Co-authored by Neha Bhalla
Looking to apply for environmental jobs in the federal sector?
As the environmental job outlook grows, it’s important to remember that a significant number of those jobs are in government. If you’re coming from the private sector or straight out of university, you will quickly realize that the process for applying to a federal job and a corporate/non-profit one is extremely different.
I recently sat down with Nancy Segal, Professional Federal Resume Writer & Consultant, to discuss those differences and gain insight into some common questions I receive about applying in the federal sector. Nancy has over 30 years working in federal HR and has incredible resources for federal applicants on her website and YouTube channel. This blog article would not be possible without her help, so please check her out!
Without further ado, here is what every federal applicant needs to know:
The Application Process:
Contrary to the private sector, where every company has different job application requirements, the vast majority of federal jobs posted on USAJOBS.gov (the hub for federal jobs across all fields) have the same application process.
Each job posting will have a “specialized experience requirement” attached to it. This will be an experience or skillset that you must have to be able to perform the job successfully. If you meet that, it’s probably worth applying. To do so, you will have to submit a federal resume and fill out a questionnaire, where you will detail how the experience on your resume directly translates to your desired job. As Nancy put it, “the best way to prove that you can do the job is to prove that you’ve already done it.”
Writing a Federal Resume:
You will hear me swear by the one-page resume rule — in my eyes, if you cannot convince them to hire you on page one, you won’t convince them on page two. In government, however, they don’t want you to “wow” them, they want you to woo them.
In the federal sector, however, resumes should range from 4-6 pages and include all of your experience. In the eyes of federal HR professionals, if it’s not on your resume, you did not do it. Each experience should include a detailed description of your role at the company, rather than the brief bullet points that you might have on a private sector resume. Do not forget to quantify your resume; use metrics and measurements to demonstrate that you can achieve results.
The key to understanding the federal resume is understanding your audience. You are not writing your resume for an ATS, you are writing for an HR professional; if you can not get past HR, you are not getting an interview with a hiring manager. It does help to include keywords from the posting in a way that is understandable to HR to highlight that your experience aligns with the company’s preferred skills.
Should I bother applying to jobs if I don’t meet 100% of the requirements?
Federal HR looks at every application the same way. First, they look at the federal questionnaire you submitted to see if your past experiences make you what is called “best qualified” for the role they are recruiting for. If you do not have the best possible answers to the majority of questions, you likely will not score highly in HR and your application will not move forward. So, should you apply for that job? Ultimately, it is up to you, but in Nancy’s experience, if you do not hit almost every requirement for the job application, you are probably better off applying to other jobs that better match your experience.
Applying for Environmental Science Jobs:
If you are an environmental job seeker directly in a STEM field (biology, chemistry, engineering, etc.), you might be eligible for direct hire. Direct hire happens when there is a vacancy in critical roles — it means that hiring managers can expedite the normal hiring process and that applicants are not competing with veterans for jobs. If you are eligible for direct hire, it is incredibly advantageous, as you have fewer competitors and will likely hear back from a hiring manager about an interview sooner rather than later.
The critical thing to remember about applying to federal jobs is to be patient. The process moves slower in government compared to the private sector — it can take up to three weeks for a hiring manager to even read your questionnaire, let alone your resume. But if you are patient, qualified for the job, and submit a federal-style resume, getting a federal job is absolutely doable.
Once again, a huge thank you to Nancy Segal, Professional Federal Resume Writer & Consultant for helping us out with the article. If you are looking for more resources on the federal job application process, check out her website and YouTube channel!