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Last Updated on 03/28/2024

Getting a federal job is impossible — that’s one of the typical concerns people have when they want to switch their career to a civil servant. In practice, the Federal Hiring Process is way more complicated and demanding than landing such a position on the USAJOBs website, where all you need is to save offers that seem appealing, upload your resumes and attachments (or create those with the built-in service), and complete an application. Here, you will have to pass several interviews and background checks before obtaining the desired position in the federal government sector.

Whether you want to become a part of the federal professional community in cyber, technology, finance, human resources, engineering, or other industries in the USA, your awareness of the hiring nuances can become a key element of your success. Keep on reading this guide to answer the most popular questions and concerns. Do your best to reach the federal employment of your dreams!

U.S. Federal Government Job Categories

There are 3 categories of federal government jobs in the United States: 

  • Excepted Service: Excepted service positions typically involve authorized agencies outside of the executive level of government. These can include positions in intelligence agencies, the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Secret Service, United States Congress and many security and defense agencies.
  • Senior Executive Service: Also known as SES positions, this is the smallest category of government jobs, at only 8,000 employees. This category of service is just below Presidential appointees, although up to 10% of SES positions can be filled by Presidential appointment. These positions often include managerial and executive director positions for government departments such as the Department of Agriculture, the Office of the Inspector General, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
  • Competitive Service: This is the largest category of federal service and comprises the majority of the job announcements posted on USAJOBS. While excepted service and senior executive service positions are not often subject to the traditional federal government hiring procedures, hiring for competitive service roles is fairly standardized.

With all of the benefits of working for the U.S. federal government, as well as the sometimes-intense competition to land a position, many might wonder how to get a federal government job. While there are certainly some similarities between the federal and civilian job search process, there are also some key differences, including veteran’s preference, occupational questionnaires and the construction of a four to six-page federal resume. The following steps will detail how to get a job with the federal government in the competitive service.

Federal Job Application: Eligible Candidates

There are several hiring paths to explore in detail, depending on your background experience. There are several nuances to consider to match the target position, but these are the categories of potential employees that are eligible to get a government job in the federal sector:

  • veterans and military spouses (special bonuses and advantages with Preference Programs);
  • former or current federal workers;
  • students or graduates without experience in the field;
  • Alaskan Native or American Indian Americans with extra benefits;
  • senior executives, and so on.

Although there are thousands of federal government jobs available for interested parties, including unique positions such as training specialists in the Transportation Security Administration, recreation fee clerks, and administrative support assistants, your recruitment path may be full of hidden pitfalls.

How to Get a Job with the Federal Government

Whether you are a newbie or completed government job applications before, it is crucial to ensure your level of preparedness isn’t based on outdated information and practices. Here are a few things you will have to bear in mind whenever pursuing your goals in the federal professional environment:

  1. Ensure you have access to vacancy announcements from reliable sources. USAJOBS is the most popular platform to find infrastructure jobs here and now, but several employment offers are also available on websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
  2. On average, the recruitment process takes at least fourteen days. Even if the federal government job offer was posted several days ago, don’t hesitate to send your application.
  3. Creating a resume and passing through interviews doesn’t mean the challenge is over. One of the crucial things in understanding how to get into government jobs lies in your preparedness to work hard and showcase your soft and hard skills during a trial or probationary period.
  4. Both temporary and permanent employees in the market will have to deal with a security background investigation.
  5. If your relatives already work in the target office/organization you wouldn’t mind joining, it might be better to consider another recruitment plan. As a rule, the employment of relatives, be they half-siblings, cousins, or in-laws won’t be appropriate.

