Government Job Information

Veterans’ Preference
How to apply for federal jobs
Online federal resume formats

Why Apply for a Federal Job?

The federal government is hiring! With millions of employees, the federal government is the largest employer in the United States.

SES Resume Writers (CareerPro Global, Inc.) specializes in developing entry-level to C-level federal applications. Send us a federal vacancy announcement so we can provide a free critique to determine whether you are qualified and have the experience to apply.

The government is currently seeking personnel with training and experience in virtually every discipline, to include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as telecommunications, Information Technology (IT), Intelligence, logistics, and healthcare. 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 serving on Active Duty. Many of the skills and duties involved in military positions are directly transferable to civilian government positions with the DHS, 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 mid-level 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 Veterans’ Preference.

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American Flag in Front of Capitol BuildingVeterans’ Preference

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 it also gives 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 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 Veterans’ Preference, available from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website: 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 non-competitive 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 U.S. 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% 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 non-competitive 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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CareerPro was fabulous from beginning to end! From Barbara Adams providing solid first-rate career advice and warm encouragement to my wonderful writer, Stefanie Sealy, working patiently and succinctly to craft just the right words highlighting my Air Force achievements and accomplishments in hopes of my getting the internship of my choice as I complete a Master’s degree in Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. You could not ask for a more professional, caring, compassionate staff or an agency that is truly committed to veterans and their success! This agency is a 10!” – L. Bryant, R

How to Apply for Federal Jobs

As with most job applications, the federal government requires a resume, but a federal resume is much different from what is expected in the private sector. Your initial application is built and entered into the USAJOBS Application System, and there are also Assessment Questions that must be answered.  Your answers to these questions will determine whether your resume is accepted for further review. Once your application is accepted for further review, you must ensure specific keywords and specialized experience are addressed within your application in support of the federal job requirements, such as the inclusion of the assessment questions. 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.

government-job-information-photo2There are several different versions of federal resumes, as well, depending upon the application process. Most federal job applications require a USAJOBS resume inputted right into the online system.  Or, if you read the vacancy announcement carefully, it may state that you can upload your application and recommend uploading in a Microsoft Word format.  Of course, whatever you use to apply, all content and presentation must comply with federal application protocols.

Some federal job announcements require additional statements or technical responses.

The most common of these are Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities statements (KSAs). Although a memorandum was launched by President Obama eliminating the extensive federal application process, some federal agencies omit asking for a version of the KSAs, but still often ask that you have the requirements to support multiple and specific KSA questions.  We have named this type of verbiage in the application “mini KSAs” and suggest you submit a mini version of KSA statements in the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) formula. Our writers blend these questions into your USAJOBS resume in the appropriate job performed or add the responses to the Additional Information section on the USAJOBS online resume builder.

Other mandatory statements include Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), Technical Qualifications (TQs), Professional Technical Qualifications (PTQs), or Managerial Technical Qualifications (MTQs). These statements each have specific length and executive and technical responses required not to exceed two pages each. 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.  It is important to read the vacancy announcement for character or page limits and/or read the assessments questions to determine the length permitted.

Senior Executive Service 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.

Mandatory ECQ statements address expected leadership competencies, namely Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen, 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 CCAR format.

Several agencies are using variations on a five-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 these new requirements and the five-page new format. To successfully write these applications, it requires a great deal of skill and inside information. We highly recommend that you read each vacancy announcement carefully to determine format requirements.

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Online Federal Resume Formats

  •  USAJOBS
    Since this format has been endorsed by OPM, USAJOBS is fast becoming the premier clearinghouse for all government jobs. Unfortunately, there is a great variety in how other agencies use the system. Some rely completely on the USAJOBS online application process, which allows for five different resume versions and includes a document upload feature for KSAs and other documents to be attached in submissions. Some use USAJOBS simply as a “shell” that immediately redirects you to the agency site where the online application process may be completely different. Others receive the resume from USAJOBS or request you use its format and then redirect you to answer additional questions. The United States Air Force uses USAJOBS, but with its own unique requirements. 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, because 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.
  • Avue Central
    The Avue online resume system is provided to the government by Avue Technologies. This is one of the most complicated systems in terms of structure and requested information. Work experience has a 4,000-character limit and is added according to three categories: Federal Position, Non-Federal Position, and Military. TQs or KSAs are entered into an online field, when required by the vacancy announcement, and are limited to 4,000 characters.

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“I was selected for the SES position in San Antonio and passed the OPM review. I know it wouldn’t have been possible without all of your help and the wonderful package you prepared for me. I can never thank you enough for making this whole process such a wonderful experience. Thanks again.” – M. J. M, Field Office Director, DHS/Immigration and Customs Enforcement