How to Get a Government job in USA
Working at a local, county, or state government agency can be very rewarding. From receiving premium medical benefits, enjoying job security, and contributing to the greater good of society, it’s no wonder that people seek out government employment. Of course, it’s not for everyone. If stock options, using the latest technology, and a workplace with a game room is what gets your engine running, then a job in the government isn’t right for you. But, there are enough people who want to work in government, that it can take some effort to land a job there. If you’ve considered the trade-offs of giving up corporate America for the prospect of serving your community, here are 10 tips for finding a job in local government.
1. Only apply for jobs where you meet the minimum qualifications. 99 out of 100 times, you will not be considered for a position if you do not meet the minimum requirements listed on the job posting. The private sector is much more lenient when it comes to lowering their standards for a position, but that’s not the case in the public sector. So, if you don’t have the skills needed or the experience required, don’t waste your time completing what is likely to be a long application. The chances that the human resources department will make an exception and consider you because you have other impressive talents are slim to none.
Bonus tip: On Governmentjobs.com, you will find some jobs that have a tab titled “Questions.” These supplemental questions help recruiters efficiently weed out candidates that don’t meet the minimum qualifications. So, when you see a job with these questions, make sure you read through them first to ensure you qualify, before you start the application.
2. Complete every field on the application and review it for typos or errors. It is very easy to be disqualified from the government hiring process, so make sure you set enough time aside to apply to jobs. Don’t assume that you can submit ten resumes in an hour like you can for a private sector job. Public sector jobs usually have an application you must complete in addition to providing your resume. If you are serious about finding a job in government, schedule several hours at a time to focus on applying for jobs and make sure you have your dates of past employment handy.
3. Work your network. Some government jobs receive over a hundred applicants for a single opening. Even if you’re qualified and make the eligible list, you may not get an interview. But if you know someone who can refer you, then you’ll have an advantage. Go to LinkedIn and find out who in your network either works in a local government agency or is connected to someone who works in a local government agency and look at the online job postings where they work. If you see a position you’re qualified for, ask them to refer or introduce you via email to the hiring manager. Remember to make sure you meet the list of required qualifications before asking. Since you can only pull that lever a few times, it’s best to reserve your favors for the jobs where you are undoubtedly eligible.
4. Write a cover letter that explains why you want a job in government. Government agencies tend to hire people who have worked in government before because they don’t want to risk hiring someone who won’t be happy. Working for the government is very different than the private sector – their systems and processes are antiquated, not everyone has laptops, and a simple request can require multiple approvals. Coming from the private sector, these obstacles can cause frustration and impact employee retention. That’s why it’s critical to convey why you genuinely want to work for the government and your reasons why it appeals to you.
5. Be patient. If you’re in a hurry to get a job, now is not the time to apply to a government job. The process can take as long as 6 months and in some cases even longer. So, if you need a job now, get one in the private sector and spend the next few months (while you’re employed) looking for a job in government. That way you are not anxiously waiting to hear back from a recruiter that may not get around to calling applicants for several weeks after you’ve submitted an application.
6. Make sure you can pass a background check. Although not every government agency requires a background check, many positions do so make sure there’s nothing questionable that could come up and if there is anything suspect, be prepared to address it.
7. Clean up your act. If you’re using any type of narcotics, including legalized marijuana, either stop now and start applying for jobs once they are out of your system or don’t bother applying for a government job. It is very common to be required to pass a drug test in the public sector as a condition of employment, even for a senior level position.
8. Follow up. If you’ve applied to a job that you’re super interested in, find out who the recruiter or hiring manager is through a little online digging and give them a call. You may not get through but if you can connect, it’s worth expressing your interest in the position. It shows tenacity and interest, two qualities many leaders look for in candidates.
9. Create a profile on Governmentjobs.com . Once you’ve created an account and completed your profile and experience, you can apply to jobs more quickly. The website saves your information so you don’t have to keep rekeying it. You can also check on the status of your applications on a regular basis to see whether they’ve been viewed by the employer yet. Also make sure you take advantage of becoming an Access Member, which is free to join. Governmentjobs.com Access Members can set up job alerts so that they get emails when new jobs that meet their search criteria are posted. It also enables employers to review your profile and connect with you if they have a position open that matches your experience.
10. Pay attention to close dates on job postings. Many government job postings include the date that applications will no longer be considered. If you see a job you’re interested in, make sure you put time on your calendar to apply for it before the window closes.