How to Find and Apply for Federal Jobs

With the advent of the Internet, it is now easy to find job openings within the Federal Government. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a website, USAJobs, which allows potential applicants to search most positions being posted for civilian employees. Go to The search is very detailed in criteria, and is much easier to use than in the past. Positions from most Federal agencies may be found using this system.

If you decide to apply for a federal job, there are several steps which must follow to achieve success. These steps include:

  1. Find the positions to apply for
  2. Identify the requirements for applying for each job / Match background and skills to the job requirements
  3. Develop the application materials
  4. Submit the application

Finding Positions to Apply For

With the advent of the Internet, it is now easy to find job openings in the federal government. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a website, USAJobs.GOV, which allows potential applicants to search most positions being posted for civilian employees. If a user selects and enters in the appropriate search criteria – including job titles, job series, grade levels, agencies, special appointment status and position locations – one can find all the positions open that can be applied for. The search is very detailed in criteria, and is much easier to use then in the past. Positions from most Federal agencies are available using this system.

Identifying Job and Application Requirements (How to Read Job Announcements):

Once a job announcement is found you can than read the job announcement to determine the application requirements.

  1. The announcement will indicate who may apply. If it is the Public, generally all US Citizens can apply for the job. If it is Status Candidates Only, one must read the announcement carefully to determine who is eligible. Generally, in this case, federal government employees, military spouses or Veterans who have separated in the past 3 years or who are eligible for Veteran preference points may be considered a Status Candidate. If it says Agency Employees Only and the applicant is not currently employed as a civil servant in that agency, the applicant is not eligible to apply
  2. The announcement will indicate the date the announcement closes. Application materials must be submitted according the instructions in the announcement by the closing date (and sometimes closing time). The announcement will detail how to submit materials – it is announcement specific. Depending on the announcement, an applicant may be required to file online, by fax, by email, by hand delivery or by mail.
  3. The position will indicate salary and grade level. Grade levels for jobs indicate the management level within the government – and the level of responsibility. Based on experience, Veterans retiring at the E-7 level generally qualify for positions at the GS-9 level. O-3 professionals generally qualify at the GS-11 or 12 levels; depending on area of expertise.
  4. The announcement will list the job duties – in most cases. A potential applicant should read the duties carefully – they contain the keywords required for the job. In general, the resumes selected for further consideration contain these keywords, with dynamic statements showing how the applicant has experience doing the duties required for the job. When one reads an announcement, they should ask themselves whether they have done that particular function previously AND if they have any demonstrated success in doing the function.
  5. The announcement will list the background requirements. For Federal jobs, unlike Civilian jobs, an applicant’s background MUST match the stated requirements for the job. For example, if a degree is stated as required, it is required. If certification, including DAWAI contracting certification, is stated as a requirement, it is required. If no candidates apply that meet the requirements, the agency will cancel the announcement and rewrite and repost the position again.
  6. The announcement may indicate if KSAs or other essays, including Selective Preference Factors, Technical Qualifications or Professional Qualifications are required. In addition, the announcement may indicate that multiple choice questions also will need to be answered. Note, if the announcement is for some online formats, including QuickHire or USAJobs, the KSAs or other questions will not be in the actual announcement. Instead, they are found during the application process. In order to find the vacancy questions, an applicant may need to start the application just to find the KSA or other questions. For AVUE announcements, not all KSAs are asked at all levels, and again, an application needs to be started just to find out the required KSAs. Generally, but not always, the Resumix formats do not require separate KSAs.
  7. The announcement will indicate how to apply. If the announcement indicates a resume or OF-612 is acceptable for application, a paper resume will need to be developed. If an online format is required, generally a link or an “Apply Online” button is shown on the announcement. Clicking on the link or button will bring the user to the agency’s website with further instructions on how to apply for the job. There are many different online formats, including USAJobs (used by over 100 federal agencies) – others use a paper resume), Army Resumix, Navy Resumix, AVUE, QuickHire, and others. It is complicated, and the requirements for these formats change regularly. Each online resume version has specific length and informational requirements.
  8. The announcement may indicate other documentation is required. Carefully read each announcement and send the information required. If it is not asked for, do not send it.

Develop Application Materials:

Once an applicant determines the application requirements, the application materials must be developed. Federal Resumes must conform to specific informational requirements. They must include ALL the information required, or the application may be discarded. Based on the announcement and application format, a federal resume generally includes the following information.

Job Information

  • Announcement number, and title and grade(s) which are being applied for Personal Information: l name, mailing address (with ZIP code)
  • Home, cell and work phone numbers (with area code)
  • E-Mail address
  • Social Security Number
  • Country of citizenship (most federal jobs require United States citizenship)
  • Veterans’ preference
  • Highest Federal civilian grade held (give job series and dates held)
  • Professional summary – written in 3rd person
  • Job title (include series and grade if federal job – level in military if a Veteran)
  • Employer’s name and full address, including street address, city, state and ZIP code
  • Supervisor’s name and phone number
  • Starting and ending dates (month and year) [note: some formats require month, date and year]
  • Hours per week
  • Salary
  • Indicate if current supervisor may be contacted
  • Job duties – include quantification and keywords in the announcement – written in 3rd person
  • Job accomplishments – include quantification – in the challenge-action-result format – written in 3rd person


For colleges and universities

  • Name, city, state and ZIP Code
  • Major(s), Type and year of any degrees received
  • GPA
  • Total credits and types of credits earned, i.e. quarter, credit or semester hours.
  • Honors
  • Course list
  • Note: only list accredited colleges listed at If an applicant lists degrees from schools not on the accreditation list, they may be subject for disqualification from federal employment and in some states also subject to criminal prosecution.

For high school

  • Date of diploma or GED, high school name, city, state and ZIP Code

Other Qualifications

  • Job-related training courses, including course title, date (may be year or month and year), course duration (hours, days or months)
  • Certifications and licenses (include Secret or Top Secret clearance here)
  • Job-related skills, for example, other languages, computer software/hardware, tools, machinery, typing speed
  • Job-related honors, awards, and special accomplishments, for example, publications, memberships in professional or honor societies, leadership activities, public speaking, and performance awards

The exact format of the resume, as noted above, will differ, depending on the application requirements. However, much, if not all, the information above is required for developing a federal resume.

For some applications – including written applications, a Cover Letter can help summarize an applicant’s background and experience for the hiring authority.

The federal government has thousands of jobs posted on their website everyday. If you find a position that you wish to apply for and you want to earn a “best qualified” ranking on your application, there are Certified Professional Resume Writers that can assist you and have an abundance of expertise to assist in the development and posting of your application.

Barbara Adams, President & CEO of CareerPro Global, the parent company of and, Ms. Adams has been a member of the careers community for the past 18 years. She holds four prestigious industry certifications. Questions may be emailed to

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