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The following article appeared in the 'Letters to The Advisor' column of the Federal Jobs Digest.
Do I have to take a written exam for a Federal job? I'm sorry, but I just don't have the time to bone up for an exam then sit around for months waiting for my name to come to the top of the list. And also, I'm embarrassed to say, I just don't do well on exams. Is there a way around the test?
San Diego, CA
A Federal resume is a test. It will be graded and given a numerical score just as if it were a written exam. The applicant with the highest score will probably get the job.
In years past applicants for Federal jobs were given civil service exams. These are no longer given for the most part, because they were found to be discriminatory. The Federal resume now serves the same function as the exam. The good part is that the answers to the exam are available, if you know where to look.
Every vacancy announcement identifies an occupational group and grade level. The job standards for every occupation and level are listed in documents published by the U.S. Office of Personal Management. Think of these standards as the answers the Federal examiners want to see on your resume.
Your Existing Resume May Not Do the Job
When you apply for a Federal job, you must identify the occupational categories and grade levels of interest to you. Your Federal resume must then show that you meet the standards for that job. If the job experience and/or education credits you show on your resume prove that you meet the standards, then you have an "A" resume. If your job experience descriptions, however well written and impressive sounding they may be, do not show that you meet the standards, then your resume is not adequate.
Be A Good Test Taker
Many people write their resume to describe their background as they would like to describe it. They present the information they believe will impress employers. That is all well and good, but is not adequate if it does not specifically address the requirements described in the standard.
For example, if the job standard for an air condition mechanic at a given grade level says something like, "…repairs air conditioning equipment over 10 ton in size". Then your job experience section should say that you have worked on air conditioning equipment over 10 ton in size. If your resume says, "have extensive experience working on HVAC equipment of all sizes and have saved my current employer thousands of dollars in repair costs through my skilled work," then your resume does not provide the answer sought. It must specifically says, "have worked on HVAC equipment over 10 ton in size."
Experience Blocks Plus
In addition to hard-hitting experience blocks your resume must also provide other required information and be formatted in the required way. Proper format is also part of getting an "A".
What Not To Say
Some people believe that more is merrier on a Federal resume and therefore the applicant should include on the resume every bit of knowledge, skill or ability he or she has. Unless this information is relevant to the job, it will not help and may hurt. A recruitment specialist reviewing the resume may conclude that the applicant is wasting his time with irrelevant information. You won't get any extra points for brevity on your Federal resume. Certainly, you should include any information you believe might be relevant. But you should certainly leave out any information that is clearly not relevant.
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