How to Apply for a Government Job

Many government workers have flexible schedules that allow employees to take more three-day weekends.

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Lindsay Olson
Even with the economy in the dumps, as a job seeker you may be overlooking one of the most obvious choices for employment: the government. While federal hiring is expected to decline from the recent surge of hiring between 2009 and now, the government will still need to replace federal employees who are soon retiring. If stability, lots of vacation time, and having an employer that will never shut down appeals to you, working for the government could be an good option for you.

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Who Does the Government Hire?

The U.S. government hires just about any position you could imagine. And while, sure, the first jobs that come to mind are those at the post office and social security office, the government needs everything from gardening to communications covered.

Why Should I Work for the Government?

Besides being one of relatively few employers who are pretty stable right now, the government provides a whole host of benefits like great health care and all federal holidays off. And while it might surprise you, the government is becoming a proponent of flexible work schedules that allow employees to take more three-day weekends.

Other benefits, like child care, relocation, student loan repayment assistance, and retirement packages are some of the reason people clamor for government jobs.

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Where Can I Find a Government Job?

These days, there are some great resources online to help you find and apply for government jobs. One of the more popular sites, USAJobs, lists jobs from all federal agencies. You may also want to look on a specific agency’s website, like the postal service’s site or FBI’s job portal, for more information on a specific branch.

For students, USAJobs has a special dedicated page, since many government programs have money set aside to hire students.

If working in foreign countries sounds exciting, consider a job with the Foreign Service. The website explains the process, which involves a lengthy application, test, and oral assessment. While the process is long, you could be sent on assignment to another country for a few years, fulfilling your itch to see the world.

Is it Hard to Get a Government Job?

In theory, it shouldn’t be any harder to get a government job than any other, if you’re qualified. But depending on what type of job you apply for, ranking criteria you’re not aware of may exist. Veterans or existing federal employees may receive preference in the candidate pool, and how well you rank on any required tests will also play a large part into where you are on the list of qualified candidates.

The process of getting a government job is more tedious than simply sitting down with a hiring manager who selects you because you “click.” You’ll have to work through the red tape and follow the process. Be patient.

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How Do I Know Which Agency I Want to Work for?

Every agency or department within the U.S. Government might as well be its own company, given the differences in culture and industry. Read up on different agencies and find ones that interest you the most.

Browse through government jobs forums like Indeed’s and Monster’s to learn what to expect in the application process (many are lengthy), the types of questions you might be asked in an interview, and details on different departments.

If you’re looking for a stable employer (and who isn’t?) that can provide you with the opportunity to move to other departments or be promoted within your own agency, the government could be your next step.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.