Considering a government job? Read on for expert advice on how to strengthen your application and prepare you for the intricacies of the government hiring process.
Most government positions have rigid standards. When the job posting says you need a master’s degree, or five years of work experience, they mean it. If your background doesn’t align with the required qualifications, you’re unlikely to get an interview. Make sure you read through the job description fully to ensure you are qualified for the position and possess the technical or educational requirements for the role.
Cover letters are typically required for government jobs. And while you should always customize your resume and cover letter, it’s especially important when applying for government positions. Hiring managers want you to directly address the skills and experiences mentioned in the job posting. Too often, applicants submit resumes that include irrelevant experience. With recruiters spending six seconds on average reading a resume, it’s important that you showcase only your skills and work experience that relates to the position you’re applying for. Tailoring your resume helps connect the dots for the hiring manager, showcasing why your background and skills make you perfect for the job.
If you’re applying for a federal job, you’ll also want to format your resume the correct way. Some jobs may prefer that you include start and end dates for each position you’ve held, hours you worked per week and levels of experience you’ve attained.
The hiring process for government positions can take much longer than it does in the private sector. The screening and selection process could entail multiple rounds of qualification checks, reference screenings and background investigations, and there might not be consistent communication between the hiring manager and candidates.
If you haven’t heard back from the hiring manager in a while, don’t assume the worst — it could take weeks or even months before you hear about next steps. Follow-up with the hiring manager in a timely and professional manner and ask when you can expect to hear back. Make sure to check your spam folder for any missed communication.
For any government agency, you’ll need to go through a standard background check. This could consist of your educational background, criminal record (if applicable), verification of previous employment and credit history.
You may also have to take a drug test for illegal substances during the background investigation process. If a drug is illegal at the federal level, you can be penalized for using it, even if it’s legal in your state.
If the position involves access to sensitive information, you might also need to obtain a security clearance. This allows you to access classified national security information. There are different levels of security clearances: confidential, secret and top secret. Agencies like the CIA, FBI, State Department and the Defense Intelligence Agency all require them. These involve a much more detailed background check and can take weeks or months to complete. If the position you’re applying for requires a security clearance, any offer you may receive will be contingent upon your ability to pass the required background check.
A recruiter can be a great resource when trying to find a government job. Government hiring managers often look to hire internally first, so the support of a recruiter can make a big difference in getting you noticed as an outside candidate. Not only can a recruiter notify you when a job opens that matches your background, but they can also guide you through the state or federal government hiring process and provide you with intel and networking opportunities to help you stand out in a crowded field of candidates.
A recruiting partner can also help candidates with the application process by validating technical skills needed for the role, providing interview prep and additional regulatory screens that are required for a government position. This can include making sure necessary documents and clearances are in order, and that you have submitted their application by the closing deadline.
The more you know about the government hiring process, the more successful you’ll be at navigating it. Working with an agency that knows the complex intricacies of the bureaucratic hiring system can help ensure your application aligns with employer expectations.