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Top 10 Job-Seeking Tips for Careers in the Federal Government

Appication Process section image
Application Process

Top 10 Process Tips

We’ve presented a great deal of information surrounding researching and applying to a Federal position. And while you may be interested in working for the Government, you may still have some questions. Not to worry, here are a few tips to help you through the process.


Tip #1: Identify and apply for appropriate Federal positions.

  • Identify positions for which you are interested
  • All jobs that are available are advertised and posted on
  • All vacancies include a full-text announcement and tons of legal and procedural information
  • Review the Federal vacancy announcements and study the position requirements
  • Identify the types of positions that interest you most and for which you are most qualified

Tip #2: Read the directions and follow them.

  • Read all directions for the vacancy announcement
  • Pay close attention to the section that addresses qualification requirements
  • The reviewer will be looking for your qualifications inside your application package
  • Address the qualifications (KSAs or Selective Factors) on a separate sheet of paper
  • Make it easy for the reviewer to find the necessary qualifications for the position
  • Address the qualifications separately by highlighting them in your application
  • Address all requested information needed on the application
  • Include all supplemental forms and documents including: country of citizenship, Veterans' preference entitlement, reinstatement eligibility, etc.
  • Forms and documents may include: college transcripts, verification of Veterans' preference, and SF-50 - Notification of Personnel Action. Other documents may include certifications depending on the position.

Tip #3: Choose an application format.

  • Most agencies will accept applications in the form of a resume or curriculum vitae
  • If you choose to use a resume or curriculum vitae, make sure you provide all requested information in your application
  • For the Federal application process, a typical resume or curriculum vitae will not be sufficient. You will need to supplement the resume or curriculum vitae with additional information as outlined in the vacancy announcement.
  • Some agencies use an online application process
  • Once you have determined the qualifications for the position, it is your responsibility to ensure your application includes the information that addresses the qualifications
  • Read the entire vacancy announcement because it will tell you exactly what needs to be covered in your application
  • Review the vacancy announcement and your application to ensure that you have completed it fully and have complied
  • For more information, you can print a copy of the OPM publication, applying for a Federal Job at This publication outlines the basic information that is needed when applying for Federal positions.

Tip #4: Keep it simple.

Your application should be thorough, provide enough detail and should clearly depict your experience, education, and other qualifications

  • Avoid using flowery language and verbose descriptions, as well as agency or company specific terminology
  • Give enough information for the reviewer to understand what your experience is
  • Use action verbs to describe your experience and briefly explain what you really did

Tip #5: Be honest.

Don't over-inflate your experience, education, or qualifications. You will be certifying the accuracy of information provided. Providing false or fraudulent information may be grounds for not hiring you or for firing you after you begin working. It may also be punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Tip #6: Type your application.

Keep in mind that you are making a first impression with the application. Submit your application in typewritten form, not in handwriting.

Tip #7: Avoid using shortcuts in your application.

Don't attach lengthy documents (for example, your previous job descriptions) to document your experience. Describe what you did—not what was expected in your previous job. If you need extra space, include the response on plain paper.

Tip #8: Keep it easy to read.

  • You should keep in mind that at least two individuals will be reviewing your application—the Human Resources Specialist when determining whether you meet the qualifications and the Selecting Official when determining who to interview and select for the position
  • Keep your application easy to read will help the reviewers to do their job better. If your application is wordy, messy, and too thick, it will be a detriment to you in the process.
  • You should describe your duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments by being brief and to the point; leave white space in your application; and highlight key points using bold or by underlining
  • Remember, this application will be your first impression—if it is messy or unprofessional you may send a message that your work habits are messy or unprofessional

Tip #9: Review your application before sending it.

  • After you prepare your application, you should review it closely against the specific vacancy announcement for which you are applying to be sure that you have covered everything that has been requested
  • Proofread your application, check for typographical and grammatical errors, and correct before sending
  • Make sure that you have attached all forms being requested, i.e. college transcripts, documents to verify Veterans' preference, etc. Your failure to submit these documents could mean being excluded from consideration.

Tip #10: Avoid using common looking applications.

Modify the basic application for different types of Federal positions. Each vacancy announcement covers a different type of work. Make sure that your application showcases the ways you fit the requirements of the job you want.

  • Using the same application over and over for differing positions can hurt you in the review process. You may forget to address an important job requirement if you neglect to compare your application package with the requirements in each vacancy announcement.
  • If you choose to use a basic application, make your responses to specific qualification requirements equally specific by linking them to the relevant periods of your past employment and education.
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