How to Get a Government Job as a Civilian

Applying for federal jobs means you have certain qualifications that correspond with the target position and its requirements. While it is clear that jobs like ISRO scientists, accountants, and civil engineers won’t have the same list of skills to adhere to, some widespread performances and professional traits are still popular across markets:

  • Strong Reputation — for beginners with no experience in the industry, their academic performance can be self-explanatory. In general, though, employees with no criminal history are preferred. Even if you had such issues in the past, it is better not to try to make fools of due diligence experts;
  • Veterans’ Preference Program — for transitioning military employees and veterans, this service is a chance to enhance the likelihood of being hired for a federal government job. To ensure your eligibility, you are welcome to consult with theprofessional advisor in the federal market;
  • Enhanced Noncompetitive Eligibility — this program enables federal government agencies to recruit specialists outside the traditional hiring procedure and lets enthusiasts to compete for specific roles in the federal government that are solely available to federal workers. Highlight your NCE status in your federal resume. The best strategy is to attach a corresponding certificate to your application for the government position.

Here are some crucial soft skills that will be a great bonus for people with a strong federal resume who want to apply for a government job:

  • Attention to Detail — take your time to analyze the position and see whether your skills and knowledge will work for it. No matter how good your resume is, it won’t work if it doesn’t match the position’s qualifications;
  • Responsiveness and Adaptability — showcase your skills in quickly adapting to ever-changing professional environments and stable performance that fulfills the expectations and demands of superiors;
  • Punctuality — otherwise, you may lose your job easily. Being late regularly signifies a lack of time management and disrupts the work of colleagues, which negatively influences the team’s capacity to finish a project beneficially and before the predetermined deadline.

How to Apply for a Federal Job

Let’s specify the step-by-step instructions on how to land a government job:

  1. Search for current positions provided by federal employment organizations like ETA, MSHA, EBSA, BLS, and others.
  2. Complete a resume and apply for the position at, Indeed, or other platforms.
  3. In the case of the exam approach, find job opportunities from IBPS, SSC, and UPSC and be ready for a multi-level interview. Score the best way possible by solving papers on current affairs, general intelligence, and other topics.
  4. Wait for the recruitment campaign’s final and check your results.

For most jobs in the United States government, you must be a US citizen. In many cases, green card holders are not eligible for these positions.

To simplify the challenge, let’s sum up some crucial tips for anyone seeking government jobs:

  1. On top of your general knowledge, improving your analytical, communication, and logical skills will always be a good idea.
  2. Check your eligibility for government exams. Aside from its overall efficiency, it may influence what government sector you would like to join.
  3. Staying focused will help you answer the interviewer’s questions properly. Think about your reasons for being the best candidate for the role and applying for it overall.
  4. Don’t forget to prepare some questions to deepen your understanding of the potential workforce to cooperate with and specific job duties and tasks.
  5. Consider the exam structure and pattern while paying close attention to the syllabus and eligibility criteria.

Target your federal resume to the job announcement. If you want to make it past the initial brief review, your federal cover letter and resume must clearly match your qualifications to the ones listed in the announcement.

Educational and Experience Requirements for Federal Service Jobs

Start by checking where you fit in the GS rating. It will help you define what professional offers your skills and experiences may be sufficient for. If you apply for federal jobs at GS-1, no formal education is required. The higher the level, the more peculiar demands you will have to fulfill. For instance, jobs rated at GS-9 and beyond will be out of your range unless you have a Master’s degree in certain fields (appropriate for the industry).

To navigate through these levels, remember the typical standard for the position and GS correlation:

  • GS13 through GS-15 jobs are preserved for doctorates and include supervisory positions at top levels;
  • GS-8 through GS-12 are usually mid-level job openings;
  • GS-5, GS-6, and GS-7 are typically nice deals for enthusiasts of any background — their entry-levels aren’t Mission Impossible to reach for beginners;
  • GS-4 and GS-3 employment opportunities, accordingly, are the selection of student jobs and internships.

Resume-Building Tips to Land Your Dream Government Job

Federal employment applications are extremely appealing — they hook potential members of the community with an enhanced societal status, travel and housing allowance, competitive salaries, retirement benefits, and other perks. Whatever federal government market you are interested in, your writing skills and tactics for creating a federal resume will advance thanks to these suggestions:

  1. Aside from providing valid contact details, you will have to properly outline your professional profile. It isn’t as simple as in the public sector, where a single table-like format may be enough. The more specific yet precise you are, the better. List your professional achievements and prove your worth as a successful candidate by linking your skills to the target job requirements through examples of former positions.
  2. Feel free to mention your volunteer experience. Although it is optional, it might be a nice factor to distinguish your professional profile from other candidates for the same position.
  3. Your training is crucial — any online courses and other kinds of learning curves will be sufficient to highlight in your resume.
  4. If there are any academic publications, awards, and honors to mention, don’t be shy to be a bit boastful.
  5. Must-have pieces of information include your language proficiency, security checkups ( SSC and ERC with valid until dates), and citizenship details.

