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Tactical Veteran: Boosting your odds of landing a federal job

Jun. 10, 2014 - 11:31AM   |  
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In the military and in life, we all inevitably hit a roadblock or two that stops us from accomplishing a goal or task. When that happens, the best option is usually to backtrack and focus on what led you to that roadblock. Once you know the root cause of the problem, you then can make the necessary adjustments to get around it and move forward with achieving your goal.

This very basic approach is the way to go when applying for a federal job on

The USAJobs website is your gateway to a federal position. It may seem as simple as creating an account, uploading your résumé, and clicking to apply for a position you’re interested in.

But to actually be considered for a position is another story — and for many people, it’s a story that leads them to question their abilities and worth as they apply for an increasing number of jobs but never seem to get in the door.

In truth, there are a number of factors that too many applicants fail to fully consider when applying for a federal job. Here are a few:

Résumé, résumé, résumé. The importance of a well-constructed resume cannot be overstressed. USAJobs looks for keywords in a résumé that match up with keywords in the vacancy announcement. Not paying attention to this nuance will hurt your chances right off the bat.

Job-specific questionnaire. This can be a tricky section of the application because of the way the questions are worded. Be sure to read the entire question and chew it over in your mind a bit before making the appropriate choice.

Supporting documents. Provide all the documents requested for the position. Be sure to upload and provide your DD 214 discharge certificate, college transcripts, SF-50 (if you have worked for the federal government before), VA disability documents for five- or 10-point veterans’ preference, and any and all other forms required for the application.

A too-narrow job search. As I’ve mentioned before in previous columns, you may have to consider pulling up stakes and moving to where the jobs are. Being flexible and applying for positions in multiple locations will greatly improve your chances of landing a federal job. You could be passing up some prime career opportunities by applying to just one agency in one location.

Impatience. Let’s face it — applying for federal jobs can be tedious. You could find yourself feeling burned out after receiving the same notice that your application was not among the best. When applying for these jobs, keep in mind that the overall economy still plays a role. The federal government isn’t hiring like it was when I left service in 2003, and many more veterans and civilians are applying to the very same positions you are. So patience is definitely a virtue in this scenario.

I can absolutely relate to those of you who have been applying for a federal job on USAJobs and not understanding how you have been overlooked for positions. But if you take a strategic approach by taking into account the factors above and making the appropriate course corrections, you’ll be in a better position to receive a notice that your application has been deemed “eligible and referred to the selecting official.”

Steven Maieli is the founder of, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans’ issues at Send questions and comments to

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