Let’s jump right into it. In the first section, we talked about the motivation behind searching for a new job. Then we started looking at the main venue for those looking to get into government employment, USAJOBS. It can be a bit intimidating at first glance, and applying to jobs on the site can be a bit time consuming, but hopefully as we walk through this, you will see that there is a method to the madness, and the time spent is worth it in the end – as long as you follow the “rules” and turn in an application that a) gets past the recruiter, and b) catches the hiring manager’s attention and lands you an interview. But first let’s focus for now on USAJOBS.
Here is where I will make a “but I thought you said…?” announcement. I have been harping on getting it right to get the right job – but here is where I say in, you guessed it the infamous capital letters and exclamation points APPLY TO EVERYTHING!!! Yes, it seems to go against the grain of everything else I have talked about, but my point is this. At the end of the day, if a job appeals to you, and you have had that “come to Jesus moment” we discussed, then by all means apply. It may be labeled as spitballing, but who knows – it just might work. Just remember that this process takes time, and if you can use your time wisely by having all of your job hunting ducks in a row – why wouldn’t you?
I chose to look at a position as an Intelligence Specialist (GG-0132-11) based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and now I will give a quick overview of just what the hell all of that jibberish means. First, when you open up the announcement, don’t be that kid who jumps right into answering the test questions without reading the instructions only to get to the end and read “If you paid attention to the instructions you would have known to simply put your name at the top and hand it in…if you didn’t follow instructions and completed the whole test – you failed.” Make sure you read from top to bottom thoroughly, even if you have applied to this exact same job in the same location before. If you are seeing it again, that is usually a sign that it is being re-advertised, and sometimes this means that changes to the requirements have been made.
So, from the top of left when searching the sites as I said, you can tailor your search by job type, key words, location, etc. One thing to be aware of: there is a place where you can search for jobs open to everyone and those only open to current federal employees. Understand that “Current” means that you are working for the federal government RIGHT NOW, not you will be in 6 weeks (which would make one wonder why you are applying here in the first place), or that you did work as a fed in the past – it means at the time that the announcement is open, and that you were in that status when the announcement closed. Federal means that, unless the announcement specifically calls for contractors, vendors, etc., you are a permanent employee of a federal agency.
When you click on the announcement, you will first see the position title and below it, the office/unit of the agency announcing the position. Both of these are important to take note of because the title does not always accurately define what the job entails. For instance, the title we are using, Intelligence Specialist, is a very broad one that encompasses a myriad of duties and necessary skills, from kinetic operations, to cyber, to SIGINT. The office/unit is not of great importance unless you are making a lateral move within the same agency.
Next is the agency contact information. Again, this not of the utmost importance at this juncture, but is good to have in the case of the need to appeal an eligibility or hiring decision. The location of the position is also listed, and this is important because as you will see, getting to said dream job in Hawaii may not be as easy as it seems when you currently reside in New Hampshire. Below the work schedule is the most important bit of information on the announcement – the opening and closing dates.
If I need to tell you that applying to a position that has already closed is a waste of time, then stop reading right now and go sit in the corner and don’t come out until I feel like dealing with you. Now, it must be said that there are some jobs that are open on a constant or long term basis – meaning that the job is crucial but hard to fill, is a temporary or term position, etc. Those jobs are ones that you usually apply to only once, and if you are found to be qualified, your name is placed on a certificate of eligibles (more on that later) and as the need to fill the job comes up, they go down the list and make calls for interviews. What about veteran’s preference, you ask? Well hold on, GI Joe/GI Jane, that will be discussed at a later time. Get back in formation.
Having said all of that, just like with anything else (except in certain, uh personal moments), it is best to be early when applying to these jobs. There is no set amount of time that announcements will be open, but the standard is usually 7 calendar days. Depending on the type of job, the historical popularity of the position (meaning a ton of people apply) and hiring manager preference, it could be open for as little as three days. However long it is open, make sure that you get your application in early and well before the closing date/time. Announcements open at (approximately) 12:01 AM on the date noted and close at 1159 on the closing date noted. On rare occasions, recruiters will accept applications/documents after the closing date, but only with valid reasoning.
Rounding out the top portion of the announcement are the Salary Range, Series/Grade, Promotion Potential, Supervisory Status, Who May Apply (WMA), Control Number and Job Announcement Number. In no particular order, the series and grade for the job will be important because it will determine an aspect of your eligibility for the position. We talked about the who may apply, but it goes deeper than that. At its base, if the announcement says “All US Citizens,” then literally ANYONE is able to apply (in reality anyone can apply for any announcement regardless of what it says.) Whether or not you qualify is a different story.
So here is a good time to address an issue that I see come up a lot. Sometimes the WMA will say something like “All US Citizens in the Washington DC (or Newport, Rhode Island, etc.) Commuting Area.” What this means is that while anyone may apply, only those folks within the accepted commuting area will be accepted. The general rule is a 50-mile radius from the location of the job position, and that distance can be either from your home or work address. It is at the discretion of the recruiter, but we tend to give the person the benefit of the doubt if it’s within 3-5 miles. Some applicants like to appeal this if they are found not eligible because of being “outside the area of consideration” but most accept it. Outside of a physical location, applications might be limited to DoD, the intel community, vets, students or any of the combinations that the hiring manager decides on (and is legally allowed to.) Lastly, the control number and job announcement number are important for both tracking the application progress and or providing information when filing an appeal.
Now that we have walked through the initial information found in the top half of the announcement, in the next segment we will discuss the details provided such as the job summary, duties, requirements, and the all-important specialized experience. It seems like a long and tedious process but hang in there – we will be hitting “Send” before you know it.
Featured image courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.