Q&A: How to Apply to Federal Jobs

 Erin Burns   May 31, 2019  Career Advice

The “How to Apply to Federal Jobs” webinar with Smithsonian’s Human Resources Specialists sparked valuable follow up questionsand we wanted to share them with you! Thanks to Lisa Collins, Human Resources Specialist (Recruitment), for answering the webinar attendees’ questions.

What do the various times that jobs are open mean (sometimes one week, sometimes six)? Are those differences significant?

The length of the vacancy announcement will vary depending upon the agency, series, and type of announcement. We will use our past experience with recruitment to advise managers on the best strategies  for announcing future positions.

For example, if we announce an entry-level clerical position to all U.S. Citizens, we would expect to have a lot of applicants apply. Therefore, some opportunities may have a shorter announcement period (such as five business days) or limit the number of applicants (such as putting an application limit of 100 applicants). Another position may require very specific work experience. The recruitment may benefit by opening the announcement for a longer period of time.

How can I find federal telecommuting positions?

When you go to USAJobs.gov, click on the blue “search” box. You will then see the filter option. You can narrow your search by using the “telework” filter option.

Another way to see the telecommuting or teleworking options is to read the vacancy announcement. Under the “Location” portion of the vacancy announcement you will see the option for “Telework eligible”. This will help you know if you may be eligible to telecommute or telework.

Learn more about filtering on the USAJobs Help Center. 

Does the federal government offer standard benefits, or do they vary by agency?

Federal benefits (such as retirement, health insurance, etc) are standardized across the Federal government. You can review Federal benefits on OPM’s website here.

Is a cover letter still recommended, even if not always read?

You may submit a cover letter with your application. If your application is sent to the hiring manager, they will be able to read your cover letter.

However, your cover letter is not reviewed by the Human Resources Office when we are making determinations regarding your eligibility or qualifications for a position. You will want to make sure that everything that the Human Resources Office needs to evaluate your qualifications is included in your resume.

Learn more about creating your resume on the USAJobs Help Center. 

When are background and credit checks performed?

The background check starts when you accept a tentative job offer. Agencies may differ on how they process background investigations. The Smithsonian, for example, will first conduct a suitability check. This process determines if you have the required level of character and conduct necessary to work for the Federal Government. Next, depending on the position’s sensitivity and risk, you will undergo a background investigation.

Learn more about background investigations on the USAJobs Help Center. 

If we are disqualified for a position based on experience or education, and we believe we are qualified, how can we learn why this happened?

The Human Resources Specialist assigned to the recruitment will contact you through USAJobs to let you know your qualifications for the position. If you are disqualified for a positions, we will provide you with the reason why you were not qualified. You may contact the Human Resources Specialist if you have any questions regarding the determination.

What specific recommendations would you give to applicants over the age of 60? Does this limit opportunities?

As a general rule, the Federal government welcomes applicants of all ages! Some positions, like those in law enforcement or air traffic control, have a maximum entry age. That age may vary from agency to agency, but generally falls within the range of 34-37 years. 

Review the job opportunity announcement or contact the agency directly to find out specific information about the job of interest to you. Learn more about age requirements at the USAJobs Help Center. 

If someone is overqualified for federal jobs, would that person be rejected?

No. Applicants are encouraged to apply for any position that they feel qualified for. When the Human Resources Specialist reviews your resume, make sure it’s clear to that person that you’re eligible to apply for the position and that you meet the minimum qualifications required for the position.

Learn more about qualifications at the USAJobs Help Center.

What agencies are searching for employees with science backgrounds?

When you go to USAJobs.gov, click on the blue “search” box. You will then see the filter option. You can narrow your search by using the “series” filter option. You can then narrow your search by a specific series, such as Chemistry.

A quick search for Chemistry brings up results for the following agencies: Smithsonian Institution, Department of the Army, Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, just to name a few.

Learn more about filtering on the USAJobs Help Center. 

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