USAJobs class preps federal job hunters
August 24, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- USAJobs, the database that pools applicants for government jobs, underwent a renaissance in October 2011. Whereas before, the online application process was barebones and relatively straightforward, the newer version is an exercise in meticulousness, verbosity and patience.
According to Rhani Ellis, Employment Readiness Program Manager, the current USAJobs focuses on retrieving as much in-depth information about applicants before they hit that "submit" button. This precision means that the application process can be a drawn-out affair, explained Ellis.
"I highly recommend that you do it in steps. Because it's new and different, it can take a while," she said. "Definitely I recommend planning in advance."
Though tedious, the process is necessary for anyone wishing to apply to nonappropriated and appropriated funds positions.
To help navigate through these dense waters, the Army Community Service Employment Readiness Program offers classes that take job seekers through the steps of USAJobs. Led by Ellis, these classes delve into the procedure and serve as a sounding board for any questions users have about the program.
Though the classes address the nitty-gritty of USAJobs, below are some useful suggestions from the class to clarify the application process.
After creating an account, users must create their resumes. While most job seekers will already have a carefully composed resume, Ellis insists that applicants use the Resume Builder within USAJobs. The federal system, explained Rhani, looks for different criteria when choosing employees than most civilian organizations.
USAJobs measures years worked by hours per week, and will disqualify applicants if their listed address doesn't match the location of the job.
The largest difference is in the length of the resume. Whereas civilian employers value succinctness in incoming resumes, federal employers look for sprawling detail.
This means: Do not use bullet points; emphasize duties and accomplishments; be wordy; be descriptive; use numbers to quantify performance.
These rules mean that listing, "Recommended a new Internet service provider," is too anemic. A more robust option is, "Identified, research and recommended a new Internet service provider, cutting company's online cost by 15 percent."
Also, Ellis stressed the importance of keeping the resume title and e-mail address professional. Anything unconventional will raise eyebrows and land the whole application in the discard pile.
Searching for jobs
Ellis' first bit of advice for searching for jobs is never use "advanced search." The kinks in the "advanced search" option are still being worked out, but until then, it renders unreliable results.
The number of jobs available in Grafenwoehr hovers around 20-30, but can go up depending on whether the applicant has a preference. Anyone with a spouse, family member, widow or veterans' preference can click on "Federal Jobs" when searching and a whole host of options pop up that aren't available to outsiders.
The presence of the jobs, however, is fickle. While some listings may remain open for months, others stay open for only a handful of days. This unpredictability means a dream job could come and go without the seeker even noticing.
Ellis urged her class to "be diligent in your job search and check USAJobs daily," to avoid a mishap.
Serious job seekers wishing to stay abreast of job opportunities, closings and application changes may sign up for e-mail notifications. On the "Edit Profile" page, applicants can simply click a box designating the type of notifications they wish to receive to stay on top of the application process.
Ellis emphasized the importance of ensuring that the resume reflects the qualifications of a desired job. At any point in the application process the job seeker may return to their resume and update it as needed.
After the application
When using USAJobs, many applicants make the fatal mistake of abandoning their application early, thinking it is finished and submitted, when it is only half-way done.
After hitting the "Apply" button, applicants must then move on to the "Application Manager" to answer a series of questions specific to their intended employment. Ellis stressed the importance of carefully reading and thoroughly answering all the questions, even those that appear redundant.
The question that poses the most problems for applicants asks about "Specialized Experience." The question, which is phrased in cryptic jargon, simply asks the applicant if they are qualified for the job.
"Always answer 'yes,'" insisted Ellis, for a "no" will cause the software to immediately discard the application.
Only after the "Application Manager" questions are exhausted and the applicant hits the "Submit" button and receives a confirmation message is the application truly finished.
For more help
USAjobs: The new federal application process class is taught regularly in Vilseck and Grafenwoehr. The next class takes place Sept. 11, from 10 a.m.-noon in in Rose Barracks' Building 221.
Ellis also makes appointments for job seekers, helping them navigate through USAJobs in a step-by-step process. She also offers special classes for groups after work, on weekends and during family readiness group meetings.
"If there's a need, we can do our very best to fill that need," said Ellis.