not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty.
A 10-point preference is given to veterans who served at any time and received a Purple Heart or who has a present service-connected disability or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Spouses, widows, widowers, or mothers of veterans may also be eligible for this preference as a "derived preference" if the veteran is not able to use the preference. To obtain the 10 point preference, the veteran (or qualifying relative) must complete form SF 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, available from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site: www.opm.gov/forms/html/sf.asp.
In addition to point preferences, there are other benefits such as Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA), which gives federal agencies discretionary authority to hire veterans who meet the basic requirements for the position without competition. After two years of satisfactory service, the veteran may be converted to a career-conditional appointment in the competitive service, or may receive a noncompetitive temporary or term appointment based on VRA eligibility (which does not lead to a career job).
New VRA eligibility requirements limit appointments to veterans who are disabled, who served on active duty in the armed forces during a war (or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized), who served on active duty or participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded, or who are recently separated from the military (generally meaning veterans discharged within the past three years). VRA allows appointment of eligible Veterans up to the GS-11 or equivalent grade. Direct appointments can be made for entry-level to mid-level positions often without need for a vacancy announcement.
30 percent or more disabled veterans may be directly appointed to a position with no grade-level limitation and without a vacancy announcement. Initial appointments can be time-limited to 60 days or more, with potential noncompetitive conversion to permanent status at any time during the time-limited appointment. Such positions are discretionary within federal agencies.
The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (VEOA) allows veterans to compete for jobs that are not open to other external candidates. A VEOA eligible who is selected will be given a career or career-conditional appointment. VEOA applies to veterans who are “preference eligible” (as explained above) or who are separated under honorable conditions after three or more years of continuous active service.
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As with most job applications, the federal government requires a resume, but a Federal Resume is much different than what is expected in the private sector. A Federal Resume must also include special key words and phrases found throughout the vacancy announcement to pass the initial screening process. Although there are similarities, each agency (and often each job announcement) will have specific information required in its own format as specified in the vacancy announcement.
There are several different versions of Federal Resumes as well, depending upon the application process. Whether it is an OF-612, SF-171 replacement, a Senior Executive Service format, or a resume that is entered into one of the many online application systems, the government requires more information than is typically found in a private sector resume. For example, some applications require your social security number or the last four digits, others require the full addresses of previous employers, supervisor names and phone numbers, and/or a detailed listing of education (including relevant coursework, credits earned and GPA) and training (including certification dates).
Online formats required by systems such as USAJOBS, AVUE, Army CPOL, Navy CHARTS and others are very specific, both in terms of actual format and document length. These online formats can be very restricting, and the instructions they provide can be very difficult to interpret correctly. Any missing information can result in a rejection of your application.
Some federal job announcements require additional statements or technical questions. The most common of these are Knowledge, Skill, and Ability statements, or KSAs. These questions must be answered in a narrative statement explaining in detail some specific experience, knowledge or capability with examples from the candidate’s career. Length typically runs from 3/4 to 1 1/2 page answers per question and each answer is scored by a reviewer. Like other vacancy questions, KSAs generally require at least one or two examples in the CONTEXT – CHALLENGE – ACTION – RESULT format, and the reviewer will want to see details. Other mandatory statements include Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), Technical Qualifications (TQs) or Professional Technical Qualifications (PTQs) or Managerial Technical Qualifications (MTQs). Additional statements are usually uploaded as a separate document or are entered into an online field during the application process.
NOTE: If your answer is too long for an online format, you will either receive an error message requiring you to shorten your answer before you can submit, or your answer will be truncated, removing any additional information beyond the required limit.
Senior Executive Service (SES) positions are the highest level in the civil service, requiring at least 10 years of executive leadership experience. Personnel in these top-level positions generally run entire departments, large scale programs, or an entire agency. Successful candidates are usually top military officers, Chief Executive Officers, Chief Financial Officers and other “C” level executive officers. While all other application processes focus on what you have done, there SES process focuses on how you did it. It’s not enough to say you led a project, you must show how you created and promoted a vision, how you motivated people and built coalitions, how you secured and managed funding. In fact, there are 28 Executive Competencies that must be covered in the application process, which is deliberately designed to be grueling and time consuming, with little margin for error. Many people have called their SES application process “cathartic,” because it forces the applicant to review their entire career in minute detail, thoroughly examining their tactics, leadership style, career path history and future goals.
