Your Guide to Federal Employment: Application Tips

Steps for Applying for a Federal Job- featured image

Steps for Applying for a Federal Job

My apartment is set up. Everything I do from now on will be tweaking how I use the small but beautiful space. Our VPN is working and I can stream videos and order from JC Penney’s. I met a few of my neighbors, even received a couple of bottles of wine and a lot of homemade kimchi. This post is about job hunting now we’re unpacked and found a coffee shop w/ good Wi-fi. The only thing left to do is start applying for a federal job.

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finding-a-remote-job Your Guide to Federal Employment: Application Tips

How to Get the Federal Job You Want

Getting Started

I have my driver’s license and I know that you can turn left on a green arrow and the dotted lines are where you’re supposed to make the U-turns. If only that were how it worked here in Korea. That driver’s test was truly a waste of my time. The cartoon was the best AND most accurate part of the test.

I know how to recycle, which is my favorite treadmill in the gym downstairs, and which elevator will get me there the fastest. Soon. I figured out where to pick up spaghetti when the Commissary was closed. It took a little longer to learn how to use my apartment intercom panel.

I’ve hooked up with my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. I found out there are a wine and hiking club. There are two separate clubs, not a wine club that hikes. I don’t think so anyway. And most importantly, I know a few places where we can get a good beer because I’m married to a beer snob.

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Steps for Applying for a Federal Job 

The Application Process

I don’t have any small kids or the promise of a healthy inheritance, so I started looking for a job of course. This is the 7th move in 20 years, which is basically my entire adult life. And my resume looks like Swiss cheese, the kind with more holes than actual cheese, as a result.

The first stop was to update my profile on, which I did. I also applied for 10 jobs that first day. And tweaked my resume to include words from the job announcements and uploaded a copy I thought was good enough to apply for all the jobs. I created personal cover letters for each job with specifics and sat back waiting for the deluge of job interviews that were to come. But all I received was rejection after rejection… 10 of them on the closing date of each opening.

I keep hearing that if you’re going to get into the “system”… overseas is the best place to do that, so what am I doing wrong?

One thing I noticed was that many of the jobs were so specific that they had to have A particular candidate in mind when written. I applied to job after job with no positive feedback, callbacks, or interviews. But the most frustrating thing was that I received notifications that I wasn’t qualified for the jobs I was applying for. And I knew I was. So I decided I needed help at the career center and was given a few bits of advice that everyone should know before applying to Federal job announcements.

It’s ALL about the Resume… the Details Matter.

Effective Resumes

Civilian vs Federal Resumes

The civilian resume does not work well when applying for jobs in the public sector. I needed to update it and follow the template on the USAJOBS website. This is the most time-consuming aspect due to the information required that wasn’t on my civilian resume, i.e. phone numbers, supervisor names, addresses, salaries, applicable training/ certifications, etc. etc.

  • Don’t be lazy and upload a civilian resume. Use the resume builder instead. It takes a lot longer, but it offers the best opportunity to compete.

You are allowed to upload 10 supporting documents. Use all 10 spaces. You don’t know in advance what each employer may want to verify. I upload my resume, transcripts, PCS (permanent change of station) orders, command sponsorship letter, and Korean DL. I also uploaded my US DL, passport with SOFA (status of Forces Agreement), and marriage license.

  • With that said, make sure you upload every document they are requesting. If not, you will be considered unqualified—a status I am very acquainted with. This means you have to read the entire announcement because the requirements aren’t always on the first page.

Cover Letters

No One Reads Them

We’ve been instructed to use action words when constructing a resume, but USAJOBS narrows down the candidate lists with software that searches for ‘keywords’ used in the job description, so action words are moot. Every job requires a unique resume and skip the cover letters. Think you aren’t qualified… apply anyway.

  • Don’t lie, but make sure you are taking credit and or describing all your talents… even those you may not think are marketable. I was told by another applicant, that he loves fellow applicants that don’t think they are qualified, leaves the door wide open for him.


But Don’t Lie

But Don’t Sell Yourself Short Either. This is the time Everyone Expects YOU to Brag About Your Accomplishments.

Think you should apply for the job as a GS7 instead of a GS8. Don’t do it. If you get hired as a GS7, you’ll be stuck on that “linear” career track for a long time. The next promotion is just another tier on the same track and there are many, many tiers.

  • List everything and update each application for the job you are applying to. One resume does not fit all in this case. Make sure you list all your relevant training and volunteer work too.

Select Federal Employees on the home page. There are far more jobs listed under the Federal Employees tab than US Citizens. So don’t limit your opportunities for employment. Sure, you will probably get more “not qualified” emails, but it’s worth the effort.

  • Don’t apply for a job that you don’t want because if you pass up a job you used spousal preference for, you may not be able to claim that preference again.


Join or keep your LinkedIn account up to date. Everyone has a LinkedIn account. And you can specify industries, locations, and jobs you are interested in. Networking is key to finding open doors, what you do once inside is totally up to you.

  • Let everyone you know you are looking for a job. You never know where your next referral will come from. We’ve all heard that it’s not what you know, but who you know? It’s true.

And by all means, keep your options open. You may not want to teach English, but once you interview, something else might come up that you’re perfect for. Korea has the fastest Internet in the world, which allows for some non-traditional jobs such as medical coding and customer service from the comfort of your own home.


Finally, I spoke with friends already in the system. I asked for copies of their resumes, as well as tips, so I could see an example of what worked and I incorporated their first-hand knowledge into my job search. I made another appointment with the career counselor once I completed my new resume. So he could review it and my profile before I started applying for a Federal job again. And NOW, I’m ready to go.

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