The federal government hires around 90,000 individuals each year (not including jobs in the US Postal Service or the military). Most people, however, will not apply for a federal job simply because they believe it to be a difficult process. In reality, landing a federal job is quite achievable.

Searching for a job in the federal government can be a time-consuming process (6-18 months), but the resulting benefits make it worth the wait and effort. 

Let’s take a look at the hiring process for a majority of jobs in the federal government, in particular, those in the competitive service.

Creating an Account on USAJOBS

The first step to applying for a federal job is creating an account on Make sure you have a complete profile as this will be used for all the jobs you apply for.

Searching for Suitable Jobs

USAJOBs will use the information you provide on your profile to filter your search results, but you can also search on your own according to salary, pay grade, agency, etc.

Some federal agencies use pay systems that differ from the General Schedule pay system. Make sure you are familiar with the pay grades of these systems; otherwise, it may be difficult for you to determine whether or not you are suitable for a job.

Do not apply for a federal job if you don’t have the required education. Having relevant work experience will also help your application as the government values this over education.

While late applications are rejected, make sure you don’t miss out on applying for a job simply because the job announcement states that the application process is only open for a few days. This is simply a way that federal HR offices adopt to limit the number of applications they receive.

Applying Quickly but Carefully

Applying for a federal job means encountering some stiff competition. Therefore, if you don’t meet the requirements, it’s best not to waste time applying. If you want your application to be considered, it is important that you meet all of the requirements laid out in the job announcement.

Once you have submitted your application, return to the Application section and check if your application has been received by the hiring agency. In some cases, the agency takes a few hours before it updates your application status, so if you don’t see an update on your application status, revisit the website a little later to check.

Once the hiring agency reviews your application, you will see your application status get updated to “referred” if you qualify, or “not referred” if you don’t qualify.


A federal job interview can include an in-person interview, a panel interview, a video interview, or a phone interview. Applicants are contacted directly by the agency for scheduling interviews. Interviews for federal jobs are highly structured in nature. The same questions are asked from all candidates and all questions are related to the job. 

Job Offer

Once a candidate is selected, the hiring agency will contact them to initiate the job process. If the candidate accepts the job offer, a security clearance process is initiated, which can take three to six months.  The job offer is finalized only after the security checks are completed.

To conclude, in order to get a federal job you must be truly qualified for the post you apply for. You must also use a federal-style resume, and finally, you must have a lot of patience.