Page updated 10/1/2016
Federal Job Application Process
Applicants must package a professional federal resume and in some cases draft Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) to make it through the selection process and to be called for an interview. I can’t stress enough the importance of tailoring your federal resume to the job announcement’s key duties, responsibilities and specialized experience. If you tailor your resume to the job announcement you will improve your chances of being referred for interviews. Everything is about ranking factors and showing rating officials through your detailed work descriptions that you deserve to be placed in the “Best Qualified” group.
Another factor to consider is that most federal resumes — over 90 percent or more — are now submitted online through federal resume builders. I suggest completing your federal style resume offline on your desktop computer rather than going straight to a resume builder. You need quality time to compose and tailor your resume, and many of the online resume builders and submission programs have time limits and other constraints. You can copy and paste your resume into the online resume builders after you professionally compile your application on your desktop.
There are significant differences between the private sector's brief resume format and the detailed information required for a federal resume format. The resume most job seekers are familiar with is a short one page introduction. Uncle Sam’s federal resume is complex and highly structured and must include specific data or it may be rejected. The federal resume gives the job applicant the ability to generate a hard copy to take to the interview and to copy and paste the data into online resume builders.
The federal government rates applicants on their work experience and education. Prior to hiring reform, a personnel specialist rated your application. Under the new system managers and subject matter experts participate in the process, a much improved rating method. The application process can take months for the HR department to review and rate all applicants and then to conduct interviews before making an offer.
Unlike private sector companies, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) offers detailed Federal Qualification Standards to applicants that list qualifying work experience and education and these documents will help you determine whether or not you meet the basic qualifications for a desired position. These standards break most job series down to general and specialized qualifying work experience and required education. You must have at least the amount of education or experience (general or specialized) as specified in the OPM qualification standards for the grade and series of the position you are applying for to meet the basic qualifications. Past work experience and training must be noted in detail on your application. The selecting official can consider any candidate in the top rated category with some exceptions for Veterans Preference. Interviews are optional.
Combining Education and Experience: Combinations of successfully completed post-high school education and experience may be used to meet total qualification requirements for the grade levels specified. These equivalencies are listed in a chart with each qualification standard. They may be computed by first determining the applicant’s total qualifying experience as a percentage of the experience required for the grade level, then determining the applicant’s education as a percentage of the education required for the grade level, and then adding the two percentages.
In general what this means is that for an entry level GS-5 position an applicant can substitute 3 years of general experience within the occupational series for a 4-year course of study leading to a bachelor's degree. Essentially 3 years of work experience within the occupation can be substituted for a BS degree! This is quite a benefit and when you see an application that requires a BS degree read further because in many cased you can substitute work experience for the BS degree for entry level jobs.
Some applications still require essay type Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) questions answered. KSAs provide the rating official needed details to match your ability to the job duties.
A typical qualification standard includes the following information: