There are many steps that one has to take to land a federal job, from figuring out how to navigate and utilize the not-so-user-friendly website, deciphering which jobs to apply to, and putting the right information into your resume, to figuring out exactly how to present yourself when and if you reach the interview stage. It can be so difficult and overwhelming that it scares off many potential applicants. But you don’t need to be one of those people. Over the next few months I will present you with a walk through of the application process and its options that should help you figure out how to navigate the website, utilize the tools, figure out which jobs you should be applying to, and show you how to tailor your resume to specific jobs. All of which should make landing a federal job that much simpler.
So you have figured out which jobs you want to apply for and you have tailored your resume to specifically fit that job, now what? Now comes the part that will really determine if you will get the job, the questionnaire. After you submit your resume and personal information for each opening, you will be presented with a questionnaire. How you rank yourself on the questionnaire will be compared to how other applicants rank themselves, and will ultimately decide if you are referred for the job or not. Only the people who rank themselves in probably the highest ten percent are referred to hiring officials.
The questionnaires usually contain about 20-30 multiple-choice questions, but can sometimes contain up to 50 or 60 depending on the type of job you are applying for. The questions will generally ask how familiar you are with a certain skill, or what kind of knowledge you have on a certain subject. There will typically be five answers to choose from. While the wording differs on each one, the answers usually range from novice to expert.
It can be tricky knowing how to answer these; some people don’t want to give themselves too much credit but they also want to show that they are qualified for the position. The key thing here is just to answer as honestly as possible, but also to give yourself more credit than you might initially think. I have talked to many human resources workers and many hiring managers about this and I have asked “What qualifies you as an expert?” They have all answered the same way. If you can teach someone else to do it- even if you have yet to teach anyone- mark yourself as an expert.
But you can’t just rate yourself as an expert if you are not. Each one of your answers has to be specifically backed up in your resume. We talked last month about tailoring your resume, and here is another way to do so. If while you are completing a questionnaire you come across something that you have yet to address in your resume, it is easy to save your progress, exit, and go back to your resume, tailor it to fit and then come back to finish the questionnaire. You are one step closer to the job of your dreams.