Are you interested to learn more about navigating a job search with the federal government? Are you excited about the opportunity to contribute to national security efforts to protect our country? Do you have a willingness to impact your community and surrounding communities by working collaboratively with multiple companies, contractors and representatives? If so, consider navigating a full-time job search with the federal government.

Navigating a full-time job search within the federal government takes time and includes numerous steps to follow, similar to an industry job search. Review the content below and engage in upcoming career development programs, employer engagements and industry days as part of your search.

 As you review this material and begin the process to actively search for positions within the federal government, consider a few next steps:


Important facts about the federal hiring process

  • The federal government does have a standard job application. Your resume is your application
  • Hiring agencies use the job announcement to describe the job and list the required qualifications and responsibilities
  • After applying, the hiring agency uses the information in your resume to verify if you have the required qualifications stated in the job announcement
  • Once the hiring agency has determined who is qualified, they may use other assessments such as interviews or testing to determine the best qualified applications

Visit USAJOBS Federal Job Application Process for additional information.



As part of the hiring process, applicants will complete a basic background investigation of criminal and credit histories, to ensure that the individual is a “reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the United States”. More details can be found here: Background Checks and Security Clearances for Federal Jobs

Security clearances are obtained through the federal agency hiring the candidate. Individual candidates cannot pursue a security clearance on their own. As a position offer is extended, the offer is contingent on successfully obtaining a security clearance. There are a series of forms to fill out to prompt the extensive background check. Background checks and security clearance forms can be found through the Office of Personnel Management.

Types of security clearances:

  • Confidential | Provides access to information that could cause damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. It must be reinvestigated every 15 years.
  • Secret | Confidential clearance, but must be reinvestigated every 10 years.
  • Top Secret | Confidential clearance, but must be reinvestigated every five years.
  • Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) | An access program that gets “added on” to the clearance

The Interim Security Clearance | if a hiring office requests it, an applicant may be granted an interim security clearance within a few weeks after submitting a complete security package. Per Partnership for Public Service, final clearances usually are processed and adjudicated in less than 90 days. With an interim clearance, classified work can be performed but in a temporary capacity until a background investigation has been completed.


This process considers factors that could cause conflicts of interest and place individuals in a position of having to choose between commitment to the United States and another loyalty. The focus to this assessment is full disclosure, not reaching perfection.

The government uses 13 guidelines for making individual assessments on whether to grant clearance.

As part of the process, you will be asked to list all foreign activities and contacts, with the concern for dual loyalty or potential for coercion by a foreign entity. Foreign activities include foreign financial interests, such as ownership interests in a foreign business or foreign bank accounts. Foreign contacts are considered to be foreign nationals with whom you or a spouse/partner have had “close and/or continuing contact with,” in the last seven years and are bound by affection, influence, common interests and/or obligation. 

The security clearance process evaluates the whole person, weighing a number of variables. Mitigating factors are considered, such as whether the candidate voluntarily reported the information, sought assistance and followed professional guidance, or demonstrated positive changes in behavior. A security clearance will likely be denied if the information available shows a recent or recurring pattern of questionable judgment, irresponsibility or emotionally unstable behavior.

A mental health diagnosis, treatment and counseling is not a reason to deny or revoke a security clearance. In fact, the application forms now specifically state: “seeking or receiving mental health care for personal wellness and recovery may contribute favorably to decisions about your eligibility.”


As you develop application material for the federal search process, resumes are the primary way to articulate relatable experiences and transferable skillsets to prospective employers. Review the job announcement and consider duties and qualifications, how to apply and how you will be evaluated. Ensure that you meet the requirements, including level and amount of experience, education and training.

Federal Resume Components:

  • Important contact information (Address, email and phone number)
  • Dates, hours, level of experience and examples of each work experience
  • Include volunteer work and roles in community organizations
  • Use numbers to highlight your accomplishments
  • Length of resume can vary; you are not limited to a one page resume, as most industry roles recommend. Be very detailed in your experiences, contributions, and what impact you provided for each experience

 Tips + Strategies:

  • Customization is key. Organize your resume to highlight relevant experiences and skillset and use similar terms and address every required qualification. In addition, reverse chronological order is ideal in relation to section and experiences.
  • Paragraph or bullet point format is applicable and use plain language. Avoid acronyms and terms that are not easily understood, and be concise.


The Federal Government’s official employment website, connecting job seekers with federal employment opportunities across the United States and around the world.

Intelligence agencies like the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) do not post on USAJOBS and ask for different information than a federal resume.

Office of Personnel Management serves as the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the Federal Government.

Tech Talent Playbook | Federal Job Search Process