You may be intrigued by the idea of working for Uncle Sam but don’t know how to get a government job. If so, this post is for you. In these times of an uncertain job market, perhaps the best (and safest) of all employers is the Federal Government. The benefits—read: health insurance—are also the best available.
What many people don’t realize is that the federal government is so large, and so involved in so many aspects of the economy that it needs people to fill almost any job you can think of. So if you are wondering which industries are hiring now, the Federal Government will always be in that list. Never assume that the government doesn’t need someone with your skills, training and background.
So how to you land a government job?
There are of course similarities with job hunting in the private sector but getting a job with the federal government does have its nuances. Where to look for government jobs and how to apply for them have some noticeable differences from what you may be used to.
You can search for government jobs on common job boards such as Careerbuilder, Monster, or Indeed.com. Since theses sites are general in nature, you have to be as specific in your search as possible, using terms such as “federal government jobs”, or even the specific job title.
Sometimes what you will find however are agencies advertising government jobs, and that may get you pointed in the right direction on your search for a new vocation.
Still, these sites can be difficult places to search out government jobs. For one thing, due to cost, governments don’t always advertise jobs on job boards. Another problem is the search function itself—just because you use the term “government jobs” doesn’t mean you’ll narrow your search.
The job boards will list any posting that contains the word “government”, most of which won’t be direct government hire jobs, but employers who need people for government compliance or government regulations.
Government job sites
There are job sites that deal specifically with government jobs and they’re generally a better source for landing a job in the government sector than the major job boards. Sites such as USAJOBS.gov and USA.gov are government sponsored web sites dedicated specifically to jobs with the federal government.
These sites can lead you to potential positions with any agency of the federal government and for any job that is available.
You can also make direct application with any individual agency of the federal government. Go directly to the website of the agency you’d like to work for, such as the IRS or the Treasury Department, and you can search available positions and make application direct to the agency.
Still another way—albeit a less direct one—is to do contract work for the government. Government agencies often use contractors to handle special projects and frequently hire some of them as permanent employees. It’s the government’s own temp-to-perm process.
Government contracting is typically handled through job placement agencies, who will be charged specifically with filling contract positions within an agency of the government.
You won’t be able to go to just any job agency to do this however. Government agencies typically select a very small number of employment firms for their contract staff, so you will have to find out which firms have the jobs for the government agency you wish to work for. You can sometimes do this through a government agency’s website, but the job agencies charged with finding contractors will usually advertise the jobs on job boards, in the local newspaper or by calling job candidates directly from referred sources.
Preparing your resume and completing an application
Federal government jobs usually come with unusually long job applications. This is especially true if the job you are applying for requires any sort of security clearance. Be prepared to fill out an incredible amount of paperwork—or more likely, online entry.
Government job applications are much more detailed than those in the private sector and it’s not unusual that completing one can take the better part of a work day. Be patient, be detailed, and don’t put anything on the application you can’t prove—they will check.
Resumes are also different when applying for federal government jobs. The single or double page, bullet-style resume that’s so popular in the private sector won’t cut it for government jobs.
You have to prepare a “federal style resume”, which can use a similar format as a private sector resume, but it must be much more detailed. They’re usually several pages long and include detailed descriptions of previous work history. The resume has to explain why you are the person for the job you are applying for. That means the skills, training and experiences on your resume must closely match those of the position the government is looking to fill.
The payoff? The safest job with the best benefit package you’ve ever known!
Have you ever worked for the government? What was the application process like? Was it worth it? How do you like your job?
Neal’s note – Government jobs aren’t for everyone. I know I’d go crazy working for Big Brother. And it may be tough to get a job with Uncle Sam if you are not a college graduate but don’t despair. There are still plenty of places that will hire you even if you haven’t got a degree from a 4 year school in the private sector.