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Common Questions & Answers

How do I apply?
To apply for a competitive service Federal job, you should review the various job announcements available on the Federal Government's job site called USAJOBS. After identifying a job(s) that you have...

What is a series and/or grade?
Series and grade refers to the Federal government's system for categorizing and defining jobs. For more information on the job classifications and pay, please visit OPM web site. If you have never...

Why have I not heard anything back after applying? How long does it take to hear from an agency after I have applied?
The Office of Management and Budget has mandated that agencies are responsible for evaluating and providing status to applicants at four points which are: Application Received Application Assessed...

How do I get Security Clearance?
You cannot independently apply for an investigation or security clearance. Clearances are based on investigations requested by Federal agencies, appropriate to specific positions and their duties...

How do I create my resume?
You have the option of uploading a resume in any format of your choice or create a resume in USAJOBS called Resume Builder. Your resume must contain information required by the job opportunity...

What if I don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN)? Are there jobs for non-citizens?
Only United States citizens and nationals may be appointed in the competitive civil service. However, Federal agencies may employ certain non-citizens who meet specific employability...

What does status candidate mean?
When a vacancy announcement indicates that status candidates are eligible to apply, Federal government employees who have served at least 90 days after competitive appointment may...

How do I find a job?
Searching for job opportunities on USAJOBS® is very easy. To search for jobs, select “Search Jobs” from the USAJOBS home page or go to http://jobsearch.usajobs.gov At the job search...

What are KSA's? How are they used in the application process?
KSA's are knowledge, skills, and abilities that are used to determine the extent to which your qualifications (experience and education) match the requirements of the job for which you may be...

Why was I not considered for a position I applied to?
Agencies are responsible for evaluating and providing status of applications to applicants. As a result, you will need to contact the agency that posted the job opportunity announcement to...

What is Rule of Three?
When selecting from a certificate of eligibles, an appointing officer must, with sole reference to merit and fitness, make a selection for the first vacancy from the highest three eligibles available...

Why wasn't my resume forwarded to the agency?
If your resume was not forwarded to the agency, you should review the "How to Apply" section of the job opportunity announcement (JOA). If you cannot locate the information, you will need to...

How do I know if the agency received my application?
To find out if an agency received your application, you should contact the agency that posted the job opportunity announcement (JOA) to inquire about receipt of your application. The agency's contact...

Can I work for the government if I am an ex-offender?
Being an ex-offender does not prevent you from obtaining Federal Employment. OPM or the hiring agency considers your criminal conduct in determining your suitability but there are no...

What is reinstatement? Am I eligible?
Reinstatement allows you to reenter the Federal competitive service workforce without competing with the general public for a Federal job. In addition, reinstatement eligibility allows you...

Is there an age limit for Federal employment?
Generally, applicants for most Federal jobs must be (1) at least 18 years old, or (2) at least 16 years old and: • Have graduated from high school or been awarded a certificate equivalent to...

Who is eligible for non-competitive appointments?
Special non-competitive appointing authorities are established by law or Executive Order. Veterans, persons with disabilities, many current and former Federal employees, and returning...

What is a Career Appointment?
A Career Appointment is a competitive service permanent appointment given to an employee who has completed three substantially continuous, creditable years of Federal service. After...

What is Merit Promotion?
Using procedures that compare candidates based on merit for selection of a current or former Federal civil service employee for a higher grade position.

How many years of experience do I need to qualify for a job?
After performing a job search on USAJOBS.gov, and you have selected a job, click on the Qualifications and Evaluations tab at the top of the page, to review the qualifications and basic requirements...

What is ICTAP?
The Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) is a process by which employees who have been involuntarily separated from a Federal agency may receive selection priority for jobs in...

What is Wage Grade (WG) & Wage Supervisor (WS)?
Wage grade (WG) is a pay system for employees in trades, crafts, or labor occupations covered by the Federal Wage System, whose pay is fixed and adjusted periodically in accordance with prevailing...

