Following their military careers, many veterans decide to apply for jobs with the federal government. But, this application process can appear complicated and, often, overwhelming. As such, we’ll use this article to provide some tips for veterans to land a federal job.
Specifically, we’ll discuss the following:
- Why Federal Jobs Make Sense for Veterans
- Tips for Veterans to Land a Federal Job
- Final Thoughts
Why Federal Jobs Make Sense for Veterans
As with military service, working in the federal government offers outstanding benefits. While employees will need to confirm available benefits directly with their federal agency, common benefits include access to the following programs:
- Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program
- Federal Employees Dental/Vision Program
- Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
- Federal Flexible Spending Account Program
- Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program
In addition to the above benefit programs, federal jobs come with outstanding retirement savings options. All current federal employees can contribute to a Thrift Savings Program, or TSP. As with the military version of the TSP, the one available to federal employees serves as a tax-advantaged retirement savings account, with both Roth and traditional options. And, when you separate from the military, you can transfer your military TSP balance into your federal civilian employee account.
Additionally, when service members separate from the military and begin careers as federal employees, they can “buy back” a portion of their retirement pension. According to the US Office of Personnel Management: federal employees who are veterans can receive retirement credit for military service once they make a deposit into a civilian annuity covering their military service. The details of this program are beyond the scope of this article, but in essence, you make an up-front payment to significantly increase your civilian retirement pension.
For veterans with bachelor’s degrees or less education, federal employment also offers, on average, higher total compensation than comparable private sector jobs. According to the most recent Congressional Budget Office research:
- Among workers whose education culminated in a bachelor’s degree, the cost of total compensation averaged 21 percent more for federal workers than for similar workers in the private sector.
- Among workers with a high school diploma or less education, total compensation costs averaged 53 percent more for federal employees than for their private-sector counterparts.
However, it should also be noted that this benefit reverses with professional degrees and doctorates:
- Total compensation costs among workers with a professional degree or doctorate, by contrast, were 18 percent lower for federal employees than for similar private-sector employees, on average.
Continued Sense of Service
Though less tangible than the above benefits, federal jobs also provide veterans a continued sense of service. Many veterans – the author included – struggle with a loss of purpose following their military service. When they continue to work for the federal government, many veterans gain the benefit of a renewed sense of purpose and service.
Tips for Veterans to Land a Federal Job
Having outlined the above benefits to federal employment, we must add a caveat: landing a federal job isn’t always easy, even for veterans. But, by following the below tips, you can better prepare yourself to successfully apply for a federal job.
Tip 1: Enroll on the USAJOBS.gov Website
USAJOBS.gov serves as the federal government’s central portal for posting job openings and accepting applications. Rather than apply for jobs in different agencies at different sites, this portal allows you to search for and apply for open jobs across the entire federal government.
But, before using USAJOBS.gov, you need to actually enroll and create a profile. Unfortunately, this can be a long and time-consuming process. Despite this reality, the sooner you enroll and create a profile, the better. Once you’ve entered all of your information, it remains in the system, meaning you can quickly and efficiently apply once jobs become available. Bottom line, do this as soon as you begin the job search process.
Tip 2: Use Veteran Preferences and Special Hiring Authorities
While being a veteran doesn’t guarantee you a federal job, it can certainly help. When applying for a federal job, the government uses a point-based system to screen candidates. Veterans who have received a Purple Heart or service-connected disability can potentially receive a 10-point increase in their applicant rating. And, any honorably discharged veteran can increase his or her rating by five points due to military service.
Additionally, the federal government has created certain special hiring authorities related to veterans. Of note, veterans with disability ratings of 30% or greater have access to a certain authority that allows federal agencies to non-competitively appoint them to open jobs.
Tip 3: Tailor Your Longer Resume to a Specific Federal Job
When it comes to most job applications, the one-page resume makes sense. But, when applying for federal jobs, you’ll need far longer, multiple page resumes tailored to the specific job to which you’re applying.
Most federal jobs require resumes up to five pages, with detailed descriptions of how your military service relates directly to the open position. Crafting one of these resumes can be a daunting challenge. Fortunately, USAJOBS.gov offers a resume-building tool that provides a step-by-step guide to creating your federal resume. And, to maximize your chances of landing a federal job, the website also lets you create multiple versions of your resume. Depending on the particular job, you can choose the most relevant resume version.
Tip 4: Understand the Federal Hiring Numbers
As with a trip to Las Vegas, it helps to play the odds when applying for federal jobs. Specifically, job seekers should understand which federal agencies hire the most veterans. By applying to the agencies with the most veterans, you can increase your chances of landing a federal job.
As expected, the Department of Defense employs the most veterans. Many veterans wrap up their military service on a Friday and begin work as a federal civilian employee in a similar job the following Monday. Next in line, the Department of Veterans Affairs hires the second-most veterans. Applying to both of these agencies offers the advantages of 1) available jobs, and 2) familiarity, as veterans continue to work with and around fellow servicemembers.
NOTE: This approach shouldn’t dissuade veterans from applying to an open federal position in another agency. Plenty of outstanding jobs exist across the entire federal government, and job seekers shouldn’t limit themselves if an opportunity outside of DOD or the VA presents itself.
Tip 5: Be Persistent
Yes, veteran preferences can help you land a federal job. But, you’ll also be competing against plenty of other highly qualified veterans applying for the same job openings. In other words, being a veteran absolutely doesn’t guarantee you a federal job. Recognizing this reality, many veterans don’t land the first handful of federal jobs for which they apply.
Don’t let these rejections discourage you! With persistence and continued refinement of your federal resume, you will put yourself in the best position possible as a job applicant. As you continue to apply for open jobs, you dramatically increase your chances of landing one.
Tip 6: Take Advantage of Feds Hire Vets
And, part of this persistence should include seeking help. Asking for assistance when applying for federal jobs isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a smart decision. As stated, the federal hiring process tends to be far more complicated than in the private sector. Fortunately, organizations exist with a mission of helping veterans to navigate this convoluted process.
Of note, FedsHireVets.gov serves as the Office of Personnel Management’s veteran employment resource. The site has a wealth of resources to help veterans pursue federal jobs. In particular, it offers an online educational tool, the Virtual Classroom: Thinking about a career in Federal civil service? Visit the Virtual Classroom for information about finding and applying for Federal careers, writing a Federal resume and more. Take advantage of this tool, and you’ll significantly improve your chances of landing a federal job.
After serving their country in uniform, many veterans decide to pursue second careers in the federal government. Tremendous benefits exist with federal jobs, but these positions also require competitive and complicated applications. By following the above tips, veterans will increase their chances of landing a federal job.
Maurice “Chipp” Naylon spent nine years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. He is currently a licensed CPA specializing in real estate development and accounting.