Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Without a doubt, yes! Not only is a Federal resume longer than a one to two page private sector resume, the content is different. What do I mean by different content? Isn’t a resume a resume no matter how you slice it? Not really. A private sector resume focuses on accomplishments and results – how many, number of hours saved, number of dollars earned, etc. For example, “Saved Company X $1B.” A Federal resume focuses on the skills required from you to get to that accomplishment. The Federal HR staff is looking for the skills and competencies required to get the Federal job done. The Federal hiring manager is looking for the accomplishment. For example, “Gathered and analyzed complex financial data. Used knowledge of contracting regulations to identify loopholes in contracting procedures. Saved Company X $1B.” This is why a Federal resume is generally two to three times longer than a private sector resume.
It can be difficult to network yourself through to a Federal job, but not impossible. A simple but not often exploited concept that I like to recommend is called informational interviewing. An informational interview is a means to obtain advice, information and referrals through short conversations with ‘warm leads’ or people you know to understand the hidden job market. (It is NOT an opportunity to ask for a job.) What are you asking for in an informational interview?
• What job series should I target in my job search?
• Do you think my qualifications fit my job objectives?
• Is my resume strong enough to get referred to hiring managers? If not, how can I improve it?
• What are the opportunities in this agency for someone with my background?
• What are the “hot” issues with which you are dealing now?
• Is there anyone else you can refer me to who could help me learn more about X agency or X field?
Your goal is to expand your networking by meeting new Federal employees and asking them to refer you to their colleagues. The more people you know (and who know you), the more effective you will be in you Federal job search.
As you probably already know (or have heard), the Federal application process can overwhelm even the most aggressive job seeker. It is daunting!
What exactly are those federal HR folks looking for?
They are reviewing your application to make certain you are qualified for the job you to which you are applying. What are they looking at? Three main components of your application: keywords, self-assessment questionnaire responses and your Federal resume. As applicants, we do not know which agencies are looking for which components and in which order, so we have to be prepared at all levels.
Keywords are important because agencies will use an electronic method or a human being to scan first for keywords before moving the application forward to the next step. Some agencies will look at the applicant’s score on the self-assessment questionnaire to see if the score is above or below the cut-off score determined by the agency. Still other agencies will look at the federal resume itself and gather as much information from it to qualify (or not qualify) the applicant.
The bottom line is that you have to be prepared. Have the right keywords, answer the self-assessment questionnaire in a way that is favorable to you (but honest) and have your federal resume written well – in a way that strongly conveys you have the KSAs to do the job and that you are qualified to do it. Many applicants make the mistake of applying to jobs for which they are not qualified.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
What is the purpose of a Federal interview? It is a two-way communication test. It is a confirmation of your technical skills and a test of your personality to ensure a good fit into the Agency’s environment. It is also an opportunity for you as the interviewee to test the job requirements, the interviewer’s personality and the presentation of potential employment. There are a few ways that a Federal job interview differs from that in the private sector.
Ø You will probably be faced with a panel interview (generally a panel of three). Be prepared for three sets of eyeballs as opposed to one staring at you. The interview is a test and it will most likely be formally scored, especially if you are interviewed by a panel.
Ø You may encounter behavior interview questions. These are questions that start with the phrase, “Describe a time when…”. The panel will attempt to determine if you are a good fit for the agency, based on your responses. These questions allow the interviewer to explore your past behavior and probe into your responses. The interviewer is looking for a story with “Goldilocks” detail (just enough, but not too much).
The best way to ace the interview is to be prepared.
Ø Research the Department/Agency, its mission, and the unit in which you are interviewing. Find out what they do and how they do it. All the information you need is on the web.
Ø Find out as much information as you can about the interviewers. When you an interview is extended to you, ask who will be interviewing you. Go to your social network and find out about them. Remember, you have a short amount of time build report with the interviewers. Do your research before the interview and use your findings to leverage relationship-building in the actual interview.
Ø Prepare your responses in advance. Some typical questions might be:
“Describe a time or a situation when you…
…were faced with a stressful situation.”
…used good judgment in solving a problem.”
…showed initiative to contain costs.”
…motivated others (team or direct reports).”
…effectively handled a difficult customer.”
…tried to accomplish something and failed.”
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
This is an amazing website that I like to use to quickly and easily identify key words to place in my federal resume. To get started, copy and paste the language from the Duties and KSA sections of the vacancy announcement into this website: www.Tagcrowd.com. This will enable you to quickly identify the key words from the vacancy announcement. Once you see the words in larger, bolder print, you should find a place for them in your resume, if they are not already in there. Although the agencies are probably not using this website, they are using a similar technique and this process will mirror their technique.
Before you start creating your resume, develop several “Accomplishment Stories.” These are stories about things you have done, accomplishments you have achieved, changes you have instigated, processes you have improved, etc. These stories can be used to respond to KSA (Knowledge, Skill and Ability) essays. They bring validity to your skill set. When writing your “Accomplishment Stories,” provide a variety of examples. One of the best ways to do this is to review your target vacancy announcements for the KSAs (usually found under “Qualifications and Evaluations” tab). The KSAs will serve as a guide to determine which topics you may want to cover. Some examples might involve specific projects, but you can also write about job duties and responsibilities. You should use specific time, dollar or numerical values whenever possible to show the depth and breadth of your experience at a high level. Using the following formula, identify several “Accomplishment Stories” for each position you have held. You can use them to insert into your resume and to talk about during your interview.
Situation: What was the project/assignment and what was the context?
Task: For what tasks were you responsible? What was your role?
Action: What actions did you take to resolve the situation?
Result: What happened as a result of your efforts/involvement in the project?
The length of time it takes to get a federal job varies. It depends on the types of jobs you are applying to, the budget situation of the agencies to which you are submitting applications and a host of other variables. However, the more applications you submit, the more you increase your odds of getting referred. The usual job seeker will need to submit a few dozen applications to glean one interview. The good news is that by that time, you are a pro in applying for jobs and you know your resume inside out and backwards. So you are likely to have a very satisfactory and satisfying interview. After your interview, once you receive an offer of employment, it can take anywhere from a month to several months to actually start work at your new Federal job. Often there is a background security check that needs to be completed prior to your actual starting date.