How does my Veterans’ Preference work when applying for Federal jobs?
Veterans' Preference is applied after you meet the qualifications for the position. For a veteran with a service-connected disability, veterans' preference entitles the preference eligible...

What is a Term Appointment?
A Term Appointment is a non-permanent appointment expected to last longer than one year, but less than four years. Term appointments are used to fill positions when there is not a continuing need for...

Does OPM still rate resumes?
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not accept resumes from individuals to rate for Federal jobs except through USAJOBS. Federal agencies have been delegated the authority...

What is Competitive Examining?
The competitive examination, which is open to all applicants, may consist of a written test, an evaluation of an applicant’s education and experience, and/or an evaluation of other attributes...

How can I reapply to a job?
If the job is re-advertised, please carefully read the job opportunity announcement (JOA) and follow the application instructions in the “How To Apply” section. If you have questions about...

Where do I fax documents?
You should review the "How to Apply" section of the job opportunity announcement (JOA). If you cannot locate the information you seek, you will need to contact the agency who posted the...

Who do I contact if I have a question about a job opportunity announcement?
After reviewing the job opportunity announcement (JOA), and you have a question about the job, you must contact the agency who posted the announcement. The agency contact...

Why can't I find the specific announcement I am looking for?
If you cannot locate a job opportunity announcement (JOA), it may be closed, the job may not be opened yet or may not be posted onto the web site. You may check with the specific agency you...

Where can I take the civil service exam?
There is no longer a single “civil service exam” and to apply for most Federal jobs you do not have to take any kind of a test at all. To apply, you should search the USAJOBS®...

How do I get a Preference letter from VA?
When a veteran applies for veteran's preference, the VA can produce an official letter certifying the information that is requested if the letter needs to indicate that service-connected disability...

What is Time-In-Grade?
Time-In-Grade is the length of time served at a certain grade level. It is usually used in reference to the length of time needed to satisfy the promotion requirements of the next higher...

How can I email my resume to a recruiter?
You should not email your resume to a recruiter unless it is specified in the job opportunity announcement (JOA). You must follow the instructions in the “How to Apply” section of...

Answers

How do I apply?

To apply for a competitive service Federal job, you should review the various job announcements available on the Federal Government's job site called USAJOBS. After identifying a job(s) that you have an interest in and matches your skills, review the announcement very carefully, particularly the "Qualification and Evaluation" section of the announcement to see if you are qualified for the job. Another section you will need to review is the instruction on "How to Apply". You must follow all the instructions in this section and submit any additional documentation to verify your qualifications such as, transcripts, SF-50 from Government employees and/or DD-214. We recommend that you print out and keep the job opportunity announcement for your records.

For more information, visit http://www.usajobs.gov/firsttimevisitors.asp to learn about Employment Information, Federal Hiring Processes, and how to assess your skills and interests to match potential career opportunities.

What is a series and/or grade?

Series and grade refers to the Federal government's system for categorizing and defining jobs. For more information on the job classifications and pay, please visit OPM web site. If you have never worked in the Federal government, you do not have to enter a series or grade on your resume for previous, non-government jobs. Upon application, however, you may be prompted to pick the highest grade you desire or are eligible for.

To view the GS pay schedule, please go to 2010 Pay Schedule.   There, you may view the base schedule and schedules by state.

To view wage scale schedules, please visit http://www.cpms.osd.mil/wage/wage.html.

To view the Pay Table for YA, YB, YC, YP visit:  http://www.cpms.osd.mil/NSPS.

Here are some guidelines and general information:

- A step is a raise in salary.  Most grades in the Federal government have 10 steps.  

- If you are just starting out, you can qualify for jobs at the GS-2 level with a high school diploma or as little as 3 months of general work experience. At GS-3 and GS-4 levels, you can qualify with more months of general experience. Starting at GS-5, jobs generally require 1 year of specialized experience to qualify.

- When you have a degree but no specialized experience in a career field, you are eligible for appointment at the GS-5 pay scale. (If you maintained a B average, or met other academic credentials in college, you can start out at the GS-7 pay scale.)

