Finding and Applying for Federal Jobs

A Primer on Finding and Applying for Federal Jobs

by Karlos Del Toro, U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Are you thinking about your next move after completing your studies?  Do you want the opportunity to contribute to others in an environment that makes the best use of your unique talents and skill sets?  Then you may want to consider a career with the Federal Government. There are many opportunities for long-term careers in multiple fields due to the varied mission areas represented by Federal service.  If this sounds appealing, your first stop is USAJOBS, the Federal Government’s main employment website where you will find and apply for Federal jobs, and get answers to your questions about Federal employment. There you can search for Federal jobs that match your skills and interests, and use the website’s tools and resources to narrow your results and find the job that is the right fit for you.

Start your job search by going to  Create a USAJOBS account/profile that allows you to customize your Federal job search and apply for jobs. To begin, select the “Sign In” icon on the main landing page of USAJOBS and follow the instructions to create your “” account. With a “” account, you can sign into multiple government websites, including USAJOBS, with the same username and password.  Once you are done, every time you select “Sign In” on USAJOBS, it will take you to the “” sign in page where you will enter your “” email address, password, and the security code that is sent to your mobile or landline phone.

After signing in, follow all instructions to complete your USAJOBS profile which allows you to save job searches, create and edit your résumé, upload supporting documents, and manage your applications – all in one place. Inputting your résumé and supporting documents in USAJOBS ahead of time will mean that you are prepared to apply for jobs when you are ready. USAJOBS gives you the option of performing a basic job search by entering keywords and the location where you want to work, or a more advanced search in which you can use several filters such as pay, work schedule, Department and Agency, and others, to refine your search and narrow the results to the jobs that best meet your criteria. You can also filter job results by specific hiring paths such as those open to students and recent graduates, or open to the public as compared to only Federal employees. Your refined search will lead to results showing job opportunity announcements (the formal term for Federal job postings) that meet your search criteria.  Review job opportunity announcements carefully to ensure they describe work that interests you and for which you are eligible and meet the required qualifications.

Next, you will prepare your application in USAJOBS. Your Federal application consists of your résumé and any supporting documents requested in the job opportunity announcement (e.g., school transcripts).  Check out the “How to Apply” and “Required Documents” sections of the job opportunity announcement to learn the steps you must follow and the supporting documents needed in order for your application to be considered complete.  Keep in mind that if you do not provide a complete application package you will not move forward in the hiring process, so be sure to follow all instructions in the job opportunity announcement.

When you are ready to apply for a specific job, select the “Apply” button within the job opportunity announcement and USAJOBS will then lead you through a five-step process to complete your application.  The first four steps include selecting your résumé, selecting any supporting documents (e.g., transcripts and cover letters), reviewing the package to ensure you are submitting all required documents, and then including personal information (e.g., where you learned about the job and other demographic data). The fifth step is to continue the application process with the agency at which you are applying. In other words, your application will electronically be forwarded from USAJOBS to the agency’s application system, where you will complete any agency-required steps such as answering a questionnaire or uploading additional documents and then submitting the application. Only at that point is your application for the job considered complete. You can check in your USAJOBS account to see that the status changes to “Received.” Depending on the agency, you may get an email confirming they received it.  If you do not get confirmation, we recommend that you follow up with the agency to ensure they received the application.

Here is what typically happens next.  Once the job opportunity announcement closes, the hiring agency starts the review process to determine if you are eligible and meet the qualifications for the job.  Next, the agency may conduct additional assessments to determine which applicants are best qualified for the position.   The agency places applicants into quality categories based on their rating process, and the names of those in the highest category are sent to the hiring official. Depending on its policy, the agency may then conduct interviews.  The hiring official will select the best candidate for the job and makes a tentative offer.  Other applicants are notified that they were not selected. Most individuals selected for Federal positions will be required to undergo a basic background investigation. Jobs that involve access to sensitive information may require a security clearance that is more extensive than a standard background investigation. Most often, the background check and clearance process begin after you receive and accept a tentative job offer. When the investigation/clearance process is complete, the agency will contact you to agree on a date when you can start work. For more information, go to the USAJOBS home page and select the middle tab titled “Federal Application Process.”  You can also visit the USAJOBS Help Center by selecting the “Help” icon in the upper right-hand corner of the USAJOBS main page.

We look forward to having you contribute as part of the Federal workforce!

By Marguerite Busetti
Marguerite Busetti Associate Director of Career and Professional Development, Dobbs Ferry Campus