Be On Time

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I had another blog planned for this week, but in light of the government shutdown, I thought a change in topic might be in order. I am calling this “Be On Time,” because even though everyone else has to be on time when meeting government deadlines, legislators are apparently allowed to be tardy, even if the action item is as important as PASSING THE FEDERAL BUDGET.  But Congress is slated to receive their own paycheck ON TIME. Hmmm.

I was a government employee furloughed by the shutdown 17 years ago, and my husband is one of the 800,000 (not including thousands of contractors) being affected this time around, so I can certainly relate to what the federal employees and contractors are going through this week.

I also empathize with the jobseekers’ frustration at the many rules they have to meet, some unclear, when applying for federal jobs. But, rules they are, so let me give you a few tips to help decipher and cope.

The bottom line

The short story here is: don’t miss the deadline for your application. There are no late passes. Most vacancy announcements have some wording that looks something like this:

The complete Application Package must be submitted by 11:59 PM (EST) on Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Or this –

To be considered, you must submit a complete application package by 11:59 PM Eastern time on the closing date of this announcement.

What about the shutdown?

The HR Specialists will not be working during the shutdown, so does that mean that the deadlines will be extended? USAJOBS is still “open for business,” and you will not be able to contact the HR Specialists to find out if there will be any exceptions to the deadlines. Your best bet is to submit your application on time during the government shutdown. Once the HR Specialists return to work, they will continue to process the applications.

Give yourself PLENTY of time

Take note:

The following documents must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.Applicants will not be considered or rated if all of the forms and supporting documents indicated below are not included in the application packet.

The above statement is  an important one.  You must submit all of the required parts of your application, not just your resume, before the deadline or you will not be considered.

You need to leave yourself PLENTY of time to: 1) complete the questionnaire; and 2) submit all of the additional documents. I do not recommend that you start writing your first resume the night of a deadline, because the additional documents and questions will take you a significant amount of time to prepare and submit.

You may also have some other hoops to jump through that you did not expect if you don’t read the vacancy announcement carefully, such as:

** It is the applicant’s responsibility to verify that information and documents entered, uploaded, or faxed is received, legible and accurate.

This presumably means that you will need to contact the HR person listed on the announcement and verify that they received the fax, and that the documents are legible. So make sure you allow enough time to do so, probably at least the day before the deadline in case you have to resubmit or if you don’t reach the person right away.

Or how about this document requirement:

A Sworn (notarized) statement from you that your fitness to practice law or conduct as an attorney has never been challenged in any jurisdiction to the best of your knowledge.

As an attorney, you may already have such a statement, but then if you don’t, you may not want to be scrambling around for a notary the day of the deadline.

Preview the questionnaire before you start

Many people also underestimate the time it takes to complete a questionnaire. Every announcement will have a preview of the questionnaire, so make sure to look at it to gauge the length to complete.

I found a GS-13 Attorney Advisor announcement with a reasonable questionnaire of about 30 questions. I was also surprised to find an announcement for a Laborer to clean and perform maintenance in Puerto Rico ($9.73 to $11.35 per hour) with 43 questions, some of which were rather detailed and difficult.

What if the instructions are not clear?

In case you think this blog is too common sense and basic for you, how about these puzzling entries?

I found one announcement with BOTH of these statements listed in the announcement:

The complete application package must be submitted by 11:59 PM (EST) on Monday, October 07, 2013 to receive consideration.

And, later in bold and bright blue –

Complete applications must be received by close of business Monday, October 07, 2013

And how about this one?

You must complete the entire process by 12:00 a.m. (midnight) Eastern Standard Time of the closing date —    Thursday, October 17, 2013.

What does this mean? Midnight between 10/16 and 10/17, or midnight between 10/17 and 10/18?

When there is ambiguity, it is safest to go with the earlier time. If you would like clarification, contact the HR Specialist listed on the announcement, but give yourself enough time to do so and get an answer back.

So, the common sense tip for your federal resume (and Congress) is: BE ON TIME!

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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 still your best bet on the planet.

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