Finding the government job of your dreams is a lot easier if you know where to look. In this guide we’ll take you through some additional resources and creative ways to locate government jobs through tailored research.
As the one-stop shop for government jobs, USAJOBS.gov typically has roughly 30,000 vacancy announcements on the site at any given time. It’s a treasure trove of information because 100 percent of all the competitive jobs—that is, the ones you can apply for—are listed there.
Navigating USAJOBS.gov and understanding job listing information is half the battle. With a little help decoding all the government language used to describe the types of jobs that the government has available, you’ll be well on your way.
So you’ve found a position that sounds interesting in your dream city. The next step is reading the actual job posting and deciding whether it’s right for you. Although government job postings are not always easy to read and understand, this section should help you decode job postings.
Let’s walk through a sample USAJOBS.gov job posting and find out what other information you need to pay attention to and what can be ignored to simplify your search.
|Closing Date: 10/10/2012|
|Job Summary: Park Ranger|
|Location: US-AZ-Organ National Pipe National Monument|
|Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in the Sonoran desert in Southwestern Arizona. Headquarters is 34 miles south of Ajo, Arizona, and 5 miles north of the Mexican border. Vacancy Ann #: AZSHRO-9-77 (MP/DEU)|
|Who May Apply: U.S. Citizens and Status Candidates|
|Pay Plan: GL-0025/09|
|Appointment Term: Permanent|
|Job Status: Full-Time|
|Opening Date: 09/27/2012|
|Salary Range: From $48,179 to $62,166 USD per year|
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more puzzling information listed.
The closing date is the final date you can submit your full application for consideration for the job. If you do not apply by the closing date, you will not be considered for this specific job. However, some agencies use closing dates that are months away, so go ahead and apply as soon as possible—the agency might be looking at applicants in waves, and you’ll want to be considered sooner rather than later.
Vacancy announcement numbers generally won’t make a lot of sense to the outsider, so don’t waste any time trying to decode these. Just remember you may need to reference this in your cover letter or other documentation you submit with your application package.
This information is critically important for you to understand. Don’t waste your time applying for positions if you know you don’t fit the basic description. Rarely, you’ll see something under “Who May Apply” about a commuting area. If you can see yourself getting to the job location daily from wherever you live, then consider yourself inside the commuting area. Also, if you will be moving or are open to moving to the commuting area, then indicate so, but understand that the agency will not pay for relocation (because the agency is expecting that it can find the new employee that it needs from within the commuting area).
Definitions for titles under “Who May Apply” include the following:
Pay plan information is also very important. There are three main pieces of the pay plan. The first section, generally two letters, tells you what pay system is being used for the job. Many positions will say GS (for General Schedule) or WG/WS/WL (for blue-collar jobs), and these types of pay systems are used across lots of different agencies. However, you might also see other seemingly random letter combinations at the beginning of the pay plan information; that’s because some agencies have permission to pay their employees on scales (pay bands) different from the General Schedule. A popular example is Foreign Service positions, but many agencies or specialized types of jobs have their own pay bands and you may need to check with the agency contact on the vacancy announcement if you can’t find satisfactory pay information in the job description (under salary information, for example).
The second section is the “occupational series” information for the job. The Occupational Series Code is a number that corresponds with different categories of jobs available within the government. Employees at different agencies doing the same type of job will have the same number coded to represent their work.
|Type of Job||Occupational Series Code|
|Mail and File Clerk||0305|
|Information Technology Management||2210|
The third section is the level of the position (frequently referred to as the grade or pay band). The standard GS system has bands 1 through 15, with 15 being the highest within the system. Many agencies, though, use bands or even sub-bands to determine the level of their positions, and you’ll know this when you see different pay plans indicated in the job description.
Sometimes the largest number in a pay band is the most senior-level position, and sometimes the lowest number is the most senior level at the agency. Call the agency’s Human Resources (HR) office if it’s not clear from reading a few of the agency’s job descriptions.
Also, if the GS level is not listed on an announcement, read closely within the Qualifications and Evaluations tab on USAJOBS.gov; sometimes the information in this section will reference GS levels even if the agency uses pay bands.
Salary range provides a broad guide for compensation for the job. Generally the ranges are quite large to allow agencies to hire toward the bottom or middle of the salary range. In some cases, the range simply reflects the potential for salary increases after an employee is on the job, but the agency may be restricted to offering a starting salary at the lower end of the range. If offered the job, you can attempt to negotiate a higher starting salary, but the agency may or may not be allowed by law, regulation, or internal policy to increase its offer. The range generally reflects pay permitted to all people working within the pay band or GS level.
When trying to fill jobs, government recruiters often do more than post jobs on USAJOBS.gov. These active recruiting approaches are helpful to you as a jobseeker if you value personal interaction and real-time conversation with someone at the agency.
Finding a government job isn’t difficult, once you know where to look, and you understand how to read the job listings. Armed with the information in this guide, you will be able to find the perfect job even faster. Happy job hunting!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Government Jobs by The Partnership for Public Service