The USAJOBS website can be frustrating for many who try and use it. There have been many jobs that I’ve applied for that I knew I was qualified for (mostly because it was my current job), but I would never make the cert lists. A military friend finally told me that USAJOBS is not like most job search engines and that there was a specific way to use the site to your advantage.
Special Hiring Criteria
The most important thing that you need to know is that if you are currently in the military, whether it is Active Duty or Reserves, you are considered a federal employee. Make sure that you click on the “Federal Employees” search criteria as shown in Figure 1.
There are many federally-directed special authorities for veterans that will enhance your job search opportunities. Below are a few of these authorities with links to more information about them.
- Schedule A – while this authority is not only for veterans, it is an authority that can be used for veterans with severe physical, psychological, or intellectual disabilities.
- Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) – VRA can be used at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent.
- Veteran’s Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, as amended (VEOA) – is a competitive service appointing authority that can only be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions. This authority allows veterans to apply to positions that are only open to so called “status” candidates, which means “current competitive service employees.”
- 30% or More Disabled Veteran – this authority allows a disabled veteran with a rating of 30% or more to be appointed to a position non-competitively with no grade level restrictions.
With the various special hiring authorities and being considered a current federal employee, there are a lot more positions that will open up to you. Many positions that say “agency only” can still be applied for under these authorities. Make sure that you look under who can apply first, but my advice is to apply for everything. The worst they can say is no.
Keywords and Phrases
USAJOBS uses a computer program that looks for specific keywords and phrases based on the job you are applying for. When you are creating your resume, you want to have as many of these in there as possible verbatim from the job announcement, as long as you really know how to do them. (In an upcoming article, I’ll be discussing how to format your resume for government jobs, so stay tuned.)
The two areas that the program pulls the keywords and phrases from are Duties and Qualifications Required. As you can see in Figure 2, the duties expected are clearly outlined. If, for example, you have direct experience in the first bullet, then copy that sentence and put it in your resume. If you have that type of experience but NOT in HR, copy the rest of the sentence and just leave out “HR.”
Under the Qualifications Required tab, it will show what specific experience you need to have for each grade level they are advertising for. The same rules we use in the Duties tab apply here.
Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities (KSAs)
Listed under this category are the criteria that you will be evaluated on. Even though it is not required, it is a good idea to submit a document called KSAs. In this document, you will address whatever items are listed (see Figure 4) with full detailed and specific examples of your experience/expertise in these areas.
Finally, make sure that you have submitted all the required documents. Like in most things, more is better. If you are unsure if you should submit additional information not listed in the Required Documents section (see Figure 5), still send it to be safe.
When making these changes to your resume, make sure that you do so in a Word document so that you can add as much information as possible. The website version of your resume on this site is limited in characters.
Also, a last bit of advice, look at the location and the salary of the job and then look at the description. Sometimes the job titles are not as clear as you would think. For example, I took a job with the Army Corps of Engineers as a Program Analyst. To my understanding, that was programming and things of that technical nature. When I was hired, I was analyzing data and I think I made more PowerPoint presentations in those two years than I have in my entire career!