Mandatory ECQ statements address expected leadership competencies such as Leading Change, Leading People, Business Acumen, Results Driven and Building Coalitions, however, each of these has several subtopics that must be addressed and the terms used often have their own unique definitions that are quite different from what you would normally expect. Again, a minimum of one to two examples must be provided in the CONTEXT – CHALLENGE – ACTION – RESULT format.
The 5-page SES application is a new development that has complicated the process considerably. ECQs are reviewed by a panel, and reviewers are accustomed to ECQs with one to two pages per answer. Several agencies are trying variations on a 5-page resume that additionally includes all of the information traditionally found in separate ECQ statements. Although the government issued a very basic guideline in 2010, there remains a great deal of variation on how to interpret the new requirements and the new format. To successfully write these applications requires a great deal of skill and inside information.
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Most federal agencies accept applications that are entered online via the Internet. These online resumes and applications undergo a triple screening process that is designed to reject as many applications as possible. Since these positions are announced throughout the United States, the government would receive literally thousands of resumes for certain positions, especially in a down economy, so systems are in place to restrict successful applications only to those who have clear qualifications for the position. Unfortunately, this system often eliminates many qualified candidates as well. Many people have received rejection letters saying they do not have the minimum required experience, although they have held similar positions for many years. If experience is not presented in a manner the agency expects, it effectively does not exist.
The online resume screening process begins with an electronic for key words and phrases required for the position. These are usually included in the vacancy announcement, but they are not obvious. A careful reading of the announcement to identify themes, repeated phrases and jargon is necessary for success. Without the right keywords (or enough of them) a resume will be rejected. There are many other factors involved that the candidate generally cannot know, such as where keywords should be placed in the document, proper format of text and paragraph usage to highlight them properly, and many details. This information is not found in the online instructions or the vacancy announcement. In addition to the keywords and phrases, your resume must also read well and directly target the information requested in the announcement. Additional irrelevant information can distract from legitimate experience and result in a rejection.
After the electronic search, a low level administrative assistant will visually inspect the document for information he or she has been directed to find and many not even understand. If you pass these stages, a higher level reviewer who probably does have experience in the appropriate field will check the details to see if there is sufficient experience in the proper areas to warrant an interview. You resume will be scored according to this experience and the top level candidates usually will be called for a phone interview, followed by an in person interview.
NOTE: the entire screening process can take from a few days to several months after the announcement closes. For this reason, it is usually wise to apply for as many jobs as possible that reasonably match a candidate’s skills and experience.
Online formats include numerous restrictions that make it difficult to fully express work experience. Each online application format has different requirements for resume length, date formats, number of jobs allowed to be described, and the number of characters allowed in each field. Some mandate the name and format of each supervisor, even if the candidate indicates it is “Not OK to contact” that supervisor or if the supervisor is no longer available. Other online formats (most notably the Federal Aviation Administration) require numerous “check the box” type answers to an extensive list of questions detailing every possible aspect of your prior experience.
Character counts are unforgiving. Note that that is characters, not words, and spaces and paragraph breaks are counted as characters as well. Exceeding a character count will result in an error message or simple truncation of an answer. It is critical to review all answers entered online prior to submitting, especially in you paste in an answer that was copied from Microsoft Word or some other word processing software.
ATTENTION APPLICANTS: The Army will complete its transition to the DoD Enterprise Recruitment Tool (USA Staffing) effective, 1 May 2012. USA Staffing will be the single hiring process and tool used by all DoD components. Effective, 31 May 2012, the Army Resume Builder will no longer be available. Resumes cannot be electronically transferred to USAJOBS/Application Manager. Applicants must manually extract their resume data prior to the system going off-line. Applicants are encouraged to pre-position their resume into USAJOBS to apply for Army positions. Applicants will be able to view the status of self-nominations from the old system via USAJOBS - My Account - Application Status. Tips on application procedures can be found at: Tips on Application Procedure
The Applicant Helpdesk is currently experiencing technical difficulties receiving and sending emails. As a result, this has caused a delay in the Applicant Helpdesk being able to respond to your request/inquiry. Your request/inquiry is very important to us. At this time we encourage you to contact us via telephone, at 410-306-0137, as an alternative method of contact until the email process has been resolved. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.
From CareerPro Global: If you currently have an Army CPOL resume that you wish to have converted to USAJobs, please contact us and we'll provide you with a Quick Quote.