Try to keep your resume as consistent as possible. By thinking about how employers will view your work, it may be easier to adjust your tone of voice and style of writing.

Government Job Interview Process

Government Job Interview ProcessFor those applicants that are referred, the hiring committee conducts another more thorough review. From here, some applicants will be contacted directly to schedule a panel, in-person, video or phone interview. Typically, only one round of interviews takes place although certain positions may require multiple rounds. 

Unlike civilian positions, government job interview process are highly structured with all questions directly related to the specific job role. All candidates are asked the exact same questions following the same order. There is typically little to no room to deviate from these questions to expand on an answer, so interviewees must be certain that their answers genuinely and accurately reflect their qualifications and skills. 

In general, most interviews, whether in-person or via the phone or video, last between half an hour to one hour. Once the interview process ends, candidates most likely to be offered the position will have references checked. 

Demonstrate how you added value to your previous employers. Federal employers want to be confident that their employees will be efficient, profitable, complete projects under budget and in general add value to the team and company. 

Is It Hard to Get a Government Job?

Obtaining a federal job is a demanding task, taking into account you will have to experience several checks, tests, exams, and interviews. Why is it so hard to get a government job overall? One of the most common reasons is that people don’t understand how things work here:

  1. Your resumes have to be customized for every application you make.
  2. It is a myth that all the candidate review processes are done by automated systems or AI tools. Although the latter can simplify the procedure, human resource specialists will certainly take a look at your resume.
  3. You stick to the general resume-building rules. It won’t be easy to get government jobs if you don’t shift your paradigm — four to six pages of text with detailed descriptions and keyword-enriched insights, information about your computer software skills, education, additional training, employment history, and so on.
  4. Your application has to include a minimum of three references to make it eligible.

“The HR person speaks in acronyms and worries about following the rules, for example,” he said, while subject-matter experts are mostly concentrated on particular skills they need for a job.

Another reason why making this goal come true may be difficult is because of the severe competition in the industry. For those who are interested in landing a federal job, standing out with their skills, expertise, and talents becomes a must.

Are Government Jobs Easy?

Compared to public sector jobs, federal vacancies aren’t necessarily simpler to apply for and handle. They offer more benefits yet come with a wider range of responsibilities to satisfy. A lot depends on what GS-level career you pursue. Data entry clerks, library assistants, administrative assistants, and subway operators — these are a few examples of easy government jobs to get.

Whenever you decide to know how to become a federal government employee, you should realize that this sector also tends to be more political and bureaucratic, regardless of the field you would like to work in. At the same time, you get more rewards for your effort — federal jobs have some of the highest-paying deals in the USA. As of 2024, you won’t regret working as a pharmacologist, general attorney, medical officer, or program manager.

Key Takeaways on How to Become a Federal Government Employee

Taking a closer look at how to enrich your resume with proper keywords and structure it in the best way are all valuable recommendations for enthusiasts. Nonetheless, your strategy on how to get government jobs in USA has to remain flexible yet based on facts.

Consider the agency’s information and application specifications to see whether you have a chance to succeed in the target field. Not every job requires special education or expertise, but if it does and you don’t meet the requirements, others might be more talented and seasoned for the position.

To boost your chances, opt for the largest federal agencies with the most employment — the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and so on. At the end of the day, you will need to be specific about your past experiences and understand job requirements and their correlation with your GS level. Good luck!

If you need more information read related articles: 

Resume Format for Government Job

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Professional resume writer Daniella HendersonDaniella Henderson

Daniella knows all ins and outs of the federal hiring process. She is excellent at job hunting strategies, starting from federal resume writing to the final stage of interview conduction.

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