Applying for Jobs with the US Government

>>Hi, I’m Lori Conlan. I work with the National
Institutes of Health, as part of the Office of Intermural Training
in Education. I run both the Post-Doc Office
and the Career Services Center for the OITE, and I’m thrilled
that you could join us today. We’re going to talk
about how to find a job with the U.S. government. All the agencies within the
federal government actually have different websites that
post the different jobs, and what they call
those different jobs. For example, at the NIH,
which is where I work, there is That goes through all the
different types of bench and non-bench positions
that are available to PhD based scientists
that you could look at and see what does a
Program Officer do versus what does a
Grants Administrator do, versus what does a Principal
Investigator, or for example, a Post-Doc, at the NIH? So for all the different
types of positions that hire educated folks can
do, you can look at our website. The FDA has a very
similar type of website, and so if you’re interested
in regulatory affairs, what is an interdisciplinary
scientist, and how does that influence your
career options within the federal government? Now, the official job site of the U.S. Government
is actually All agencies typically post
their jobs that are available as a federal hiring
mechanism at So I recommend that
you start looking there about different information
about how to apply. They have some great
tutorials online at to help you through the process. The federal government also
works with a lot of contractors, and many of the jobs that
are available can be found through different
contracting websites. A couple of different
ways to find jobs through contracting
firms, one is called Juju. It’s an online aggregator of
different types of positions within the federal government
as contracting positions. You can see the link here
for Juju and you can type in different keywords,
such as NIH contractor, and see what comes up with that. You should also look at all
the different specific websites for the different
contracting firms that work with the U.S. government. For example, Kelly Scientific,
Lockheed-Martin, SAIC, Leidos, Discovery Logic, etc. These are
many of the firms that exist within the contracting system. We have a great blog post
about the different types of contractors that work with
all the different agencies at our blog, and you can
find that from our home site. If you are looking at a
specific government position, there is again three types
of hiring mechanisms. The one that most people
think of when they’re thinking about federal jobs are
GS, or General Schedule, which are also known
as Title 5 Positions. These have basic classifications
and compensation systems for both white collar and
blue collar federal jobs. And so you should understand
what the classification systems are. For example, series 601, or 401,
etc. There are different types of classifications systems. So, for example, series 401
is the biology classification. So you should know what these
are, and we’ll talk about that in a few more slides
when we look at a job ad. These Title 5 or GS positions
have federal benefits and federal retirement systems, but they do require
U.S. citizenship. These jobs will almost
all entirely be found on Another type of position
that is used within the federal
government are called Title 42 or Administratively
Determined, AD jobs. These are typically most
science-based positions, or clinical research
support positions. So if you’re thinking
about bench-based jobs, perhaps at the NIH, these
may be Title 42 positions. These do have federal benefits
and federal retirement, but they are not within the
GS scale, again the things that most people think
about when they’re thinking about a federal position. There may be no citizenship
requirement for a Title 42 based job, but some of them still have
citizen based requirements. Contracting positions, remember,
are from a very wide range of different companies. You can see our blog
post on contractors. They have differing
citizenship requirements, and they are not eligible
for federal benefits or federal retirements. It is very likely that the
contracting firms will offer benefits and retirement,
but you should look at each individual
contracting firm to understand what
their benefits are. It’s very important to understand how citizenship
influences the types of positions you can have with
the U.S. federal government. Most federal government jobs,
all GS jobs, require citizenship with the United States. Permanent residency
is not enough for these types of position. You have to be a citizen in
order to have these positions. If you are a non-citizen, and
you are interested in working with the federal government,
there are two options, although I do have to say
that there are not a lot of positions for non-citizens. You can look for the AD, the Administratively
Determined, positions. At the NIH, for example, we
call these Title 42 positions, and they’re mostly for bench-based jobs,
not non-bench jobs. Or you can look for the
different contracting positions for the different
contracting firms. Again, these are
likely much more to be bench based positions, and found by directly
contacting investigators to see if they have openings. You’re not necessarily
going to find an AD or Title 42 position
on It’s possible, but they are
not always posted there. You may find them posted at the
different agencies’ websites, but again, for example, if you
want a staff scientist job here at the NIH, they’re
often Title 42 or AD, and you’ll contact the labs
directly in order to see if they have that
type of position open. A few years ago we put
in some hiring reforms to cut the red tape, to improve
the timeline to get people from applying to a position
to the federal government, to working for the
federal government. There was an executive
order that was put out that this entire process,
from putting the application out there, to hiring the person, has to be done in
less than 80 days. They removed the KSAs,
which were Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, they were
often written in essay form, and replaced them with
multiple choice questions that you rate yourself
and score yourself. Also they put in that
the minimum requirement for putting a job out
there is five days. And, in fact, some
agencies have implemented that the five days
is the maximum that they will actually
post a position. That means for some of you when you have often thought
you saw a job opening that was only there for five
days that “Oh, why bother, they already have
somebody in mind.” That’s not necessarily true. That’s just the timeline
that agency has decided that they will post a position. So even if the job is
only open for five days, you still may want to apply because it doesn’t always mean