Note that USAJOBS also allows a resume to be uploaded directly in GIF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, RTF, PDF or Microsoft Word format, allowing candidates to completely bypass the online builder, but this is actually counterproductive, as uploaded resumes are not part of the searchable database. Using the online builder allows other agencies to find you, and also ensures your resume includes all the information required within the appropriate character limits. It certainly takes longer, but is much more beneficial to use the online builder.
USAJOBS has no capability to submit KSAs and other statements online. They are either uploaded as separate documents or are entered online after transferring to an outside agency site. Often, these instructions are unclear or misleading, so it is important to click the Preview Questions link if one exists. There is usually a contact person listed with an email or phone number to answer any questions regarding the application.
Each announcement will include important information such as who is eligible to apply, qualifications that must be demonstrated in your work history, and may identify mandatory supplemental statements or questions.
Check the vacancy announcement for specific information required. Each announcement is different and may require some or all of the following information in a specific format.
Supplemental Essay Questions:
In addition to the resume, an applicant also may need to prepare KSAs or answer other essay questions such as TQs, ECQs or others. These supplemental essays are generally written in a CONTEXT-CHALLENGE-ACTION-RESULT (CCAR) format, detailing one to three examples addressing the question. Unlike the resume, these narratives are written in the first person. Since each answer may be judged separately and may be split among different reviewers for evaluation, each should be treated as an individual document. Any acronyms used should be defined in each and no reference should be made to another answer (e.g., never say, “See question 2 above”). It is also permissible to reuse examples in different answers, although these should be written in a different manner to target the specific question and a greater variety of answers is best. Examples should be within the past 10 years and as recent as possible
Context: Where you worked, when, who with and in what capacity?
Challenge: What was the problem that needed to be resolved?
Action: What did you do to resolve the issue or improve the situation?
Results: How did the situation improve? Did others recognize you for your efforts?
Note that you should not use actual headings in your answers. KSAs should be written as a narrative. Generally speaking, Context and Challenge can comprise the first paragraph, While Action and Results can be individual paragraphs or be combined into one.
Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs):
SES Application requires answering 5 ECQ essay questions and may also include one or more Professional Technical, Technical, or Managerial Qualification essays. The PTQs, TQs and MQs are similar to KSAs. ECQs, however, are unique and very specific, as they are addressed as a group and must address 28 Competencies in the proper areas within the 5 overall questions. While other essays focus on what you did and the results, ECQs use the CCAR format to highlight how you lead. You must show what steps you took to develop and promote a vision for strategic change or reduce conflict. How did you maintain external awareness and use political savvy to identify decisions makers with the authority to support your position and build a coalition? What programs and policies did you implement to boost morale and develop your people?
Note that the terms used in the information requested often have different definitions that are normally understood. For example, the topic for ECQ 3 is Results Driven, but it 6 includes subtopics such as Decisiveness, Entrepreneurship and Technical Credibility. The last does not necessarily mean use of technology, it means you understands and appropriately apply the principles, procedures, regulations and policies in your field of expertise. So if you are a contract manager who is known for solid understanding of contracting law, regulations and procedures and you can apply them properly in a variety of situations, you can demonstrate your Technical Credibility.
NOTE: ECQs simply cannot be successfully written without a thorough knowledge and understanding of the federal SES guide. If any one of the competencies is not sufficiently addressed, the application will be rejected (although in some cases, if there is a minor question, the ECQs will be returned with one additional chance to submit revisions).
The 5 ECQs include:
1. Leading Change: How do you develop and implement strategic change within an organization?
2. Leading People: How do you design and implement strategies to maximize employee potential, build teamwork and reduce conflict in an inclusive work environment that values diversity?
3. Results Driven: How do you solve problems and identify new opportunities for organizational improvement?
4. Business Acumen: How do you administer human, financial, and Information Technology resources to ensure success?
5. Building Coalitions: How do you identify key decision-makers, understand the internal and external politics, and influence stakeholders to build coalitions and secure agreements?
New employees may be eligible for special bonuses such as a recruitment bonus or a relocation bonus. This will be at the discretion of the employing agency. Other beneficial federal programs may include incentive awards, employee development programs, student loan repayment programs, retention allowances, and interagency transfers. All agencies support community service and encourage participation in the annual Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)
The government's health benefit program has about 180 health plan options throughout the United States, including consumer-driven health care and preferred provider network options. At least a dozen plan choices are available to each employee, which allows for a broad choice so that employees can select the plan that best meets their own individual health care needs. While specific benefits vary among FEHB plans, none can impose a waiting period or require a medical exam to enroll in their plan.
Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
FSAs allow employees to increase their disposable income because the amounts they contribute are not subject to federal income, FICA, State or local income taxes. The federal government offers both a Health Care FSA and a Dependent Care FSA. Employees can use the Health Care FSA for expenses that are tax-deductible, but not reimbursed by any other source, including out-of-pocket expenses and non-covered benefits under their FEHB plans. Some examples are non-covered dental services, lasik surgery, health plan deductibles, and co-payments and coinsurance. FSAs for dependent care are available for employees with dependent children or qualifying dependent adults when the care is necessary to allow the employee to work.
Leave and Holidays
Federal employees are entitled to at least 13 days of vacation leave as well as 13 days of sick leave each year. Depending on years of service, employees can earn up to 26 days of vacation leave each year. In addition, Federal employees get 10 days paid holiday each year.
Family Friendly Flexibilities
The federal government provides many programs for workers to support their needs for individual flexibility. For example, Flexible Work Schedules allow employees to adjust their work hours in order to take a day off each pay period. Employees can enjoy twenty-six 3-day weekends! Also, the federal government's Alternative Work Schedule allows employees to select certain arrival and departure times that best suit their needs within their working day. Agencies are encouraged to allow eligible employees the opportunity to Telework either at home or at a remote location at least one day a week. Family Friendly Leave Policies provide flexibility for military leave, allow employees to care for a sick family member or flexibility in the event of a disaster or emergency. In addition, while specific programs may vary, agencies also offer Employee Assistance Programs, Part-Time & Job Sharing Positions, Resources for Child & Elder Care Resources, Information and Incentives for Adoption, and other Child Support Services.
Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS):
Retirement benefits are based on your years of service and salary history.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP):
With the Thrift Savings Plan, individuals can self-direct their retirement savings program through multiple investment options. This plan is very similar to a 401(k) plan.
Federal employees will earn Social Security credit while working with the government. Social Security provides for individual's future retirement benefits, provides disability protection, and allows for survivor benefits protection.
Medicare - Part A:
Government employees are automatically eligible for Medicare Part A at no cost beginning at age 65.
Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI):
FEGLI is a group term life insurance program. It consists of Basic life insurance coverage and three options. In most cases, if you are a new Federal employee, individuals are automatically covered by Basic life insurance and your payroll office deducts premiums from your salary unless you waive the coverage. In addition to the Basic, there are three forms of Optional insurance that you can elect. (Standard, Additional, and Family). The program offers the opportunity to retain your coverage for your entire life.
Long Term Care Insurance Program:
As a new federal employee, you have the opportunity to apply for long term care insurance under the federal program with minimal underwriting. However, a limited number of medical conditions will prevent a new employee from being approved for coverage. Long term care helps people to perform daily activities if they have an ongoing illness or disability. This program offers a choice of benefits that can provide a variety of services, including but not limited to: nursing home care, assisted living facility care, adult day care and at home care. Please see the link for specific information. There are many other benefit programs that make the federal government a model employer and a top ranking career choice. The following is a list of additional programs offered by many of the agencies:
Lump-sum bonus to newly appointed employees for difficult-to-fill positions. Up to 25% of basic pay may be paid prior to employee entering on duty. Service agreement with repayment plan if service time not fulfilled.
Lump-sum bonus for difficult-to-fill position in a different commuting area; up to 25% of basic pay. Service agreement with repayment plan if service time not fulfilled.
Continuing payment to retain departing employees; up to 25% of basic pay.
Monetary; Time off; Honorary; Non-monetary
Annual fundraising support of community service groups
Permits agencies to repay the student loans of Federal employees; used at the discretion of the agency.
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Barbara Adams, President & CEO of CareerPro Global, the parent company of www.careerproplus.com has been a member of the careers community for the past 23 years she and holds four prestigious industry certifications. CareerPro Global, Inc. is the first business of it’s kind in the careers industry to earn ISO 9001-2008 Certification in July 2010. CareerPro Global is one the fastest growing Military, Federal and Civilian Resume Writing and Careers Coaching companies in the industry. Barbara's team of Certified Professional and Federal Writers assist thousands of veterans applying for and gaining Federal employment each year.Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved