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Pentagon Force

Do candidates for Federal Jobs
have to wait in a line?

Dear Advisor,

Are civil service lists still compiled? My understanding of the process is that government hiring is based on written exams. A list of applicants is compiled based on the test scores. The higher you score the closer to the top your name appears on a list. Candidates wait until their name reaches the top of the list. On the other hand people tell me that in Federal service the waiting lists have been abolished. Which is true? I have been submitting applications for Federal employment for the last 3 months and so far have no job offers to show for my effort. I am a computer technician with good technical skills. Private sector employers would love to hire me. I received several offers from firms in my area, but would rather work for the Federal government. And finally is the government still hiring?

Ft Worth TX

Dear Wondering,

In the latest figures reported by FedScope over 205,244 new hires were made in the last fiscal year. So, yes, there is a lot of hiring. You should also know that waiting lists or registers, as they were called are things of the past, for the most part. In an earlier era job candidates were required to take written tests. Registers were then formed based on the test scores. The job candidates then waited, sometime for years, for their name to work its way to the top of the register. No more. The tests have been discontinued and so have the registers. The delays that now occur are the result of processing and background checking time. This is not to say that the checking process is quick. It can take up to 6 months. So you are right to be aware of the time between application and hiring.

Recent surveys among Federal hiring mangers point out the same concern you have. The last survey we saw shows that over 70% of Federal managers and supervisors believe that hiring times are excessive. These managers would like to fill their vacancies in 8 weeks. However, this proves to be the case only about 1 out of every 5 times. Even hiring within the government often requires over 8 weeks.

Hiring time is defined as the interval between announcement of the vacancy and start of the new employee. Most of that time is spent sifting through candidate applications and interviewing. What, if anything, is wrong?

Unrealistic Expectations
The Merit Systems Protection Board, an organization within the Federal government established to oversee hiring practices, which sponsored the hiring times survey, believes that managers and job candidate’s expectations may not be realistic. The Board points out that hiring times in major corporations are as long as 3 to 5 months. While no figures are available for small business hiring times, they are believed to be much shorter than either major corporations or governments. However, unlike many small business both major corporations and governments have strict hiring guidelines and procedures which must be followed and which require time to implement

Application standards and procedures have been established to ensure objective hiring. Recruiting by the numbers takes time. But the result is worthwhile. These standards make sure that the best candidate and not the politically connected candidate gets the job.

Internal and External Hiring
The average hiring time for internal hires, candidates already in Federal service, is in excess of 2 months and twice that long for candidates from outside government. Large private sector employers report about the same hiring times as the Federal government according to the Corporate Leadership Council. The Council says large private-sector companies report hiring times from 6 weeks for lower level jobs to as long as 5 months for more senior positions.

Another rule-of-thumb reported for hiring times is 1 to 6 weeks for positions under thirty thousand dollars and then 1 additional month for every ten thousand dollars of salary thereafter.

What You Can Do to
Speed Up The Process
You can help reduce the processing time for your application by providing all the information required and requested on your Federal resume (See page 4 for a Federal resume checklist). By all means include the announcement number of the job for which you are applying on your application. By all means provide all required job experience information. Not including this information will result in your application being returned and re-cycled from scratch or worse, disregarded. In addition, you would do well to provide other information that is likely to be needed.

For example, if you are a recent college grad you would do well to include your college transcript right at the outset. This will save the time needed to send for it later. Likewise, where appropriate, all candidates would do well to include the name and phone numbers of all related job supervisors up front. Again, this will save the time needed to ask you for it later. Do not, of course, jeopardize your current job.

If you have licenses or certificates that are related to your work, include copies with your original application (do not include originals as they may be lost). As a general approach, try to anticipate the information that may be asked for later and include it up front with your application.

Some jobs may require follow-up exams such as physicals or drug tests. Anticipate the need for these and be thinking about making yourself available on short notice, if necessary. In some cases such exams are out-of-town. You may need to travel to a near-by city to take the exam. Be prepared to make the required arrangements quickly. Follow-up tests are particularly common for law enforcement related positions. These can drag on for months. During this period the great majority of job candidates, sometimes as high as 80%, become frustrated and drop out.

Finally, expect the unexpected. You may hear nothing for months and then, out-of-the-blue, three Agencies may contact you and ask for information, request an interview or schedule you for some kind of test. Be prepared to follow-up quickly and satisfactorily.

Multiple Submissions
While patience is a virtue in a Federal job search, inactivity is not. Do not submit one or two or three applications and then rest on your laurels. Continue to submit applications until you get a satisfactory offer even if you have to submit dozens. A Federal resume should be prepared to suit a particular occupation. You will want to respond to all of the qualifications cited in the Vacancy Announcement. However, these qualifications are most often very similar from announcement to announcement in the same occupation even though they may be with different Agencies. So once you have prepared a sound Federal resume for a given occupation, you can use it over and over. Do so. File for every job that seems appropriate.

A Long Term Job
A permanent position with the Federal government is often a lifetime job. You will earn a salary and receive benefits that are competitive with the private sector. Your job security and satisfaction will be as good or better than you can find in most jobs. Don’t expect to land such a lifetime job in a few weeks. A long-term job requires a long-term job search. All of which is a long way of saying, be patient.

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. •