they have someone in mind. Let’s talk about the different
processes for getting a job, and getting through There are two different
people who are often part of this process-the hiring
manager, or the program, and also Human Resources,
known as HR. HR will be contacted by the
program or the hiring manager to identify a need that they
have within their division. The hiring manager
will work with HR to write a position description that matches what the
hiring manager needs, as well as standard norms
within the HR system for that particular agency. The position is then announced,
for as many days as required, and then the announcement
closes. HR then goes through
the first step of reviewing the applications. The hiring manager does not see
the applications at this point. It’s all done at
this point by HR. HR ranks the candidates based on how the candidates
scored themselves, as well as the resume
and the questionnaire that the candidate filled out. HR will then issue a
certificate or a cert for that particular
position, and then move things over to the hiring
manager for examination. At this point, the
hiring manager in the program have the resumes
that matched the search HR did. So the manager will then
review all the resumes that came to them. They will then choose
to interview some or all of the different candidates,
the resumes that they have. And then they will make
a selection and move that selection recommendation
back to HR. At that point, HR will have to
make the offer to that person that the program has selected,
within two days, with the goal of all of this process
being 80 days. We here at the NIH have an
average of about 62 days, but you can see that it is
a very long process to move from application to hiring
within the federal government. So you may need to time your
career search accordingly. So now that you know a
little bit about the process, let’s think about what you see
at the other end at, through the vacancy
announcement. One of the things I really
have to stress is that you need to read the announcement
very, very carefully. They are set up in
different tabs. There are duties, how to apply,
etc., that are along the top of, but you need to
read things very, very carefully to make sure that you’re
not missing any duties and responsibilities
that you can address in your resume and/or
your cover letter, that will get you this position. You should pay very close
attention to who can apply. If it’s a GS job, remember,
that’s for citizens. Other things that you will often
see is MP or Merit Promotion. This is for federal
employees only. This job may be posted
at the same time with the GS level position. If you don’t currently work
within the U.S. government, do not apply for a
merit-based or MP position. Follow all directions
that they give you. For example, many of the
positions often require you to submit a transcript to the
human resources professional that is listed on the job ad. That’s firm. If you don’t submit
your transcript, you can’t get certified for
this particular position. Once the vacancy closes,
the HR again will screen for eligibility and
assign a ranking. Sometimes they bring in subject
matter experts that can be used for technical or
scientific jobs. You need to assume
that the only people that are reading your
application are actually from HR. So you should really
try to make sure that you are using words
directly from the job ad, so that HR knows that you
have the skills, the abilities and the knowledge in order
to perform those positions. And again, HR will then
certify who can move on to the hiring
managers to interview, and then HR does all
the communications to the online applicants. Let’s look at a job ad here, so you have a little bit
more better understanding about what we’re looking at. Now, I want to show you
this particular job ad is for the Food and
Drug Administration, and this one is called that
interdisciplinary scientist, which is a catch-all term
for many types of positions within the FDA for
PhD based scientists. So you see the first thing that we have circled is called
interdisciplinary scientist. This is the job title. The next is that it’s from
the Department of Health and Human Services, the
parent agency for the FDA. And then it has a job
agency announcement number. You can see along the top
of this page at that there is an overview,
duties, qualification and evaluations, benefits and
other info, and how to apply. Make sure you’re reading each
one of these tabs very carefully to make sure that you’re
applying the best way you can. Now, let’s talk about this
middle portion of this job ad. This has some valuable
information that you need to know, and you
need to look at. The first is the salary range. And the salary range is
entirely dependent on the GS of this particular position. This job is actually open
for about seven days, from July 21 to July 29. This is important, because when
the job ad closes, it closes. And this job goes away from
the online system. The next is the series
and the grade. First thing you’ll
notice here is the GS. So this is a general
schedule job, or a Title 5 based position. And then you see a bunch of
numbers, 401, 403, 415, and 601. So these types of positions
are different classifications within this government system. These are specific
for scientists. I think 401 is a biologist,
601 is a professional grade. These are really
important numbers for you to actually look at, to see how
your scientific discipline fits into the different
types of jobs. And you can even use these
different classifications that you can find at to look for keywords for different types of
positions throughout the federal government. The last two numbers down
here after the dash are 12-13. That means this position
is going to be hired at either a GS12
level or a GS13 level. So it has the option to
be either a 12 or 13 based on your qualifications. It also means that the
promotion potential, which is mentioned next is a 13. So the highest level that this
position can go to is a GS13. The next thing here
is the duty location, which is in Silver
Springs, Maryland. And then who may apply. That is only for
United States citizens. Remember, this is a GS based job that has citizenship
requirements. And then the security clearance and supervisory status
are not applicable for this particular position. At the end of every job
announcement is the HR professional that is
attached to that position. If you have any questions,
you can go through and present those
questions to that person that is listed on the job ad. We’ve talked about
the GS schedule and the GS pay schedule a couple
of times in the earlier slide. Let’s dissect this
a little bit more so that you have
an understanding of how the federal
government uses pay schedules. For the job that we saw
