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The following article appeared in the 'Letters to The Advisor' column of the Federal Jobs Digest.
My resume was professionally written. It has gotten decent results for me in the private sector. but it is not working at all for Federal jobs. I sent out 5 resumes to Federal agencies and received two offers, both at salaries that were disappointing.
Now I know that I have outstanding job skills, because every employer I've worked for told me so. My skills include Computer Specialist, Computer Operations, Office Automation, Data Base Management, Secretary, call the job what you will, I have the job skills to do it. What's more I have a great work record. Very little job hopping. Highly reliable performance, and a solid record of promotion and job awards. Now I want to work for the Federal government, because of the job security and benefits. So what gives?
Many first-time Federal job applicants receive a disappointing rating on their Federal application, even though they are highly qualified. Their low rating is often not a result of poor qualifications, but of a poor application package.
They let resumes sell them out. The written application, i.e. the Federal resume, is most of the ball game in applying for a Federal job. Applicants resume must explicitly present every detail of their relevant experience and relate it to the job they are seeking. Otherwise a low rating will result.
Reason For Low Rating
Apparently you are not making the cut most of the time. When you did make the cut, you were selected for a much lower job that you believe your experience deserves. Let's find out why.
To understanding the reason you are scoring so low, let's take a look over the shoulders of the Federal examiners as they review your resume. On the desk in front of this panel is your resume and a copy of the Vacancy Announcement for the job you seek.
Now The Fun Begins
The Vacancy Announcement has two sections of particular interest: Basic Qualifications, and Ranking Factors (otherwise called KSA's-Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Basis of Rating or some such term). The examiners check off each item listed under Basic Qualifications and Ranking Factors and look for a corresponding point on your resume. It's a rigid check list and there is no room for creativity. You have to know what is expected and show it.
Private Sector vs Federal
Private sector employers are in a position to create job standards on the fly. When a great resume comes across the desk of a small businessman, for example, he may well create a job that fits the job candidate's skills. "Come in to see us. You sound just right for a new job we've been thinking about called Computer Operations Supervisor." Viola, a new job title is born.
In another scenario the private sector recruiter may have three openings. He or she has no trouble considering job candidates for all three positions even without the job candidate specifically requesting such consideration.
None of this works in the Federal sector, because job standards can not be created on the fly, and because Federal recruiters can not apply a candidate for a vacancy except at the job candidate's express request.
Job standards can take months to develop and more months to be approved. Awhile ago the Office of Personnel Management developed new job standards for positions in the information technology job series. This process, now complete, took many months to work through the system.
So What's The Trade Off
The Federal government's recruitment process may not be as flexible as the process in the private sector, but it is more objective. Standards that apply to one candidate apply in exactly the same way to all others. Nobody gets a special break. But nobody is unfairly overlooked either.
When you have a resume that addresses the standards for the jobs of interest to you, the calls will start coming in. Before then you have to realize that your resume is selling you out.
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