Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cover Letter or No Cover Letter?

More than one HR specialist has told me that cover letters are a waste of time.   They add bulk to the application package and give the HR folks more material to review (or discard as the case may be).  So is it best to save a tree?  

Seventy-five percent of agencies collecting your application materials use a back-end system called "USA Staffing." When it is used, all of your application attachments get forwarded to the hiring manager. S/he has the option of opening any or all of these attachments, including your cover letter. So if you do decide to include one for the hiring manager to possibly see, please don't forget to tailor it to the job and make it a powerful one. Furthermore, if you have to explain something in your resume that is out-of-the-ordinary, such as a gap in employment that is especially long (over 18 months) or a change in career progression, a cover letter can be just the thing you need to explain to the reader the “why” of your uniqueness. Be sure you make a solid connection between the skills desired and the skills you are bringing to the agency.  Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression!  

For more information on developing your federal job search strategy to attract the attention of the HR hiring team, visit us on the web at

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Do I Check On My Applications? keeps a record of the vacancy announcements you submit.  To locate the status of your application, go to “Account,” then “Application Status” to view any updates that the Agency inputted regarding your application status. You can click on the vacancy announcement hyperlink to view the vacancy announcement and retrieve the phone number and/or email address of the Human Resources contact, in case you want to follow-up.  Directly above the list of applications, you should see a small icon that allows you to create quickly an Excel spreadsheet of the applications you've submitted (pretty neat feature, USAJOBS!) Keep in mind that the status is only updated for those applications submitted to agencies using systems that communicate with  If the agencies’ systems don’t communicate, the status will generally appear as “Status Unavailable.”  You can sometimes obtain your status from those systems by logging in directly to the system that collected your application information. 

For more information on developing your federal job search strategy to attract the attention of the HR hiring team, visit us on the web at

Sunday, March 13, 2016


As you probably already know, 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.  

They are looking for three main things: self assessment (multiple choice) questionnaire responses, key words, and your federal resume. As applicants, you have to be prepared at all levels. Most agencies will first 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. This is a computerized process. Then a human being will scan your resume first for key words before moving the application forward to the next step, which is a human being reading your resume. That individual will decide if you will move forward in the process. It is necessary to answer the self-assessment questionnaire in a way that is favorable to you (but honest). Use a website such as to identify the vacancy announcement key words, and make sure your Federal resume is well written – in a way that strongly conveys you have the qualifications, knowledge, skill and ability to do the job.  

After this evaluation process, you will find yourself in one of three tiers - bottom tier (not qualified), middle tier (eligible but not good enough to move forward in the process), or tier 3 (eligible and referred). Tier 3 is where you want to be. This means that the HR team has found you to be in the group of applicants who will move forward to the hiring manager for consideration for an interview. 

For more information on developing your Federal job search strategy to attract the attention of the HR hiring team, visit us on the web at