earlier, this was a GS12. GS12, for example,
has different steps. Step one through step 10. Most people come in to the
federal government at a step 1, and then after a year, move
to step 2, then move to step 3 after another year, and then
between steps 4 through 7, there is a two-year wait, and
then between step 7 and step 10, there is about a
three-year wait. So if you come in as a GS12
at step 1, it can take you about 20 years to make
it to a GS12 step 10. So there are lots of
different points within that, that you get scheduled
pay raises. A couple of other things about
the GS schedule that you do need to know is that there
are locality pays. So, for example, if you live in
Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York City, the cost of
living is a little bit higher than if you live in, say, Iowa. So the federal government
has adjusted the pay rates for those cities that have
a higher cost of living. You can find all those different
locality pays at From what we’ve seen, most PhD
based scientists are coming into the federal government
at at least a GS12, sometimes an 11, and
sometimes higher. But on average, you should
look at positions that are at least about a GS12. If we go back to the job
ad that we’ve been talking about from the FDA,
the next place to look after you’ve looked at the
overview tab is the duties tab. So the duties tab will give you
a basic overview of the types of things that you would do if
you were to go on to this job. And this is the first
place you can look at to really develop your resume so that it matches very
well towards the job ad that you’re looking at. So, for example, this one has
about four different bullets about the types of job
duties that you would have. The last one is drafting a
variety of reports and summaries on the safety and effectiveness
of devices submitted to a pre-market approval
application. So then, in your
resume, you should talk about how you have evaluated
data, how you’ve looked at the effectiveness
of different devices, and looked at evaluating
an application that has come across your desk. Another interesting place that
they often hide information about what you will do in
this job is found in the How To Apply tab, through looking
at the evaluation questionnaire. This next slide shows what the
evaluation questionnaire is for this particular job. You can see how much more
information is available here about what you would do if
you took this particular job, such as conduct research to determine whether scientific
data submitted is sufficient to substantiate the claims. These are also different ways
that you can get ideas of how to develop your resume,
to give them information of how you give examples
where you’ve succeeded in all these different items. When you’re looking
at this questionnaire, you have to evaluate yourself
A through E. Make sure that you are evaluating
yourself honestly, but not under-valuing the
work that you’ve done coming to this point in your career. Your federal resume is a little
different than any other resume that you’re going to develop. It can be much longer. It doesn’t have any length
requirements, and you need to give them a lot of
information to make sure that they know that you have the
knowledge, skills and abilities in order to do this job. I often like to say
your federal resume, you should consider it
your first interview. So the things that you
would have told them in your first interview, that is
the kind of information you need to put in your federal resume. The first type of
information that always goes up top is the personal info. This is your name, your address, your phone numbers,
your E-mails. They will actually ask for a
Social Security Number as well. It’s one of the few places
that we will say, yes, you should put your Social
Security Number on a resume. Only for a federal. And as well as your
veteran’s preference. So if you’ve served in the
United States military, make sure to put that right
up top on your federal resume. It will also ask for job details
and relevant work experience. I really would like to make
sure that you understand that when you talk about
the relevant work experience that you reflect it
directly back to the job ad. Pick different phrases
from the job ad, and give them specific examples,
such as reviewed applications as seen by blah,
blah, blah, right? So you can tell them a
little bit more information about how you have the
relevant work experience. You’ll also have to give them
start dates and end dates, and you will have
to include salary. That’s just how the
federal government works. In your resume, you’ll have
to include your salaries. You need to give
them any education and relevant training
that you’ve done. This can be much
more exhaustive, talking about coursework
that you’ve done, maybe certificate based things,
anything that is relevant to the job, so that they know
you can do this job well. Awards, associations,
special skills. You can also include any
non-science work experience or volunteer experiences that
will help them to understand that you can do the job well,
and any other qualifications. Try to mirror your responses in every single section
towards the job ad that you’re applying for. Every single job ad that
you have, whether it’s for the federal government or anywhere else,
often has keywords. You should definitely
look and think about what keywords you
want to show in your resume. Make sure that the HR
professional who has that first read really
understands that you have the
skills to do the job. So a single keyword can
really communicate a lot of multiple skills. So I really recommend that
you go through the Duties tab, the How To Apply tab, and all
the questions that you have to evaluate yourself on,
and look for common themes, because those are likely
the keywords that you need to make sure are in
your federal resume. So on this line, I’ve given
you some examples on how to really effectively
write your resume for that FDA job that you have. I’m going to give you a couple
of seconds to read through them, and really see how we
mean “I did X to do Y,” and giving specific examples. Developing your federal resume
and your application package for a federal job
really needs to make sure that you’re going towards the
job ad, and really reflecting that you have the
skills to succeed. There is lots more information
on developing resumes and other types of
career-related items on our website at There is other information
there. We also have a couple of
other links to different types of online resources
that are very good for government based job. Watch our other video
to understand careers for scientists at many
different government agencies. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope to see you have
career success in the future.

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