Coaching can increase your score on your federal resume and get you hired into a federal job

According to Department of Labor latest employment rates, healthcare employment rose by 17,000 in August (see article on the Jobs Report). Ambulatory health care services and hospitals added 14,000 and 6,000 jobs, respectively. From June through August, job growth in health care averaged 15,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 28,000 in the prior 12 months.

Lou Cupola was one of those success stories. He landed a permanent federal job with the Social Security Administration as a Health Insurance Specialist working with the Affordability Care Act.

When Lou Cupola decided to broaden his professional horizons early this year, federal employment seemed like a natural for this ex-Navy officer. But as many job seekers find, some important aspects of federal resume writing and the federal job-application process didn’t come naturally.

Cupola, a doctor of podiatry, had served his country for 8 years, then founded a private practice in the late 2000s. “My practice was doing well, but I wanted to serve on a larger scale,” he says.

At first glance, federal job search appeared quite similar to looking for a position in the private sector. But as Cupola delved deeper, he decided he would benefit from professional assistance in preparing his candidacy.

“The military’s Transition Assistance Programs don’t specifically tell you how to apply for federal jobs,” says Cupola. So he decided to speak with Kathryn Troutman, president of The Resume Place, about his military and private-sector healthcare experience, the kinds of federal positions he might apply for, and the less-than-obvious keyword searches he should do on the USAJOBS database.

Those searches yielded announcements for some interesting positions, but he had reservations about applying. “A couple of jobs popped open in Seattle. I called Kathryn and said I didn’t know if I fit all the criteria. Kathryn told me, you don’t necessarily have to have every bullet point on the position description locked down, and she turned out to be right.”

One GS-9/11/12 announcement of particular interest, for a Health Insurance Specialist at the Social Security Administration, required a year of specialized experienced in Medicare and Medicaid claims and compliance.

At first Cupola didn’t recall that he had such specialized experience. A dedicated clinician, Cupola hadn’t approached his federal job search thinking that he could capitalize on the management skills he had applied in private practice. But in that context he had indeed evaluated Medicare providers and ensured compliance with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ complex rules and regulations.

“When Kathryn read my resume very closely and asked me some open-ended questions, I realized that I did meet the requirements,” says Cupola. “I’d just never framed it that way.”

“This is a typical problem for job seekers” says Troutman. “They don’t read job announcements carefully or think comprehensively about how their experience can be matched up with federal position descriptions. Lou wasn’t going to apply for the Health Insurance Specialist position, but I convinced him that he qualified and would make an excellent candidate for the job.”

Well-prepared with advice from The Resume Place, Cupola applied, using information that Troutman had ferreted out of his resume — information that enabled him to answer the job questionnaire in a way that added points to his score, which was also aided by his 5-point veterans’ preference. “I just had to give myself credit for all aspects of my experience,” Cupola says.

Troutman and her staff had also worked with Cupola to thoroughly revamp his resume for the federal job market, using simple, direct language to emphasize the full range of knowledge, skills and abilities that would apply to the positions he was pursuing. “Federal hiring managers won’t infer anything, so you have to be very specific” in laying out your qualifications, Cupola has learned.

The Resume Place also assisted with cover letters customized to jobs Cupola sought. “With their help, I related everything relevant in my background to the position description. They opened doors for me by helping organize my information,” says Cupola. “The proof is that I got the interviews.”

In fact, the package of help Cupola received from The Resume Place opened every door that counts. He was rated Best Qualified for the GS-12 Health Insurance Specialist position, then referred for the job and selected for an interview. With confidence born of his own sterling qualifications and coaching from Troutman, he excelled in the interview and was swiftly hired, with a start date of September 2012.

Says Troutman: “Before we had a chance to actually work together, Lou said he wasn’t going to apply for the position. I talked him into it.” And she made sure his application was a winner.

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