Last Updated on 12/26/2023
Getting a job with the federal government requires patience. Although you understand this, you naturally want to know precisely how long does the federal hiring process take?
The short answer is that it could take several weeks and up to several months. Managers must adhere to bureaucratic procedures when filling a job vacancy to show that they did a thorough job and kept the process fair.
The federal hiring process timeline reveals the reasons for the long waits. Human resources personnel and hiring managers must complete multiple steps before making any job offer.
- Job posting closes
- Applications are screened
- Qualified candidates are selected
- Interviews are scheduled
- Preliminary background checks are conducted
- Interviews take place
- Hiring manager chooses a top applicant
- A job offer is made
- The candidate accepts a job offer
Any of these steps could last a few weeks. The agency, type of job, and a number of applicants all influence the amount of time that goes into finding a qualified candidate. The job posting might be open for 30 to 60 days. Once it closes, human resources personnel must then finish screening the applications. They will weed them into yes and no piles based on applicants’ qualifications.
A hiring manager will then review the pile of possible candidates and create a shorter list of who will be offered an interview. This task might be completed in a day or could take weeks depending on the demands on the manager’s time.
Contacting people to schedule interviews takes time as well. Some of the telephone calls will act as an additional screening step to gain clarification about work histories and experience. Interested candidates will then schedule their interviews. This adds more time because people need to travel, and interviewers need to find time in their busy schedules.
Meanwhile, human resources personnel will be checking references and conducting background checks. As interviews go forward, more background checks could ensue based on the needs of the agency. Some require in-depth investigations to determine security clearance before making job offers.
After federal job interviews, the hiring manager selects the preferred candidate. This might take a few days as various parties within the agency discuss their options. Once a decision has been made, a job offer will be extended. This could be a federal hiring process tentative offer to explore the candidate’s receptiveness or a firm job offer federal government.
Additional time might pass before the candidate accepts or declines an offer. A person might choose to negotiate the salary, benefits, or relocation package. This would add more time before the parties arrive at a final agreement, and the person is formally hired.
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Federal Job Benefits
The patience and effort necessary to land a government job could be worth the wait. Government workers have access to generous benefits. Over the years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has measured a significant advance in government worker benefits compared to the private sector.
According to the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is the largest employer-sponsored insurance system in the world. Workers can select from over 200 insurance plans that range from high-deductible catastrophic coverage to comprehensive medical coverage.
- The government covers roughly 70% to 75% of the insurance cost.
- Pre-existing conditions do not prevent coverage.
- Insurance can cover spouses, ex-spouses, children, and retirees.
In addition to quality medical coverage, government employees may have access to:
- Vision and dental insurance
- Health care flexible spending account
- Long-term disability and survivor benefits
- A retirement plan that includes employer contributions
- Life insurance
- Employee assistance programs
- Child and dependent care
- Long-term care insurance
Negotiating Your Federal Salary
Although government agencies operate in a rigid manner, accepting the first salary offer is not your sole option. Negotiating a government salary employs most of the same strategies as for any salary negotiation except that you must understand the salary range for your position.
Federal job salaries derive from pay scales assigned to each position. The pay scale has steps that increase from the bottom of the pay scale to the top. Your position will also have a GS designation, like GS 9. Predetermined amounts of pay for each step within a GS designation will exist. The Office of Personnel Management has detailed information about US federal government salaries. You can research your position to discover the available pay steps. If you’ve been offered an amount at the bottom of the scale, you could ask for compensation higher up the scale if you can justify your value to the agency.
The pay might also vary by region because costs of living differ throughout the country. Locality pay scales could influence your chances of gaining a higher salary.
If the job that you’re considering would require you to move, then you could consider asking for payment of moving expenses. This might be an area where you can gain some extra compensation if the agency can’t budge on a salary offer.
A federal government relocation package might pay for:
- Counseling to help you plan the move
- Transportation to a new home
- House-hunting expenses
- Listing to sell the previous home
Not every job includes relocation benefits. Distance and the level of difficulty that an agency has filled a position represent determining factors. The General Services Administration has published a relocation policy guide for federal civilian agencies.
Our Advice: When plotting your counteroffer, investigate whether the job includes access to student loan repayment assistance. Depending on the agency, you might qualify for up to $500 a month to pay toward student loans.
Once you’ve determined that you’re not at the top of the pay scale, prepare your response by following these tips for how to negotiate salary with the federal government.
Communicate to the hiring manager:
- Other job offers for higher pay, if present
- Need for 10% higher salary than current job
- Experience and credentials that make you an outstanding addition to the agency
- Information about regional differences in cost of living
- Comparable state government salary, if applicable
Any facts that justify your counteroffer need to be in writing. The document might need to be viewed by several people at the agency, so it’s best to make everything very clear.
Federal Salary Negotiation Letter Example
Ideally, the content of your federal salary negotiation letter or email will follow this simple formula:
1st Paragraph: Open with gratitude for the job opportunity but then introduce your counteroffer for more pay or relocation money.
2nd Paragraph: Clearly make your case with facts and figures supporting your counteroffer. Bullet points could be useful.
3rd Paragraph: Reiterate your position and urge the agency to recognize your value. Close with an appreciation for their consideration.
This format keeps everything on one page and lets the reader clearly identify your case for higher pay.