Get Your Federal Application Noticed

Applying for a federal job is one thing. Getting hiring managers to notice your application is quite another. Here are some of the nitty-gritty details you need to know to land a federal job.

Know the Lingo and Use It

The minute you hear someone mention PCS, LES, or PX/BX/NEX when you are outside a military installation, I bet you feel an instant connection. Ever stop to think about why? It’s the lingo, of course. And in the world of hiring, even federal hiring, the lingo in your application or resume can help you make a connection with the hiring manager.

“Assuming the candidate is well-qualified for the position, it is critical that the candidate utilize all the keywords and requirements listed in the job announcement throughout the resume,” said Camille Carboneau Roberts, a certified federal resume writer with

There is no specific list of keywords; they differ from job to job. Applicants need to look carefully at the job announcement and use the same words in the announcement to describe their skills in their resumes.

Does the job require a specific type of degree or certification? If you have it, list it on your resume. Is there a preferred type of job experience? If you have it, put it on your resume, exactly as it is listed in the job announcement. Whether a human being or a computer reviews your application, using the lingo can increase your chances of floating to the top of the qualified applicant list.

Prepare For a Marathon, Not a Sprint

"Completing federal applications and resumes [is] a lot more rigorous than nonfederal ones in several ways,” Roberts said. 

Federal job announcements are lengthy and sometimes confusing. Forget a one-page resume. These applications require so much detail that it might take several pages to describe each of your previous jobs.

Also, there are often many supplemental documents you must submit with your application. To top it off, you’ll probably need to submit KSAs, (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities), which can feel like a job in and of itself.

Roberts suggests applicants thoroughly read the “How to Apply” section before they even begin the federal application. Then, plan to spend three to eight hours working on the application.

Tell a Good Story

It might seem like you are saying the same thing as what you said in the application, but don’t be fooled. There are some key differences between how you present your KSAs and how you describe your previous jobs.

“With KSAs, write in first person,” Roberts said. “Tell a story that provides a relevant example of the value you provided to the employer. I use a combination of the STAR, CCAR and PAR method.”

STAR = situation, task, action, result

CCAR = content, challenge, action, result

PAR = Problem, action, result 

Notice a pattern? No matter which works best for you, they all show what you did and the results of those actions.

Know That Networking Does Work

Networking not only works for federal employment, but it can be critical to getting your foot in the door, because at some point, it may come down to who you know rather than what you know.

In this digital age of social media, smartphones and “e-Everything,” neither distance nor frequent relocation has to pose a barrier. Start with people you know, and ask for referrals and other contacts. But also, don’t be afraid to visit an agency’s website and reach out and touch someone who works there. You just might make a connection that helps you land a federal job.


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