How to Land a Job in Washington, D.C. in 2012

There are about an even number of open positions as there are people seeking jobs in Washington.


What better place to work than in our nation's capital? Washington, D.C. attracts talent from around the world for jobs in both public and private sectors. Many large corporations have headquarters in Washington, government jobs are plentiful, and nonprofits are ubiquitous.

A recent look at job market competition by Indeed listed Washington as having a 1:1 ratio of job postings to unemployed persons; that is, there are about an even number of open positions as there are people seeking jobs. This means the job market in Washington is relatively uncompetitive compared to other metropolitan areas of the country.

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Here's how you can take advantage of the job market in our nation's capital:

1. Local job postings and career fairs

The Washington Post has an online jobs section that focuses on openings in the D.C. metropolitan area, and publishes advice articles for job seekers on a variety of topics, including resumes, salary negotiation, and interviews. The Washington Post even holds career fairs—they have three planned for January 2012.

Another prominent job portal for Washington jobs is, the "Federal Government's Official Jobs Site." While not all government jobs are located in D.C., a great many of them are—and USA Jobs has them listed. The site offers specific search options for veterans, students, recent graduates, and individuals with disabilities.

2. Get social

Savvy job seekers know that recruiters are using social media more than ever and that using Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for your job search is important. The Washington Post has several Twitter handles for job seekers—@washpostjobs, @dcprjobs, @financejobsdc, @DcEntryLvlJobs, and many more. Follow the ones that you think are relevant to your job search. also has social media accounts—@usajobs on Twitter, and here on Facebook.

You should also network with professionals in your area and follow companies you're interested in. Many larger companies have separate Twitter accounts just for recruiting.

3. Volunteer

Washington, D.C. has a plethora of nonprofits—if you're between jobs, keep your resume and skills up-to-date by volunteering your services for a local nonprofit.

For example, if you're searching for a job in public relations, try volunteering your PR services for a nonprofit while you're searching for employment. Potential employers don't like to see long gaps on a resume, but they do like to see candidates taking initiative to stay on their game—not to mention volunteering for a good cause.

Check here for a list of nonprofits in the DC area.

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4. Look into these popular sectors

The federal government is the largest employer in the area, not surprisingly. Also because of the prominence of the government, many open jobs are in law.

Outside of the government, jobs in the aerospace/defense industry are plentiful, according to The Washington Post ranking of the largest public companies in the D.C. area. The list is topped by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, two leaders in the aerospace/defense industry. Other prominent industries on the list include information technology, healthcare, and financial services.

Additionally, free resume grading app RezScore found that one of the most popular sectors in D.C. is the food and beverage industry, with 42 times the national average of food and beverage jobs in the area.

5. Customize your search

Any job search benefits from a good amount of customization. Job seekers should tailor their resumes, cover letters, and other application materials to each specific job posting.

When applying for jobs, keywords matter. Many larger companies use Applicant Tracking Systems, which automatically sort resumes according to preferred keywords. If you don't have the right keywords, your resume may never even be seen by a human. For example, RezScore found that in the food and beverage industry in D.C., the most in-demand keywords were sous chef, upscale, wine, menu, and gourmet.

For smaller companies that don't use these systems, keywords still matter. Having the right ones might catch a recruiter's eye. Use RezScore's Skills Explorer to find in-demand skills for different industries and locations.

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Carefully consider the job posting at hand, and tailor your application materials to exactly what the employer wants. This means excluding irrelevant experience from your resume. Sure, it may be great experience, but if it's not relevant to the position for which you're applying, it's a waste of space, potentially taking the employer's attention away from why you'd really be the perfect fit.

In your cover letter, emphasize your experience and skills that are in line with what the employer is seeking.

If you're looking for a job in Washington, D.C., take advantage of these tips to help you score your dream job in the city. Good luck!

Have you recently landed a job in Washington, D.C.? Share your tips below.

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.