The next time you apply for federal jobs, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that application procedures have improved in some important ways. First, you probably won’t have to write those odious knowledge, skills and abilities essays unless you’re applying for Senior Executive Service jobs. In addition, USAJOBS.com — the main portal for federal jobs — has been enhanced.
For example, you may now save in your USAJOBS account many types of ancillary application documents, including academic transcripts, veterans’ preference documents, annual evaluations and cover letters. This storage feature makes it easier to find these documents when needed, and to work on job applications from anywhere. In addition, only résumés created on the USAJOBS résumé template were previously accepted by federal applications. But because the USAJOBS template does not accommodate text features such as bold or italics, or résumé layout features such as an introductory “summary of qualifications,” it has traditionally been virtually impossible to create eye-catching, fast-read résumés via this template.
But now, federal job applications accept non-USAJOBS résumés, if they include all required information. Therefore, you may now apply to federal jobs with résumés that have reader-friendly formats and quickly highlight your best credentials. Do so to stand out from the pack! But if you do create résumés with the USAJOBS template, you may now cut and paste bullets and text from Word into the job descriptions of such résumés — and thereby energize them with fast-read bullets.
But despite such improvements, applying for federal jobs can still be a maddening experience — the kind that may tempt you to sledgehammer your computer, ditch your professional career altogether, and join a traveling road show. Some advice to help ease the application process and hopefully help you keep your career on track:
First, don’t leave your application for the last minute. It may take you several days to get trouble-shooting help for problematic online applications from agency or USAJOBS personnel, if necessary. And all current feds must upload into federal applications their latest SF-50 — “Notification of Personnel Action.” So obtain an electronic copy of this document from your human resources office in advance, if necessary.
Be sure to upload the correct documents into each application. Why? Because once you upload a document into a federal application, it may be impossible for you to delete it and replace it with the correct document — even if the application instructions promise that your application can be changed until its closing date. I’m not kidding! If you upload the wrong document, request help from the HR contact identified on the job’s announcement.
If an online application won’t let you upload a required document (UGH!), try the following steps: 1) Save the required document in your USAJOBS account. 2) Return to your target job’s USAJOBS announcement. 2) Click “Update application.” 3) Under “Attachments,” check the box for the type of document you want to upload. 4) Continue with the application.
Each job description in a USAJOBS résumé has a character limit. But USAJOBS won’t warn you if you exceed this limit; it will merely silently erase excessive characters from the end of the oversized job description — ruthlessly truncating it in mid-word or mid-sentence. So check that each job description ends logically.
After you apply for jobs, regularly check the “Application status” section of your USAJOBS account, because updates won’t necessarily be emailed to you.
Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-careers.