- To qualify for jobs at the GS-7 and higher grades, your background must have included experience closely related to the work to be performed in the job for which you are applying

- You can qualify for GS-9 positions on the basis of a master’s degree, and for GS-11 positions on the basis of a doctorate.

For more information on grades, steps, and Federal salaries, please go to 2010 General Schedule.  The "Federal Occupational Groups" contains a list that will help you identify the General Schedule (GS) series positions that are of the greatest interest to you.  You may obtain additional information in the "GS Position Classification Standards" and the "Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions."    

Why have I not heard anything back after applying? How long does it take to hear from an agency after I have applied?

The Office of Management and Budget has mandated that agencies are responsible for evaluating and providing status to applicants at four points which are:

  • Application Received
  • Application Assessed
  • Applicant Referred or Not Referred to Selection Official
  • Applicant Selected or Not Selected
  • Although each agency is different, generally, you will hear from the hiring agency in about 15-30 days after the job opportunity announcement (JOA) closes.  If you have not heard from the agency, you should contact the agency that posted the JOA to inquire about the status of your application. You may also go to "My Account" to view your application history. 

    The contact information for each announcement is listed in the lower portion of the JOA and also on the floating menu on the right hand side of the JOA.  If the JOA has closed and no longer appears on the USAJOBS® web site, you can contact the human resources office of the hiring agency for additional information and assistance .

    How do I get Security Clearance?

    You cannot independently apply for an investigation or security clearance. Clearances are based on investigations requested by Federal agencies, appropriate to specific positions and their duties. Until you are offered such a position, the government will not request or pay for an investigation for a clearance. Once you have been offered a job (contingent upon satisfactory completion of an investigation), the government will require you to complete a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, initiate the investigation, adjudicate the results, and issue the appropriate clearance.  For further information regarding background investigations you may visit the OPM investigations web site at http://www.opm.gov/extra/investigate/QABackground.asp.

    How do I create my resume?

    You have the option of uploading a resume in any format of your choice or create a resume in USAJOBS called Resume Builder.  Your resume must contain information required by the job opportunity announcement.  Please review the "How to Apply" section of the job opportunity announcement very carefully.

    What if I don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN)? Are there jobs for non-citizens?

    Only United States citizens and nationals may be appointed in the competitive civil service.  However, Federal agencies may employ certain non-citizens who meet specific employability requirements in the excepted service or the Senior Executive Service.  Several factors determine whether a Federal agency may employ a non-citizen. These restrictions are based in law.  Please contact the hiring agencies for more information on applications of non-citizens with your qualifications.  The agency contact information can be found at the bottom of the announcement or on the floating menu bar on the right hand side of the announcement.

    Please also visit the following link for additional information:  http://www.usajobs.gov/EI/noncitizensemployment.asp#icc

    What does status candidate mean?

    When a vacancy announcement indicates that status candidates are eligible to apply, Federal government employees who have served at least 90 days after competitive appointment may apply.   For veterans' information, you may click on the federal  Veterans' Center

    How do I find a job?

    Searching for job opportunities on USAJOBS® is very easy.  To search for jobs, select “Search Jobs” from the USAJOBS home page or go to http://jobsearch.usajobs.gov

    At the job search page, you can:  

    1) Search Jobs by "Location", "Job Category", "Salary range", "Pay Grade", and/or 'Search Keyword'; or
    2) Select a more refined search from the specialty search options at the top of the page including "Agency", "Series", "Senior Executive" or "Advanced".

    If you are looking for a particular position, use the "Keyword Search" box to indicate the specific position or location of interest  Additional tips for keyword searching can be found at:  http://jobsearch.usajobs.gov/help/index.asp?ma=keyword_tips.

    What are KSA's? How are they used in the application process?

    KSA's are knowledge, skills, and abilities that are used to determine the extent to which your qualifications (experience and education) match the requirements of the job for which you may be interested in applying.  When agencies evaluate candidates based on KSA's, you will usually be asked to supply a narrative description (one-half page to no more than one page in length) of the experience and/or training you have had that demonstrates your possession of a particular knowledge, skill, or ability.  When describing your knowledge, skills, and abilities, you should give examples and explain how often you used these skills, the complexity of the knowledge you possessed, the level of the people you interacted with, the sensitivity of the issues you handled, etc.  For more tips on writing your KSA's, see our publication title "The New Federal KSA," available for download now.

    Why was I not considered for a position I applied to?

    Agencies are responsible for evaluating and providing status of applications to applicants.  As a result, you will need to contact the agency that posted the job opportunity announcement to inquire about the status of your application.  The contact information for each job opportunity announcement (JOA) is listed in the lower portion of the JOA and also on the floating menu on the right hand side.  If the JOA has closed and no longer appears on the USAJOBS® web site, you can contact the human resources office of the hiring agency for additional information and assistance.

    What is Rule of Three?

    When selecting from a certificate of eligibles, an appointing officer must, with sole reference to merit and fitness, make a selection for the first vacancy from the highest three eligibles available for appointment on the certificate. For additional information, feel free to download our publication titled "Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process." Available for download now.

    Why wasn't my resume forwarded to the agency?

    If your resume was not forwarded to the agency, you should review the "How to Apply" section of the job opportunity announcement (JOA).  If you cannot locate the information, you will need to contact the agency that posted the JOA to inquire about how applications are submitted for that particular job.  The contact information for each announcement is listed at the bottom and also to the right on the floating menu.  If the announcement has closed and no longer appears on the USAJOBS® web site, you can contact the human resources office of the hiring agency for additional information and assistance.

    How do I know if the agency received my application?

    To find out if an agency received your application, you should contact the agency that posted the job opportunity announcement (JOA) to inquire about receipt of your application. The agency's contact information for each JOA is listed in the lower portion of the JOA and also on the floating menu on the right hand side.  You can also go to "My Account" to review your application history.

    If the the job opportunity announcement has closed and no longer appears on the USAJOBS.gov web site, you can contact the human resources office of the hiring agency for additional information and assistance.  If you need further assistance, you can click on the USAJOBS.gov Contact Us link.

    Can I work for the government if I am an ex-offender?

    Being an ex-offender does not prevent you from obtaining Federal Employment.  OPM or the hiring agency considers your criminal conduct in determining your suitability but there are no general prohibitions against hiring you. We consider a number of relevant factors such as the duties of the positions you have applied for, the nature and recency of the misconduct, and any evidence of rehabilitation.
    Although there are no general prohibitions against employing you in the Federal Government, there are some regulations which will prohibit you from working in certain positions if you have a specific conviction. The most common situation involves being convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes under Federal or State law. These persons are “prohibited from employment in any position requiring the individual: to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition” (Public Law 1-4-208 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997)

    Other statutory or regulatory debarments exist, but are rarely applicable. They cover debarment from Federal employment from such offenses as treason, inciting rebellion against the U.S., willful and unlawful destruction of public records, or knowingly and willfully advocating the overthrow of the U.S. Government.

    It is important for you to provide all the required information about your criminal record when you apply for Federal employment.  Then, either OPM or the employing agency can determine early if a specific prohibition exists.

    What is reinstatement? Am I eligible?

    Reinstatement allows you to reenter the Federal competitive service workforce without competing with the general public for a Federal job.  In addition, reinstatement eligibility allows you to apply for Federal jobs open only to status candidates.  However, reinstatement eligibility does not guarantee a job offer.  Hiring agencies have the discretion in determining which applicant sources to consider.

    To be eligible for reinstatement you must have held a career or career-conditional appointment as a Federal employee at some time in the past.  There is no time limit on reinstatement eligibility for those who have veterans' preference, or acquired career tenure by completing three years of continuous creditable service.  Former employees who had acquired career tenure have indefinite eligibility for reinstatement.  Former employees who held career-conditional appointments can receive reinstatement consideration up to three years after the date of their separation from service.  Once the eligibility period expires, individuals must compete for a Federal job with the public.  

