Despite some notable improvements over the past year by the Office of Personnel Management to streamline the process for federal hiring, federal job seekers are still often frustrated with, overwhelmed by or puzzled over the complex federal hiring process.
Agency recruiters and prospective job seekers may find at least some insights in how to more successfully navigate that process in a new book, “Find Your Federal Job Fit.”
Authors Janet M. Ruck and Karol Taylor explain that the “federal application process…is based on a set of laws and regulations that were written for a specific purpose. Over time, layers of new laws were added. Eventually they created a morass of rules that now make up the federal hiring system.”
So it is easy for federal job seekers, especially those just starting their searches, to make mistakes during the application process that could easily be avoided. Ruck and Taylor highlight 11 mistakes that many federal job seekers make, and how to avoid them. The errors include:
- Beginning the federal job search without target occupations: “Time spent in self-assessment and career exploration can pay dividends in seeking and finding a federal job that fits.”
- Taking any federal job to get your foot in the door of the federal government: “Lateral transfers often are difficult to obtain. Given the arduous hiring process, federal managers are reluctant to allow employees to move from their current positions.”
- Narrowing your job search geographically by focusing only on Washington, D.C.: “Only 15 percent of federal jobs are in D.C.”
- Overlooking networking as a powerful federal job Search tool: “Although federal law requires that the federal application process adhere to strict guidelines, you can find out about federal opportunities in many ways.”
- Applying with a generic resume: “A one-size-fits-all resume robs you of the opportunity to market your qualifications in the context of the job.”
- Not promoting yourself: “In a competitive marketplace, applicants who have the ability to toot their own horn are likely to get noticed, interviewed and hired.”
- Applying for everything: “You are wasting your time by applying for a position without sufficiently analyzing the vacancy announcement.”
- Not spending enough time targeting application materials to your audience: “Give yourself a chance to get an interview by analyzing the vacancy announcement and writing for your audience.”
- Choosing jobs based on salary only: “If the salary for a federal position seems low compared to what you earned in the private sector, consider the many benefits of federal employment.”
- Applying only for jobs on USAJOBS: “Federal law does not require that vacancies be posted on USAJOBS; the law requires only that jobs be advertised. Some federal agencies post their jobs on their own websites only.”
- Misrepresenting background and experience: “It is certainly important to sell yourself, but do so authentically and honestly.
The authors have their share of experience in understanding the challenges inherent in applying for federal jobs. Janet Ruck worked until 2003 in the federal Department of Health and Human Services. She currently provides coaching to federal executives, leads job search workshops in workforce development centers, and facilitates career transition training for a number of federal agencies.
Karol Taylor worked for more than 28 years in the federal government and brings a broad perspective and insider expertise to the federal career management process. Taylor currently provides career-related workshops for college and workforce development and adult education programs, and consults with federal agencies to provide career transition services.