5 Myths about the Federal Job Search

By Andrea M. Wynne, M.Ed., CCSP
December 11, 2018

When considering a new career path upon leaving the service, one of the first options many military members seek is a job within the federal government. This could be a way to give back to the same mission they have known most of their lives, as well as, a means to earn another source of stable income.

Although those are admirable and understandable reasons to pursue federal employment, I have encountered several people who are not fully aware of the rules and often believe myths that float around about getting hired. While working as both a transition counselor and Transition Assistance Program instructor over the past six years, I have seen many highly skilled veterans who give up after receiving notices that they were, ‘not best qualified’. Further, many feel that the process becomes too frustrating and simply give up on their goals and dreams.

After serving our Nation and obtaining highly sought after skills such as loyalty, integrity and team work, any employer, including the Federal Government, would benefit greatly from hiring more vets.

In an effort to assist those veterans, military spouses or anyone else who would like help with lifting the veil that is the federal hiring system, here are 5 myths that I have often come across in my work:

  1. “I have veteran’s preference so, I will easily get hired.”
    Although a person who has worn the uniform may have a preference for some jobs, they MUST be qualified for the position FIRST before veteran’s preference can even be applied. Additionally, there could be several other veterans who are just as qualified. (When all veterans competing are best qualified, one doesn’t have preference over the other based on disability status…a non-disabled vet in gold can be hired over a 30% disabled vet also in the same category.)
    It is important to ensure that it is clear to the hiring manager that all qualifications are met including experience, education and certifications. Also of importance is reading the job announcement in its entirety because leaving one item out could mean the application is considered incomplete. I have personally seen people lose an opportunity because they did not follow all of the instructions.
  2. “My resume is 10 pages long but that is OK because this is for a federal job.”
    In recent years, it has become more widely known that a federal resume is very different from a resume in the civilian sector. However, it is often taught that a federal resume can be 7 or 8 pages, as long as it has information that is applicable to the job. I have recently learned from a panel of hiring managers and Mrs. Troutman that the optimal length of a federal resume is actually 3-5 pages. Much like civilian sector professionals, human resources specialist and hiring managers are busy and do not have the time to sift through all of those pages. It is vital to work with someone either on or off of the local installation (i.e. Family Support Center or American’ Job Center) to customize the resume content so that it is concise and relevant. They can assist with ensuring that the years of specialized experience that is required for most of the jobs is evident within those 3-5 pages.
  3. “I am going to include all of my training and certifications (i.e. HVAC & NCOA) on my resume even though the job I am applying for is different than the job I had on active duty.”
    In some instances, there may be some transferability within the training and certifications obtained during military service (i.e. leadership within NCOA (Non-Commissioned Officer Academy) Training or specific experience within heating ventilation and air conditioning certifications (HVAC). On the other hand, it is a good idea to explain these skills and spell out all acronyms, as it may not be completely logical to everyone reading the resume. Each branch of service, every installation and even every unit has language that is specific to that entity and may not translate well. It is always better to eliminate any confusion.
  4. “I was a major and in the military for 10 years. I should qualify for a GS-13.”
    This is a myth that has disappointed many of the men and women I have worked with in my career. Unfortunately, having a certain rank does not automatically translate to a certain grade in the federal system. Federal jobs are rated based on the applicant’s ability to show years of experience within a specified area and/or having the educational background that is necessary as well. The managerial and organizational skills that are earned when reaching certain ranks could be impressive during an interview or can be placed on a resume. However, the main thing to remember is that the rank is not a factor when seeking the qualifications of an applicant.
  5. “I submitted my application over a month ago! I must not be good enough for this job!”
    Hold on now! Remember, patience is an important virtue in any job search. When applying for federal positions, there are times when a double dose of that patience may be needed. Every agency within the federal system is different and the time it takes to hear back varies widely. I have seen people receive a call for an interview a full year after applying, as well as those who have gotten a call the very next day. I would never advise anyone to put all of their hopes into one job but I would encourage anyone who is really interested in working for the government to call upon their resiliency training and don’t give up! Keep checking the system, call the number on the announcement for updates and try networking within that agency, if that is a possibility.

The misinformation and myths that seem to stick around over the years unfortunately deters some very talented and skilled individuals from even clicking ‘apply’. Therefore, it is important to seek help and accurate information often. Yes, it can be a great deal of work to go after a federal job but much like serving in the military, anything worth having does not come easy.

Andrea M. Wynne, M.Ed, is a Certified Federal Job Search Trainer, Certified Federal Career Coach licensed to teach Ten Steps to a Federal Job® at the Yokota Airman and Family Readiness Center, Japan. Andrea is experienced as a Certified Career Services Provider who has worked as a transition counselor and facilitator for the military and in higher education over the past 6 years. Additionally, she has partnered with many employers and volunteered with several veteran’s services organizations (VSO) in order to assist service members with successfully navigating transition. Andrea is also an Air Force veteran and has been a military spouse for over 22 years. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan and works to assist active duty members and their families while stationed overseas.

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