Transition Guidance

Success during your transition is the result of an honest self-assessment, developing sound financial and career planning objectives, aggressively pursuing your job search strategies and a little hard work!

Title:Applying for Federal Jobs

Author:Barbara Adams. All rights reserved.

As with most job applications, the federal government requires a resume, but a Federal Resume is much different than what is expected in the private sector. A Federal Resume must also include special key words and phrases found throughout the vacancy announcement to pass the initial screening process. 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.

There are several different versions of Federal Resumes as well, depending upon the application process. Whether it is an OF-612, SF-171 replacement, a Senior Executive Service format, or a resume that is entered into one of the many online application systems, the government requires more information than is typically found in a private sector resume. For example, some applications require your social security number or the last four digits, others require the full addresses of previous employers, supervisor names and phone numbers, and/or a detailed listing of education (including relevant coursework, credits earned and GPA) and training (including certification dates).

Online formats required by systems such as USAJOBS, AVUE, Army CPOL, Navy CHARTS and others are very specific, both in terms of actual format and document length. These online formats can be very restricting, and the instructions they provide can be very difficult to interpret correctly. Any missing information can result in a rejection of your application.

Some federal job announcements require additional statements or technical questions. The most common of these are Knowledge, Skill, and Ability statements, or KSAs. These questions must be answered in a narrative statement explaining in detail some specific experience, knowledge or capability with examples from the candidate's career. Length typically runs from 3/4 to 1 1/2 page answers per question and each answer is scored by a reviewer. Like other vacancy questions, KSAs generally require at least one or two examples in the CONTEXT — CHALLENGE — ACTION — RESULT format, and the reviewer will want to see details. Other mandatory statements include Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), Technical Qualifications (TQs) or Professional Technical Qualifications (PTQs) or Managerial Technical Qualifications (MTQs). 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.

Senior Executive Survive (SES) 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. While all other application processes focus on what you have done, there SES process focuses on how you did it. It's not enough to say you led a project, you must show how you created and promoted a vision, how you motivated people and built coalitions, how you secured and managed funding. In fact, there are 28 Executive Competencies that must be covered in the application process, which is deliberately designed to be grueling and time consuming, with little margin for error. Many people have called their SES application process "cathartic," because it forces the applicant to review their entire career in minute detail, thoroughly examining their tactics, leadership style, career path history and future goals.

Mandatory ECQ statements address expected leadership competencies such as Leading Change, Leading People, Business Acumen, Results Driven 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 CONTEXT — CHALLENGE — ACTION — RESULT format.

The 5-page SES application is a new development that has complicated the process considerably. ECQs are reviewed by a panel, and reviewers are accustomed to ECQs with one to two pages per answer. Several agencies are trying variations on a 5-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 the new requirements and the new format. To successfully write these applications requires a great deal of skill and inside information.

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