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What are the Pros and Cons of Seeking Federal Employment?

Pro: Availability of Jobs

There is no exact total for the number of people employed by the U.S. Government (USG), because the number is always changing as new-hires begin their careers and as others retire or move into other career sectors.

One estimate of the number of federal employees in 2010, including postal workers, was over 2.65 million.

Based on the number of jobs in the federal government, and the regular turnover, it is easy to see why seeking employment here might be attractive.

Con: Complex Hiring Methods

Most federal applications are managed electronically on sites like USAJOBS.gov. Even highly qualified candidates complain that they get little response after applying; or worse, they get meaningless generic responses like, “Eligible – Application Not Referred to Selecting Official”, “Ineligible – Who May Apply”, or simply “Not Referred”. Qualified candidates are less likely to spend a lot of time on a complex process that provides little or no feedback.

Pro: Need for Qualified Applicants

Because the process can be so cumbersome many qualified applicants shy away from seeking federal employment. Nonetheless, there remains a great need for qualified candidates across a wide variety of professions. By learning to navigate the complex hiring system, a qualified applicant has a pretty good chance of being considered for federal employment.

Pro and Con: Geography

Geographical flexibility will make it much easier for a qualified candidate to find jobs with the USG. Washington, D.C. is by far the best geographical location to search for a job with the federal government. If you have the flexibility to pick up and move you have an advantage. There are federal jobs available in all 50 states but the competition for these jobs is tighter.

Pro: Benefits and Security

Traditionally federal jobs have offered benefits and job security that are better than most employees can find in the private sector. There is a trend towards decreasing benefits, but the USG is still behind the private sector in benefit reduction. If you are hired today you are likely to be grand-fathered in to current benefits even if there are reductions in the future.

Pro and Con: Special Considerations

Most USG jobs are limited to U.S. Citizens, or non-citizens with certain visas or statuses. Some positions require security clearance and/or medical clearance. Candidates who are veterans, current federal employees, or former federal employees may have a competitive advantage over those who do not have those backgrounds.

Increase Your Chances

New employees enter federal employment every day. They have learned how to navigate the federal hiring process and they understand how to make these steps work for them:

  • Job Analysis (what USG jobs you are qualified for)
  • Job Posting Analysis (what they are are really asking for in the job posting)
  • Federal Resume Writing ( telling them what they want to hear)
  • Answering the Questions (KSAs)
  • Applying (often more than just click here)
  • Follow Up
  • Interview (what to say, what not to say)