Certain job markets have more incentive for those looking for employment. If you’re looking for a stable career with fantastic benefits, you may have considered the health care or education industries, but there’s another major sector you should look into. Government is a prominent, promising career choice for people from all fields.
Because it’s so expensive, federal employment offers many different career paths. You can work in a local or national government on a variety of issues or grow in a singular role that leans more toward administrative or technical duties.
Wherever you want to take your career, landing a government job is the first step to make that happen. For some people, the application and interview process can be confusing because of how it differs from finding a private-sector job.
Read on to learn how to get a government job no matter your experience. With the right preparation, you’ll land the post you’re looking for and enjoy being part of an essential public program.
1. Do Your Research
When you’re looking for a government position, the first thing you should do is read about the organization, branch or office you want to work with.
Start by visiting its main website to read about its mission statement and what the department does. Memorize core points and beliefs to bring them to your interview and show you’re a good fit for the organization.
Check the news and any press linked on the website to find out what the office is currently doing and what future projects might be. Read through social media, as well. You’ll either find more information that excites you about the position or discover you might not be such a great fit, after all.
2. Emphasize Your Skills
Unemployment is at a significant low of 4.1%, which means that with less competition, it’s the perfect time to get your foot in the door. Still, thousands of people apply for government jobs every day, so you’ll need to stand out more than in a typical job application.
Either on your resume or in a questionnaire, emphasize your strongest skills by relaying situations where you led a team, took on a particular challenge or solved a problem. Talk about how those attributes will benefit the organization if you are hired and describe how they will grow with time.
Employers want to know why you should join their team, which means you should bring something to the table after you get hired and continue growing in your time on the job.
3. Avoid Job Scams
Because so many people want to get a government job, sometimes scams are involved. Be on the lookout for anything that asks you to pay to apply to jobs. You should never be told there’s a position waiting for you or a guarantee of employment after purchase. No legitimate job will ask you to pay for anything, give your bank account information or provide your Social Security number.
If you happen to fall for a job scam, don’t panic. You can call the FTC hotline and report what you saw. You won’t be penalized for the mistake, so it won’t be counted against you in future applications.
4. Read the Occupational Questionnaire
At the end of some job posts, you may see an occupational questionnaire. Although you might think you answered the questions in your resume or cover letter, you still need to read and answer each question. These narrow down what they’re looking for in a candidate, which gives you another opportunity to pitch yourself. This might also appear under the Who May Apply and Qualifications sections, depending on the job.
5. Sign up for Emails
While you’re flipping through job posts, don’t forget to sign up for email alerts. There are always new positions being posted that you might miss because you’re filtering by keywords. Daily or weekly emails will round up new availabilities and provide a fresh perspective on what your opportunities are.
After you’ve searched through potential jobs for days or weeks on end, the listings will start to look the same. Email notifications direct you to the most recent posts, which you may accidentally skip over otherwise.
6. Review Your Resume
Once you’ve found a few jobs that interest you, wait to send out your application. First, you’ll need to review your resume. The federal application process is very specific because it runs all submitted resumes through computer programs.
These look for certain buzzwords, so take the time to make your resume shine no matter what experience you have. Include words such as:
Consider the length of your resume, as well. Traditional jobs prefer resumes to fit on one page, but government jobs want one to three pages per resume to get a better understanding of the applicant. Once you have your buzzwords and length, tailor your resume for each application by putting the most relevant experience at the top and working your way down.
7. Check Your Status
After you’ve completed an application and clicked the submit button, most sites will provide a status that shows you where it is within the hiring process.
Check it whenever you need to, instead of calling an HR department for a follow-up. The status will be “reviewed” if someone has considered your application, “referred” if you’ve been passed on to the hiring manager or “not referred” if you’re no longer in the running for that role.
8. Ask the Right Questions
Schedule your first interview and celebrate, but remember to sit down and think about what questions you’ll ask during the interview. It’s not enough to have the best answers. You also have to show you’re inquisitive.
The right questions are the ones you can’t get an answer to with a quick internet search. A great example of this is health care. If you ask whether or not the job includes benefits, you’ll look like you didn’t do your research. Government jobs traditionally provide extensive and high-quality health insurance for full-time employees.
Instead, ask job-specific questions about what they expect from the role, how you can develop it and what your day-to-day responsibilities will look like.
9. Understand What’s Expected
While you’re considering a job post, make sure you understand what’s expected of the selected candidate. You might see the terms “competitive” and “excepted” service and skim over them, but they clarify who should apply for the job.
Competitive service is much more strict since they look through all applicants, but only refer a few. After you apply to a competitive service job, you’ll need to complete a written test and go through separate evaluations that consider your education, experience and any other skills you have.
Excepted service is slightly less strict because these jobs are typically only attorney positions. Since attorneys must go through rigorous exams to pass the bar, they prove themselves long before any evaluations need to be done.
10. Know the Job Requirements
Reviewing the job requirements on every job posting should be a habit you develop quickly, but you also must remember them when you move forward in the application process. You’ll need to know what you’ll do in the position and what your weekly schedule will look like. While looking for these requirements, you might find that the job includes a flex-time program, so you’re not locked down to the standard 9-5 workday.
Requirements may also guide the questions you write down for your interview. You’ll want to know everything you can about what the selected candidate will do in that position and avoid asking questions that were already answered in the job post. This kind of research seems straightforward, but not reading through a listing happens more often than you might assume. Give yourself the best chance of landing the job by learning everything you can about it before walking into an interview.
11. Serve in the Peace Corps
If you’ve struggled through multiple non-referral applications or don’t have the experience needed for government job positions, you may want to consider serving in the Peace Corps. You’ll travel the world and help others as an international volunteer.
Peace Corps provides you with a monthly living stipend, extensive health and dental insurance, and vacation time.
Once you’ve spent three years with the Peace Corps, you’ll earn non-competitive eligibility status, which makes you more likely to find employment with a government agency. This is a great option for those who wish they could travel more and develop their skills at the same time.
12. Show Your Confidence
Taking on a government job is a huge responsibility. When you go in for an interview, project a strong level of confidence from the moment you walk through the front door. Dress as though you’ve already won the role, always give a firm handshake and maintain eye contact with every answer you give.
Even if you can’t think of a response to a question right away, pausing to think shows you’re considerate and taking the interview seriously. Sometimes confidence lands you a job faster than someone reviewing your resume
Land That Government Job
By keeping these tips in mind and following the right process as you begin your government job search, you’ll stand a better chance of landing the right post for you.