Finding Your Perfect Match

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 9.50.10 AM

Some people approach a federal job search like they would approach buying a home.

“Here is my wish list: gourmet kitchen, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, in a good neighborhood with great schools, close commute, and within my ridiculously low budget.”

Or, they might start surfing on USAJOBS and end up like a child in a candy shop.

“Oh, wow, look at that job posting! I have always wanted to do that! And it’s in Hawaii! Sweet!”

And then there is reality…

…where the competition for the 5,000 jobs posted today on USAJOBS is simply fierce. Think of it this way: trying to land one of those jobs is, in some ways, more like taking your driving test than buying a new home.

You have to pass the test.

Passing means that you are qualified TODAY to do the job that is posted, not sometime in the future after some on-the-job training (with some exceptions such as Pathways postings.)

Passing means that you must have the one year specialized experience specified in job announcement, or it’s a no-go for you.

Passing means that you have to score basically 90 or better on your assessment questionnaire.

Think it’s easy to pass this test?

I recently helped a woman who had been working at a National Park for many years as an extremely high performing GS-7. They wanted her for the next level position, which was classified at GS-11. Even though she was acting in that new position for several months already, she did NOT qualify for the GS-11 position. Luckily for her, they accommodated her and posted the position for GS-9/11. She was able to make the cert for GS-9, but barely! Even with all of her qualifications, she just squeaked into the “Qualified” category.

Here is where the fun really begins.

After you pass the minimal qualifications test and are deemed “Qualified,” the rat race starts, and now your odds are more like those of applying for an Ivy League college. Of all candidates who were rated as Qualified, you must rise above the crowd to be chosen for the select group title “Best Qualified.” Then you must go through another magical formula to be “Referred” in order to get your resume forwarded to the hiring supervisor. If you make it that far, you still have to be selected for an interview. Once that is accomplished, you have to make a final sprint to the finish line and beat out the rest of the interviewees for the grand prize of a job offer.

Crazy, right?

So what does this all mean?

It means that finding the perfect match for you is more about looking at your past history than looking at your hopes and dreams for the future.

Of course, you absolutely CAN look to the future. If you have goals for your federal career, you will simply need to plan ahead to position yourself for your ideal job somewhere down the line.

So the common sense tip for your federal resume is this: Be the perfect match for the job opening to increase your chances of getting hired.

Tune in for next time: Finding your perfect match if you are coming from private industry or wanting to make a career change within the federal government


paulina_b&w_200x133Paulina Chen has a passion for taking the complex and making it simple for people to understand. Paulina has been a graphic designer, developmental editor, and webmaster for The Resume Place for over 10 years. Since receiving her Certified Federal Job Search Trainer certification, she has been eager to show federal applicants that writing your best possible federal resume is within your reach. If you need more writing help with your federal resume, contact us for an absolutely free estimate. If you need expert advice or training, Kathryn Troutman the “Federal Resume Guru” is your best bet on the planet.

Email *
Sign up to be notified by email when our newsletters are posted!

New Insider Guide to Student Fed Careers Released as Report Predicts Wave of Skyrocketing Fed Retirement

_cover-reflect_180wBaltimore, MD (PRWEB), March 4, 2014

A stunning Government Accountability Office report, released January 29th, predicts that more than a third of career fed-workers will be eligible to retire by 2017. “Their retirement could produce mission critical skills gaps if left unaddressed,” the GAO concluded.

“These findings shows that the government will need to hire young people and new grads to move toward the future,” observes leading fed jobs expert Kathryn Troutman. Her revised and updated 3rd edition of The Student’s Federal Career Guide has just been released. “This guide is a must-have if you want to be among the chosen ones who are hired by the feds,” she says. Troutman co-wrote the book with Paul Binkley, EdD, former Director of Career Services at George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

The guidebook offers crucial info about the fed’s new Pathways Programs for internships and initial federal employment. In addition, it features eight examples of outstanding federal resumes that enabled real-life college students and recent grads to land positions with Uncle Sam.

“Pathways streamlined the process students and new grads use for applying for their first federal positions and made them more accessible through the USAJOBs website,” Troutman explains. “And there will be other USAJOBS openings that recent grads, including veteran grads, will want to apply for. But in today’s highly competitive environment, you need to be armed with special writing techniques to make a hiring manager want to pull your resume from the growing pile.”

Troutman says the way to make a strong first impression is to supply more of the important details in your resume. And there is room in federal resumes as they typically run four pages. She recommends highlighting the most impressive projects, presentations and papers from your college years, along with relevant courses and academic honors.

“You want to show the skills you developed in college,” Troutman says. “What roles did you play? For instance, though school projects, an engineering student will have worked on a team, performed tests, done design work and given presentations. If someone can do a great job with a project at school, then they can do a great job with a project at work.”


“This guide is a must-have if you want to be among the chosen ones who are hired by the feds.”

- Kathryn Troutman, President, The Resume Place


For the first time, Troutman decided to include private industry resumes after each of the eight sample federal resumes in her student guidebook. “This makes it easier to understand the striking differences between these two types of resumes,” she notes.

All sample resumes are in an easy-to-read “outline format” that Troutman developed. It features short paragraphs, which begin with crucial keywords from vacancy announcement in all caps. Paragraphs can be copied and loaded right into While names and some details were changed on the sample resumes, the scenarios are real. Examples include:

  • Ann Crane, a candidate with one year toward a PhD, who went from a $16.50 an hour job to a GS-11/12 position as a Health Insurance Specialist. Using Troutman’s writing techniques and adding more technical skills to her resume, Crane was hired with the first fed job application she ever submitted.
  • Philip W. Sang, a recent grad, landed a Mechanical Engineering position with the US Army Corps of Engineers after adding more details about college projects and an internship to his resume.
  • Jason Jackson, a college student, was selected for a Navy internship. The book includes three resumes for him, to show how a resume can be slanted towards specific interests or positions sought.
  • Jeremy Denton, a veteran from the Marines who recently graduated with a BA in Government and Public Policy, was hired as an GS-9/12 Intelligence Analyst for the Department of Homeland Security.

For their military service, veterans get valuable education benefits. The guidebook provides background on these benefits and offers job-hunting tips for vet students and vet new grads in a section just for them. When vets apply for fed jobs, they often get extra points added to their application score. They also get extra time to apply to Pathways as a recent grad. Regular students get 2 years, vets get 6 years.

Other helpful features in The Student’s Federal Career Guide, 3rd Edition include:

  • The 11 College Majors that Are Hottest Now and Their Equivalent Federal Job Titles
  • An Updated College Major and Equivalent OPM Occupational Series Chart
  • Instructions on How to Read the Federal Vacancy Announcements
  • Scientific and Professional Positions Where Veteran’s Preference Does Not Apply
  • Background on the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program
  • Application Options for Those with Disabilities

The 178-page Student’s Federal Career Guide, 3rd Edition is available through in paperback ($11.96) and PDF ($9.95) and from in paper ($11.96) and Kindle ($9.99). Organizations, such as colleges or military bases, can license the book for $1500.

“This book gives you the tools to clearly show decision-makers that you have what they need,” say co-author Binkley.

About Kathryn Troutman & The Resume Place

Kathryn Troutman_Portrait 2_all books_ verticalKathryn Troutman, nicknamed the “Federal Jobs Guru,” has over 30 years of experience in the federal marketplace. In addition to publishing, her company, The Resume Place, also offers federal resume writing and federal job-search coaching services. Troutman is a popular federal resume writing trainer at government agencies and military bases worldwide.