The Government Job Application Process: What Candidates Should Expect

government job application process

The federal workforce grows every day. Whether you are a new or existing employee of the federal government, rules, applications, and procedures change. The process to apply for a career in the federal government is very different than the application process in the private sector. As a candidate, the simple truths about the government job application process can help one prepare for a network of opportunity. 

There are hundreds of government agencies, professional fields, and locations around the globe with open positions. There are thousands of positions waiting to be filled on any given day. The federal government is huge and works on a complex system of rules and procedures. 

Agencies are picky about who they hire and job seekers should be just as selective when they choose a career in the federal workforce. Human capital leaders are taking notice of the total federal workforce and Millennials. Recruiters are on the lookout for this generation of workers who are already tech-savvy, purpose-driven, global thinkers who want to make a change.

In many cases, job candidates compete for a position. When government agencies post a job, there is an application deadline. This is necessary to manage the hiring process and they can monitor how many applications they receive. For this reason, they can move forward with the hiring process without adding additional applicants during the selection process. It is important to submit a stellar resume or application for jobs, rather than spend time on a subpar application for dozens of jobs. 

In the search for federal jobs, candidates should know the simple truths about government job applications:

Get familiar.

There are hundreds of agencies and departments and the federal government creates a mission and culture for each. Take the time to find those that are a good match for your interests, skill set, and experience. 

Pay attention.

Save copies of all paperwork during the recruitment, interview, and onboarding process. Know the resources available to you and where to get answers. Candidates should ever assume it will be the same from day to day. It is important to follow the application process every step of the way.

Search jobs.

There are plenty of opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds, experience, and skills that range from attorneys to museum personnel. All federal agencies are required to list their openings publicly and most do so on However, federal workplace jobs can also be found on non-government sites too. 

Engage networks.

Connect with colleagues and former employers online to network with people tied to or work with the federal government agencies. Social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter are great avenues for research and means for access to employees already working in government.

Be curious!

Seek out friends or family who are government employees and ask them questions about their job and insight on the application and interview process. Use career services or recruiters to see if there is a relationship with any government agency or recruiter in a particular field of study.

Know the lingo.

The federal government, at times, may seem to have its own language. Candidates should be familiar with the federal vernacular and incorporate keywords or phrases from job descriptions, mission statements, and websites into building a resume. 

Complete the application.

Carefully follow the instructions in the “How to Apply” section of each job posting. As a rule of thumb, never leave questions unanswered or data fields blank to avoid disqualification. For updates, use online access to review application status and confirm the application has been received. Follow up with agencies with additional questions.

Be patient.

It can take up to four months or longer to get a job offer. While federal agencies aim to fill openings within 80 days, the actual time from application to hire will vary based on the department’s needs and resources. Be prepared to wait it out. After that, a background investigation and security checks will take place once the job offer is accepted. The length of these checks depends on the security clearance level of the job. 

Once the background investigation and additional security checks are done, the hiring agency will extend a final job offer and set up a start date. The hiring process can be lengthy as both human resources and the hiring manager must review qualifications. As a result, there may be some back and forth if there is interest. It often takes a concerted effort between talent management and HR to find a balance in the workforce model and the right candidate to fill the position.  

Candidates who apply for careers in the federal workforce must be prepared, patient, and persistent to land the perfect government job. Job seekers must understand common truths about the government job application process and prepare for every opportunity presented. 

Learn how Acendre works to support the ever-changing federal workspace challenges.

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