    Is there an age limit for Federal employment?

    Generally, applicants for most Federal jobs must be (1) at least 18 years old, or (2) at least 16 years old and:
  • Have graduated from high school or been awarded a certificate equivalent to graduating from high school; or
  • Have completed a formal vocational training program; or
  • Have received a statement from school authorities agreeing with their preference for employment rather than continuing their education; or
  • Be currently enrolled in a secondary school and either work only during school vacation periods or work part-time during the school year under a formal student employment program.
  • Some positions, like those in law enforcement have a maximum entry age and the age may vary from agency to agency but generally falls within the range 34 yrs to 37 yrs.  Please review the job opportunity announcement or call the agency directly to find out specific information about the job of interest to you. 

    Who is eligible for non-competitive appointments?

    Special non-competitive appointing authorities are established by law or Executive Order.  Veterans, persons with disabilities, many current and former Federal employees, and returning Peace Corps volunteers are examples of individuals eligible for noncompetitive appointment.  For further information click on Special Hiring Authorities.

    What is a Career Appointment?

    A Career Appointment is a competitive service permanent appointment given to an employee who has completed three substantially continuous, creditable years of Federal service.  After serving three years of substantially continuous creditable service, a career-conditional employee becomes a career employee and gains career tenure.  Employees with career tenure have permanent reinstatement eligibility and may be considered for positions without having to take another competitive civil service examination.  Substantially continuous service means service without a break for more than 30 calendar days.

    What is Merit Promotion?

    Using procedures that compare candidates based on merit for selection of  a current or former Federal civil service employee for a higher grade position.

    How many years of experience do I need to qualify for a job?

    After performing a job search on USAJOBS.gov, and you have selected a job, click on the Qualifications and Evaluations tab at the top of the page, to review the qualifications and basic requirements for a position.  If you have further questions about the position, you may contact the agency directly.  To contact the agency, go to the first page of the job announcement on USAJOBS.gov.

    What is ICTAP?

    The Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) is a process by which employees who have been involuntarily separated from a Federal agency may receive selection priority for jobs in agencies other than the one in which they were previously employed.

    What is Wage Grade (WG) & Wage Supervisor (WS)?

    Wage grade (WG) is a pay system for employees in trades, crafts, or labor occupations covered by the Federal Wage System, whose pay is fixed and adjusted periodically in accordance with prevailing rates.

    Wage Supervisor (WS) is a pay system for supervisors of employees in trades, crafts, or labor occupations covered by the Federal Wage System, whose pay is fixed and adjusted periodically in accordance with prevailing rates.

    To view wage scale schedules, please visit http://www.cpms.osd.mil/wage/wage.html.

    To view the Pay Table for YA, YB, YC, YP visit:  http://www.cpms.osd.mil/NSPS.

    How does my Veterans’ Preference work when applying for Federal jobs?

    Veterans' Preference is applied after you meet the qualifications for the position.  For a veteran with a service-connected disability, veterans' preference entitles the preference eligible to submit a late application at anytime for any position for which:

    a) register is about to be established

    b) a non-temporary appointment has been made in the preceding three years

    c) a list of eligibles currently exists but is closed to new applicants

    For more information about types of "Preference" please consult the Vet Guide or visit the http://www.fedshirevets.gov/.

    What is a Term Appointment?

    A Term Appointment is a non-permanent appointment expected to last longer than one year, but less than four years. Term appointments are used to fill positions when there is not a continuing need for the job to be filled.  This appointment is not a permanent one, so it does not give the employee competitive status or reinstatement eligibility.  Because term employees do not have status, they may not apply for permanent appointments through agency internal merit promotion procedures, which are used for filling positions from the ranks of current and former permanent Federal employees.  However, qualifying experience gained while employed in a term position is considered when applying later for a permanent position.

