What Is The Average Time Between
Application and Hiring For Federal Jobs?
You hear that people wait months even years to be hired by the federal
government. I don't have such time I need a job now. I saw in your newspaper a
position for Materials Engineer, GS-0808-05/7, with the Air Force. I applied,
received a “Notice of Eligibility”, and an expiration date marking the end of
the period of my eligibility. I realized from this that I was on a waiting list
for the position. Some months later I received an “Inquiry As To Availability”.
I responded that I was available,. I concluded that the period of waiting was
over and my name was coming near the top of the list. But never heard anything
After two months I called the Examining Unit and was told, “that list has been
abolished.” About that time my period of eligibility lapsed.
I have heard nothing since from the Air Force. And now to my surprise I again
see the same announcement appearing in the paper. If the Air Force still needs
Materials Engineers why have they not contacted me? I was on the List of
Eligibles. What’s going on?
Two types of Vacancy Announcements are issued by Federal Agencies. One, those
for immediate openings and, two, those for anticipated future openings. Clearly
you filed for one of the latter. You applied not for a job that was currently
open and needed to be filled at once. You filed to be included in an Applicant
Supply File, which is to say, on a waiting list or contingency file.
Most Vacancy Announcements are immediate, not contingency announcements. For
these immediate openings a job is waiting to be filled. However, determining
which Vacancy Announcements are contingency and which are immediate is not easy.
If you study enough Vacancy Announcements you may eventually be able to
distinguish one from the other. Usually the contingency announcement is more
general, often listing more than one job title and often in multiple locations.
So why apply for a contingency announcement at all? In fact, many jobs are
filled from these announcements and the waiting period may not be very long.
Contingency announcements are routine practice and good management whether in
the public or private sector. Any job announcement you see –in the classified
section of the local newspaper or on the internet or, for that matter, on the
grapevine public or private sector—may be real and pressing, or only an
anticipated opening that may or may not materialize. In the case of this Air
Force job, the opening was anticipated but did not materialize during the period
of your eligibility.
Federal Hiring Process
Reviewing the Federal hiring process that you encountered would be helpful
in avoiding frustration in the future. The process is the same for anticipated
jobs or current and pressing vacancies. Step one in the process is that the
Examining Unit responsible for the position reviews its anticipated employee
needs for the foreseeable future, usually the next six months to one year. If a
number of vacancies are anticipated for a given occupation, the Examining Unit
will build an Applicant Supply File of candidates in that occupation. This is
done as follows.
A Job Announcement is placed to advertise the position. Sometimes, the
announcement cites the number of positions being filled. Sometimes not. Most
announcements for Applicant Supply Files do not cite the number of positions
being filled, since that is unknown at the time the announcement is placed.
Often they do not specify the exact location of the job, but say something like
“throughout the U.S”.
Examination of Respondents
All job candidates who respond to the announcement by the closing date are
examined in the sense that their application is carefully reviewed. Those who
pass the examination are declared eligible for hire. These candidates are sent,
as you were, a Notice of Eligibility.
Notice of Eligibility
From these candidates a List of Eligibles is compiled. The List of Eligibles
constitutes the Applicant Supply File. The next step in the hiring process for
this kind of vacancy is maintaining the currency of the Applicant Supply File.
Of course, people come and go from the job market. Consequently, an Applicant
Supply File is perishable. That’s why at the time you received your Notice of
Eligibility you were told when your period of eligibility expired. In an effort
to keep the existing List of Eligible as current as possible for as long as
possible the Examining Unit periodically sends a “Inquiry As To Availability” to
those on the List of Eligibles which is to say those in the Applicant Supply
File. You received such a notice and responded positively. You could do no more.
When the number of positive responses to these inquires declines to a point that
the Examining Unit believes an insufficient number of candidates remain on that
list, the list is abolished. The decision is made that, in effect, this list is
stale, let’s build a new list from scratch. Apparently, this happened to the
list you were on.
In theory those who responded positively to the most recent Inquiry As To
Availability should be carried over to the new list. Indeed, this may have been
done in your case. When we have checked similar lists in the past, we were told
that candidates who continue to respond positively to Inquiries As To
Availability are kept on the list indefinitely even though the list as whole is
“abolished” and a new list is started. So, you may still be on the list awaiting
an actual opening.
Job Hunting Lessons
The number one job-hunting lesson we can learn from this is that Federal
job-hunting, just like private sector job hunting is a matter of persistence and
working the odds. You should not try to determine the immediately of a Vacancy
Announcement. If the job seems right, apply. Then, do not just sit and wait.
Apply for as many jobs as you can find that meet your requirements. You’ll be
surprised how quickly you start to get results.
To submit questions to the Federal Jobs Advisor, write to: Federal Jobs
Advisor, Federal Jobs Digest, 1503 Radcliff Court, Newtown Square PA 19073. We
regret that not all questions may be answered. •