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Federal Vacancy Announcements are Like Tests With the Answers Supplied.

Dear Advisor,

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?


Orlando FL

Dear Theresa,

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 vacancy announcement.

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 adequate.

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. •