    Does OPM still rate resumes?

    The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not accept resumes from individuals to rate for Federal jobs except through USAJOBS.  Federal agencies have been delegated the authority to rate the qualifications of job seekers.  Some agencies contract with OPM to provide this service.  You must apply to specific job opportunity announcements (JOA) and follow the "How to Apply" instructions provided for that particular announcement.  The agency's contact information for each announcement is listed in the lower portion of the job opportunity announcement (JOA).

    What is Competitive Examining?

    The competitive examination, which is open to all applicants, may consist of a written test, an evaluation of an applicant’s education and experience, and/or an evaluation of other attributes necessary for successful performance in the position to be filled. The process is used to fill civil service positions with candidates who apply from outside the Federal workforce.  It is also used to enable current Federal employees without civil service status to compete for a permanent appointment and to enable employees with civil service status to compete for other Federal positions.

    How can I reapply to a job?

    If the job is re-advertised, please carefully read the job opportunity announcement (JOA) and follow the application instructions in the “How To Apply” section.  If you have questions about the instructions in the "How to Apply" section, you will need to contact the agency who posted the JOA.  The contact information for each job opportunity announcement is listed in the lower portion of the JOA and also on the floating menu on the right hand side.  If the announcement has closed and no longer appears on the USAJOBS web site, you can contact the human resources office of the hiring agency for additional information and assistance.

    Where do I fax documents?

    You should review the "How to Apply" section of the job opportunity announcement (JOA).  If you cannot locate the information you seek, you will need to contact the agency who posted the announcement to inquire about where to fax documents.  The contact information for each announcement is listed at the bottom of the JOA and to the right on the floating menu.  If the announcement has closed and no longer appears on the USAJOBS web site, you can contact the human resources office of the hiring agency for additional information and assistance.

    Who do I contact if I have a question about a job opportunity announcement?

    After reviewing the job opportunity announcement (JOA), and you have a question about the job, you must contact the agency who posted the announcement.  The agency contact information for each announcement is listed at the bottom of the JOA and also to the right on the floating menu.  Once the announcement has closed, it will no longer appear on the USAJOBS® web site.  If you have the contact information for the human resources office of the hiring agency, you may contact the agency directly for additional information and assistance.

    Why can't I find the specific announcement I am looking for?

    If you cannot locate a job opportunity announcement (JOA), it may be closed, the job may not be opened yet or may not be posted onto the web site.  You may check with the specific agency you are interested in regarding a JOA. 

    You can search for a JOA by entering the announcement number or the control number in the "Keyword Search" field.  Please keep in mind that you must enter the JOA number exactly including spaces, hyphens, and capitalization. 

    Where can I take the civil service exam?

    There is no longer a single “civil service exam” and to apply for most Federal jobs you do not have to take any kind of a test at all.  To apply, you should search the USAJOBS® database for opportunities that match the type of job you are interested in and are located where you want to work.  Then, you should follow the “How to Apply” instructions contained within each job opportunity announcement you locate.

    How do I get a Preference letter from VA?

    When a veteran applies for veteran's preference, the VA can produce an official letter certifying the information that is requested if the letter needs to indicate that service-connected disability is required.  The preference selected (SF-15) determines what type of certification letter is needed.  To obtain a veteran's preference letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs, you should contact your local VA Regional Office at 1-800-827-1000 or contact them by visiting the web site: http://www.va.gov.

    What is Time-In-Grade?

    Time-In-Grade is the length of time served at a certain grade level.  It is usually used in reference to the length of time needed to satisfy the promotion requirements of the next higher level.

    How can I email my resume to a recruiter?

    You should not email your resume to a recruiter unless it is specified in the job opportunity announcement (JOA). You must follow the instructions in the “How to Apply” section of the JOA. This section will tell you how to submit your resume for that specific job. If you have a question about a particular JOA, you will need to contact the agency who posted it. The agency contact information for each announcement is listed at the bottom of the JOA.

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