Federal Job Search Toolkit


Are you looking for tips to shorten your federal job search? This article, and forthcoming Federal Toolkit articles, will provide you with essential tools to speed your way through the federal hiring process so you can land a Federal job – faster!

On May 11, 2010, President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum calling on Federal agencies to streamline and simplify the process that now includes the option of applying for Federal jobs with a cover letter and resume.

Not all agencies have adopted this process yet, so be sure to read the directions on the job announcement thoroughly and follow them very carefully.

New hiring practices are being put in place, and Human Resource personnel are using a variety of sources to research candidates before the interview process.

Be Proactive and Prepared!

Approach your job search from a proactive standpoint rather than reactive. What I mean by this is prepare as much of your resume, narratives, and other required documentation ahead of time.

If you are consistent and focused on a specific job or group of very similar jobs, you can typically complete 80-90% of the resume without the job announcement.

The narratives generally cannot be totally written before the announcement is posted, but you can be thinking of situations, tasks, actions, and results you have had to demonstrate your value.

When you do find an appropriate announcement, you align the marketing sections of the resume with the announcement. If there are narratives you must submit, then you will have already established a foundation of topics to demonstrate your value.


Request your transcripts now! It usually takes 6 weeks to receive official transcripts.

If you do not have them in time to submit before the deadline, it may be acceptable to upload, and/or fax, the unofficial version of your transcripts then provide the official transcript at the interview. Requesting the transcripts in advance helps you avoid that situation (where an exception may not be made) and makes you look well-prepared (because you are!).

A Well-Written, Focused, and Accomplishment-Based Resume

This is certainly not new since job seekers are required to submit their resume, yet it is the most critical. The resume must demonstrate your unique value proposition and showcase your knowledge, skills, and abilities that are relevant to the job announcement.

Read the job announcement very thoroughly and carefully, and tailor your resume exactly to the specific job announcement your are targeting.

You need three versions of your resume: a Word document (.doc), an Adobe Acrobat document (.pdf), and a plain ASCII text (.txt) version.

Many announcements require the resume to be submitted through the USAJOBS.gov Resume Builder.

After you complete your Word.doc version of the federal resume, some versions of Word also allow you to save it as a .PDF. Or, you may need to purchase a version of Adobe Acrobat that will convert your Word document into a PDF document, or perhaps a friend who already owns Adobe Acrobat will do the conversion for you.

And, you can save a plain text version of your resume, using Word, to copy and paste into the USAJOBS.gov Resume Builder.

After you have created the Word and Adobe versions of your resume, you can upload both versions to the Saved Documents area of your profile. Then, if an announcement states that you can submit a Word or PDF version of your resume, both will be there for you to use. You can submit either version of your resume from the Saved Documents area.

Cover Letter

In the past, cover letters have not always been a required document to submit with the resume.

You may upload a cover letter, but you can only submit the cover letter if it is required on the job announcement.

Create a well-written introductory letter that piques the interest of the hiring official and briefly demonstrates your value to pique his/her interest in reviewing your resume.

Be sure to have a cover letter ready for those announcements that allow you to submit one, then you will only have to modify it to align with the job announcement, i.e., contact, job announcement number, and aligning the ‘marketing’ paragraph with the announcement.

Then, save the cover letter in the Saved Documents field and upload it if the announcement states you can submit it with the resume and other required documents.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities & Occupational Questionnaire

If writing narratives are required, be sure to describe an example in each narrative that tells a story of an accomplishment relevant to the KSA. (More on KSA’s – Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities).

For narratives, I use a combination of methods depending on the background and value the client brings to the job. They include the CCAR (context, challenge, action, result) and STAR (situation, task, action, result) and narrative fractal methods of storytelling.

If narratives are not required to be submitted, but are outlined on the job announcement, take advantage of incorporating the verbiage into the resume!

Other Required Documents

It is imperative that you read the How to Apply section on the job announcement and be sure you have all the required documents ready to upload or fax when you are applying to a federal job.

Bottom Line

Prepare ahead of time. Approach your job search from a proactive standpoint rather than reactive. Plan to spend time organizing your materials and your thoughts. Develop an initial resume and be giving serious thought to your unique value you bring to the organization. Incorporate those values throughout the resume and narratives.

Best of luck in landing your Federal job – faster!

Camille Carboneau RobertsAbout the author…

Job-Hunt’s Federal Job Search Expert, Camille Carboneau Roberts, established CC Career Services in 1989 to provide total career management services to help clients land jobs faster. Expert services include federal resumes, private sector resumes, military-to-federal resumes, and social media resumes and profiles. Contact Camille via email at [email protected], through LinkedIn, Twitter (@CamilleRoberts), or Facebook (CC Career Services).
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