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What Is The Average Time Between Application and Hiring For Federal Jobs?

Dear Editor,

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 again.

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?



Dear M.O.,

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
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.

Job Announcement
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.

New Announcement
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. •