Ask a Coach

Q: It has been awhile since I’ve looked for a job and I’m not quite sure where to start. Can you suggest some places to look for jobs?

A: If you are looking for a federal position, I recommend starting your job search on the USA Jobs website. This website contains all federal competitive service jobs and some excepted service positions. If you know what agency you’d like to work for, I would also go to the agency’s website directly. In conjunction with searching USA Jobs or the agency websites, it is a very good idea to speak with either current or past supervisors or other people you know who work in the federal government. Networking and word-of-mouth are great ways to get your name out there so people know you are interested in open positions.

For civilian positions, you can utilize online job boards, such as Monster and Indeed, to look for open positions. If you know what company you are interested in, check on the company’s website to see if they have any open positions. Networking and word-of-mouth are also very crucial when it comes to the civilian job search. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 80% of employers plan to hire based off of networking. Cultivating your contacts will really give you a leg up in the job search process.

Navigating the USA Jobs Website

So you’ve decided to look for a new job and want to remain in the federal civil service system. What should be your first step in finding that perfect position?

Your first stop should be to USA Jobs at www.usajobs.gov. USA Jobs is the federal government’s clearinghouse for all competitive civil service jobs and some excepted service positions.

Civil service vs. excepted service

Competitive civil service jobs means that you’re vying for jobs with other applicants in open competition. Excepted service means the agencies can use their own hiring systems and methods of evaluation to select the right candidate. The TSA is part of the excepted service. Thanks to an Interchange Agreement between the TSA and the Office of Personnel Management, if you have served a year or more as a permanent employee of the TSA, you can apply as a “status” candidate for competitive civil service positions that you find on USA Jobs.

A “status” candidate is a current Federal employee of the competitive civil service. Within USA Jobs, selecting “status” candidate when you’re searching for jobs means that there are more federal job openings available to you than to the general public because there are some jobs that only “status” candidates can apply for.

Search criteria

How do find a job on USA Jobs? The first thing to do is run a search. You can run a search by keyword, job title, job announcement or control number, agency, or by particular skills you want to utilize. You can also search by specific location or just do a search for the entire United States or a foreign country.

If you select the Advanced Search option, you can narrow your search criteria to have the results be as specific to your needs as possible. Another option available under the search boxes is to select if you are a U.S. Citizen or a Federal Employee. If you fit the criteria mentioned above for a “status” candidate, select Federal Employee.

Once you select your search criteria, it’s time to run your search. Your search results will display all the relevant open Job Opportunity Announcements (JOAs) based on your search criteria. If you see your search results and realize you need to broaden or narrow your search even further, use the options on the left-hand side of the screen.

Job Announcements

When you find a position that interests you, click on the job title and you’ll learn everything you need to know about the position and the job-related requirements. This information is helpful in tailoring your application and resume to the job requirements. Read the entire JOA so that you don’t overlook any of the requirements.

Also, take note of the open period for the position. Most JOAs are only open for a two-week period and so it’s important you are well aware of this time.

If you have any questions, there’s an agency contact at the end of the “How to Apply” section of the JOA and they’ll be able to answer any questions you might have.