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Why the sequester may present an opportunity in finding Federal jobs

Dear Advisor,

I have been planning to apply for a Federal job for some time. One thing or another caused me to delay. Now I am hearing that the Federal government suddenly has less money to spend on everything including new employees. Do these budget problems mean that I have little hope of landing a Federal job at least until the fiscal issues are solved? This is just my luck. I understand thousands have been hired in the last year alone. Why did I wait?


Phoenix AZ

Dear Discouraged,

You are not out-of-luck. In fact, you may be in luck. First letís answer the question, are Federal jobs still open? Ok, it's true, the sequester has taken some Federal money off the table. However, it is only a very small part of the total Federal budget. Hereís why hiring must continue. People quit, retire, become sick. Many, some would say most, Federal jobs are critical. These vacancies must be filled. Thatís why even now that the sequester is in place thousands of Federal jobs remain open.

An Opportunity For You
Hereís the good luck part. Many people, like you, have heard about the sequester. They believe that it means the Federal government will not be hiring, or will be hiring far less people than in the past. So they decide, just as you were about to decide, not to apply. Therefore, those who do apply will have less competition than normal.

Fewer competitors mean a smaller applicant pool. That, in turn, means the applicants who do apply have a better chance of selection. Another benefit is that because the HR people have fewer candidates, the whole process will move more quickly. You could well be selected within weeks instead of months depending on your occupation and the Agency to which you are applying.

So take heart. The sequester may well benefit you after all. At the very least you have nothing to lose by applying. Put your effort into creating a great Federal resume instead of worrying about your chances of being hired. Letís spend the rest of this column helping you create that great resume.

This site includes a Federal resume checklist . By all means refer to it and make sure that your resume meets the requirements.

Work History
The key to the resume is the job experience section. This should be more than just a factual recitation of your work history, although it should include dates, salaries, promotions, supervisorís names and phone numbers. This section needs to sell you.

To sell yourself successfully in this section you need to refer to the Vacancy Announcement of the job for which you are applying. Carefully study the Basic Qualifications and show that you have these qualifications. Show that you have used these skills, abilities or knowledge on a previous job and have been successful at it.

Of course, you want to achieve the highest rating you can based on your past work experience and education. To do this you need to know what knowledge is required at each of the grades in the occupations of interest to you. This information is contained in a document called the ďGeneral Schedule Position Classification StandardsĒ. This work published by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For every occupation and for every grade within that occupation a standard of knowledge is written. You can see this document on-line.   By looking up the occupation of interest to you, you can see the standards that will be applied to your resume. Write the experience blocks of your resume to show that you meet the highest standard possible.

Advanced Qualifications
Usually you will not be a competitive candidate if you meet the Basic Qualifications only. You must show that you can also meet some or all of the advanced qualifications. These are also listed in the Vacancy Announcement. The heading varies. Sometimes the section is called Ranking Factors, other times Advanced Placement or Selection Criteria or KSAís. Whatever it is called try to show that you have demonstrated these qualification on past jobs.

If the Selection Criteria specifies knowledge of certain software, certain production processes, such-and-such industry standards or codes, whatever the criteria try to show that you have the relevant skill, ability or knowledge and have demonstrated them on your last job.

What Not To Say
Some people believe that more is merrier 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.

Tell The Truth
In a recent case before the Merit System Protection Broad, which is a court where disputes between Federal managers and employees are heard, an employee was accused of falsifying his Federal resume. The manager claimed that the employee misrepresented himself on his resume and was hired on the basis of having skills he did not have. The employee claimed that he represented himself fairly, but was a little rusty on some of the skills he did claim. The employee lost the case and was dismissed.

There is an important difference between selling yourself and misrepresenting. You want to do the former. But donít claim to have skills you do not have. Instead describe all the relevant experience you do have. Be detailed and specific. Show results and point with pride. You will be given every opportunity to succeed sequester or no sequester.

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. ē