The federal government is hiring. But try to navigate the maze that is the federal job search process. It can feel just as bureaucratic and cumbersome as the government itself. I asked Kathryn Troutman, president of the Resume Place in Baltimore, for her top five strategies to be a successful candidate. Troutman, an author of several career books, including Ten Steps to a Federal Job, offers workshops for job seekers in writing federal resumes. Hanah Cho, Baltimore Sun
Say good-bye to your private sector resume
The federal resume is a completely different animal, Troutman says.
A federal resume is usually four pages long, compared with a typical one- to two-page resume.
While most job seekers are trained to keep descriptions short, Troutman says a federal resume must be detailed about your duties, experience and accomplishments.
It's important that descriptions about your skills and accomplishments include keywords from the job or vacancy announcement. Also pay attention to "one year specialized experience" that appears often on federal job postings. Make sure you're showing that you meet those criteria to even qualify for the job.
For instance, Troutman helped a former sous chef find a job as a Federal Emergency Management Agency program analyst. The job called for one year of experience in such areas as conducting analysis, comparing existing programs and organizing budgets.
So, instead of focusing his resume on food, Troutman helped the candidate focus his selling points by emphasizing skills in analyzing costs of food, inventory and supply management and organizing events under pressure situations.
Become familiar with www.usajobs.gov
Troutman says the Web site recently added a new search feature that allows candidates to browse open jobs by agency, location and job title. "This is so much more engaging that what they had before. I could see in one second how many jobs are open in the accounting occupation, education and by state," she says.
Make sure you understand the vacancy announcement
Troutman says the announcements can feel intimidating because they are written in bureaucratic language. For instance, a job posting for an administrative officer is another way to say office manager.
Spend some time in analyzing the duties, qualifications and knowledge, skills and abilities sections of the announcement so that you could present the best case for yourself, Troutman says.
Don't forget the 'Knowledge, Skills and Abilities' narratives
The KSA narratives will ask candidates to write about their experience and provide examples that demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills and abilities the government is looking for. You will be graded and compared with other candidates, Troutman says.
A resume gets you minimally qualified for the job, while the KSAs "will prove that you're the best qualified," she says.
Follow the directions
Each federal agency could have different instructions on how to apply for jobs. Make sure you read them carefully and do exactly as requested, Troutman says.