Federal Vacancy Announcements are Like Tests With the Answers Supplied.
I understand that most civil service jobs require applicants to take a written
test. Is that still true? Years ago upcoming tests were announced in the news.
But I don’t seem to hear about them anymore. I am an IT specialist with a lot of
skills. So I am not afraid to take a test, if that is required. Besides these
tests, if they are still given, is there anymore I need to do to qualify?
Most Federal jobs are now filled without written tests per se. However, the
Federal job hunting system is just as rigorous as it was in the past. However,
instead of written tests, the job candidate’s resume is graded like a test.
The standard against which the resume is graded is the Vacancy Announcement for
which the applicants apply. That’s why a Federal job vacancy announcement is
like a test. Its mission is two-fold: one, to present the job opening and two,
to tell you what the requirements of the job are. The second part is the test.
The unwritten test question is, “Do you have the education and/or experience
needed to do this job?” You must respond by showing that you have the required
background. So, in other words your resume is your answer sheet for the test.
The good part about this test is that the answers are given in the body of the
Every vacancy announcement describes the duties and responsibilities of the job
and it also lists qualifications. Think of those duties and responsibilities and
qualifications as the answers. Your resume must show that you can perform those
duties and meet those responsibilities. You provide the answers that the Federal
employer is looking for the job experience blocks that you write.
Your Existing Resume
May Not Do the Job
If the job experience and/or education credits you show on your resume prove
that you have the specific experience asked for, then you have a good resume. If
your job experience descriptions, however well written and impressive sounding
they may be, do not show the specific experience required, then they are not
Be A Good Test Taker
Many people write their Federal resume to describe their own background in a
way that sounds impressive. 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 vacancy announcement.
If your resume does not provide the answers sought, you should re-write them to
show that you have the experience required. For example, if the vacancy
announcement says something like, “incumbent 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 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.”
Read The Answers,
Then Write Your Resume
Clearly you must carefully read the vacancy announcement and determine
exactly the job experience and/or education required. Then make sure that your
resume explicitly shows that you meet the requirements.
Describe Your Accomplishments
Let’s take this process to the next level. After you have stated your
experience doing whatever the Vacancy Announcements says the incumbent will do,
you must show that you have done it well. Stating that “I have worked on HVAC
systems over 10 ton in size,” is not enough. You must go on to show the high
quality of your work. For each duty required try to state an accomplishment, or
more than one accomplishment, in that particular skill. “I am the go-to guy in
our company for the difficult problems on large HVAC systems. Last year they
called me back from vacation to fix a problem with a damaged air handler no one
else could solve.” Keep in mind that modesty has no place on a resume. A resume
is a sales document. Its job is to sell, not to present you as a humble person.
Basic Requirements & Specific Ones
The requirements/qualifications for a job are given in two sections on most
vacancy announcements. First the vacancy announcement describes the basic
requirements expected of all applicants in that occupation group. Then it gives
the specific qualifications for the particular position advertised. The first
section is called, ”qualifications”, or “basic requirements”. The second is
called, “specialized experience” or “ranking factors.”
Your resume must show that you meet both sets of requirements, those for the
occupation as a whole, and those for the particular position. For example, the
general requirement may be, “has a thorough knowledge of auditing principles and
practices”. The second might be, “understands the practices of auditing small
banks and thrifts.”
Having read this, your resume must show that you have the education and past
experience to qualify as an auditor and that you have experience auditing small
banks and thrifts.
Experience Blocks Plus
In addition to hard-hitting experience blocks your resume must also provide
other required information. This website includes a
Federal resume checklist
By all means refer to it and make sure that your resume meets the requirements.
Be A Good Test Taker
Like a good test-taker, write to the test. Study the Vacancy Announcement
carefully; and then make sure your resume presents all the evidence needed to
get full-credit for every qualification. In this case an “A” on your report card
can mean a job offer.
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. •