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Maximizing USAJOBS and Understanding Federal Job Terms

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You can have up to 5 resumes saved in USAJOBS at any one time, ready to deploy. Image: II.studio/Shutterstock.com

If you’re applying for federal jobs, you already know that USAJOBS is the gateway to applying for the vast majority of applications. Here are few ways to maximize your use of the tool:

1.     Make sure your USAJOBS profile is updated with your current contact information (phone and email). USAJOBS can use the information in your profile to improve your job search results and help you fill in parts of the application; you will need a profile to upload your resume, save jobs, and save search results.

2.     If you’re a current or former federal employee, upload your most recent Standard Form 50 ahead of time—and make sure that it is one that shows your appointment date in federal service, your tenure, your grade and step, and your full performance level. SF-50’s for some personnel actions do not include all this information.

3.     If you’re applying for a position that requires education or you want to use your education to qualify for positions, be sure to upload your transcript to document your education. Very few occupations in the federal government actually require a degree.

4.     Former military member? Make sure you upload your DD-214 (and SF-15, if relevant). Your DD-214 must show your discharge. And all documents must be readable.

5.     Know that you can have up to 5 resumes saved in USAJOBS at any one time.

6.     Eligible for other hiring paths (former Peace Corps Volunteer, Schedule A eligible, military spouse, etc.)? Be sure to upload your documentation.

7.     Search for positions. USAJOBS allows you to search for openings that meet your criteria. You can search for jobs by keyword, occupation or job category, agency, location, salary range and pay grade.

8.     Create a job search filter. You can set up automated job searches based on your search criteria. USAJOBS will email you (daily, weekly or monthly) when there are new jobs entered into the database that meet your needs.

9.     Check your job status for your applications. After you apply for a job, the hiring agency is responsible for providing the status of your application (for example, application received or referred). You can check your application status by clicking the Track this application link for each application. The hiring agency may also send you emails with updates on your application.

Almost all of the tips (except the last) can be completed before you apply for your first job. Using USAJOBS effectively will help you maximize your federal government job opportunities.

Federal Job Opening Terminology

Now what about the terms used in federal job postings, which can be packed with jargon or acronyms. Following are some terms you should know:

SF-50
The SF-50 is a permanent record in your Official Personnel Folder that documents and reports all personnel actions. If you are not a current or former federal employee, you will NOT need one of these.

SF-15
The SF-15 “Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference” is used by Federal agencies and OPM examining offices to adjudicate individuals’ claims for veterans’ preference.

DD-214
The DD-214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty”, is issued to military members upon separation from active service. It contains information about the veteran’s dates of military service and separation. Member 4 copy is best recommended for determining eligibility. It provides the disposition (honorable, other) at the time of discharge.

Certificate of Eligibles
A list of eligible and qualified applicants created for the hiring manager. Also known as a Referral list, one will receive this notice once they have been referred to the hiring manager.

Area of Consideration
The group of people that an agency will accept applications from to fill a job. This may include a specific location or whether the applicant is a current federal employee, current federal employee working for a specific agency or the public.

Career Appointment
The type of appointment an employee receives after working for the Federal Government for three years.

Competitive Status
A person basic eligibility for assignment to a position in the competitive service without having to compete with members of the general public in an open competitive examination. Once acquired, status belongs to the individual, not to a position.

Delegated Examining
The competitive application and hiring process an agency uses to hire someone who has never worked for the Federal Government. A job that says it is Open to the public will use the delegated examining hiring process.

Specialized Experience
Work experience that is directly related to the work to be performed in a job. For maximum consideration, you need to demonstrate your specialized experience.

Application or Job Questionnaire
Some jobs require you to answer several questions as part of the application process. You will see a link to preview the job assessment questions—read these questions before you apply for the job. Your resume must support your answers to the job questionnaire. Your responses to the assessment questionnaire are how you will be rated and per your score, determines if you make the referral list.

Why was my application not qualified?
The hiring agency determines whether or not a job seeker meets the minimum qualifications for a job. USAJOBS displays the information and job status received from the hiring agency. Please contact the hiring agency that posted the job announcement if you have questions about your application status or why you were not qualified. You can find the agency contact information at the bottom of the job announcement.


Nancy H. Segal is a federal job search expert. Following her own senior-level federal HR career, she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC to provide a HR management perspective to astute applicants to U.S. government positions.

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