Eight Myths About the USAJobs Federal Job Posting Process

Are you considering applying for a federal job but not totally confident about using the USAJOBS automated application system? Kathy Troutman, a leading federal jobs expert, spoke to AOL Jobs to debunk the myths about the process so you can get started applying for federal jobs right away.

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1. USAJOBS resumes are scanned for keywords by an automated system.

Not true.

USAJOBS federal resumes are scanned by real people, Human Resources specialists, who actually read the resumes. These HR specialists do read for keywords -- they either read the resumes on a screen or print them to review the hard copies. Based on their review, they determine who goes on the Best Qualified list and prepare the List of Certified Eligible Candidates for the supervisor in charge of hiring.

2. On USAJOBS announcements, the KSAs were eliminated as of Nov. 1, 2010 according to President Obama.

Mostly true.

Most federal agency human capital officers are attempting to comply with the 11/1/10 executive initiative by President Obama, to eliminate the separate written narratives -- KSAs -- from initial applications. This is a recommendation, not a law.

So, you will still find the KSAs written in the vacancy announcement. There could be instructions to include examples or language in your resume, or it's possible that you may have to write them later if you are referred to a supervisor. Additionally, the KSA accomplishments will be critical for your structured interview with a federal agency. Good news: The long written KSA narratives will mostly be eliminated, but the short four- to six-line mini-KSAs are going to thrive with these accomplishments inside the federal resume.

3. Your Social Security number is not required to apply for jobs with USAJOBS.

Not true.

It is required. The USAJOBS site is secure, so your personal information is protected. Only federal human resources specialists can access the resume database. You must submit your SSN in order to apply for a federal job at this time.

4. USAJOBS federal resumes and should be one or two pages maximum.

Not true.

The average length of the USAJOBS federal resume is three to five pages. Federal resumes for experienced professionals will be five pages on average; student or recent graduate federal resumes average about three pages. Keep in mind that federal resumes must contain additional information in the Work Experience section to demonstrate that you have the specialized experience required for the job.

5. With USAJOBS, if you lose your password, you can set up a new account and start over.

Not true.

You have to reset your password or user name. You can't set up a new account, because the system uses your SSN and you can only use your SSN once. So, you will have to reset the password if you forget it.

6. When you apply for a job through USAJOBS, you never hear from anyone again.

Not true.

The Application Tracking page is very good. Not perfect, but good. And with President Obama's executive order, the HR specialists will be trying harder to give results of the application review process in a more timely way. Many job seekers don't realize that USAJOBS provides a tracking system to track the status of their applications.

7. If you set up your resume as searchable, someone from government will contact you about a federal job.

Not true.

Unless you actually apply for a job, no one will search for your resume in the entire USAJOBS resume database. While there is a choice to make your resume searchable or unsearchable, the hiring managers and supervisors in government do not search for resumes in USAJOBS with keywords.

8. If the closing date on a USAJOBS announcement is less than one week, that means the job is wired for someone particular.

Not true.

Since OPM and human resources specialists working for federal agencies are now receiving hundreds of applications, they are cutting back the closing dates, so that they do not receive too many applications. In fact, some closing dates can be as short as three days.

Next: How to Write a Resume for a Federal Job

Barbara Safani

Barbara Safani


Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over fifteen years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development.

Barbara partners with both Fortune 100 companies and individuals to deliver targeted programs focusing on resume development, job search strategies, networking, interviewing, salary negotiation skills, and online identity management.

She is the author of Happy About My Resume: 50 Tips For Building a Better Document to Secure a Brighter Future and #JOBSEARCHtweet and her award-winning resumes are featured in dozens of career-related publications.

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Sorry, I'm not buying that the resumes are looked at by real people. If this is the case than they are a bunch of real idiots. Until my friends hipped me to this "Key word" thing (basically putting the same words they have in the qualifications in your job duties in your resume) I was actually not making BEST Qualified or one time not even MINIMALLY qualified for the EXACT same job I had with the SAME COMPANY just a different local. Now explain how a REAL person would do that!

May 23 2014 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I always try to call the HR contact if I am not referred. If the name is not listed on the job posting you can usually find it if you click on your status and Then click in the icon in far right column. From there page down to the summary page and there is usually an actual phone number there. Your odds are 50/50 you will get a call back, however.

April 23 2014 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Everything contained in this article is common-sense...
The only thing that wasn't 100% clear (before reading this article) was concerning the keywords and if a human actually reads your resume... That doesn't mean, that a Human will in fact READ your resume... it only means, that resumes aren't automatically discarded based on keyword / searchable results...

One thing most people do not know... Many of these Mid to higher paying GS positions, I.E... GS-11, 12, 13...ect... will hire someone already working in that office... whether they are the MOST Qualified or NOT..
So your Veterans Preference (even if you won the congressional medal of honor) won't help you one bit in the selection process, it only helps in determining who is qualified to be put on the short list of qualified applicants... other than that... the Hiring manager, can pick ANYONE he or she wants, regardless of how their qualifications actually stack up, AND it's NON-Appeal-able... There's NO Rules to prevent the Good Old Buddy System, from thriving and keeping competent applicants out.... Good Luck!

July 14 2013 at 4:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its fortunate that I see a veteran commented on gaining a position on USAJOBs, however that is simply not true in my case. I have submitted over 150 applications and have changed my resume many times, even following the advice on USAJOBs. Being a veteran and working closely with the CPAC folks and CPOL folks for civilian positions, writing vacancy announcements and contributing for the overall hiring, I can honestly provide an opinion that there are about 50% of the agencies hire based on who they know. The frustrating thing is the comment, "eligible but not referred to selecting official". What does this even mean? It seems to me that if I am eligible, then who has the authority not to refer my resume to the hiring authority? When I reached my 110 applications, I actually counted how many times I received this comment and out of the 110 positions I applied for, 77 of them stated this comment. Even in my speciality in the military, I received the comment, "minimum qualifications not met." What is up with that? I worked for over 20 years and I still don't meet the minimum qualifications for the same position that I worked? There is something fundamentally wrong with USAJOBs.

December 28 2012 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have so many "eligibles" but not "not referred" from jobs I've applied for on USAjobs that it's mind boggling. I have a temporary job at NIH in Bethesda MD and I know for a fact that many jobs listed have already been decided on. I to am a Vet and have 13 years in HR, with 5 of them as manager. I've been told my resume is excellent, my credit is pretty good, even "I'm very likable" but haven't heard those words "We'd like to offer you a position in six years which is when I lost my job due to a company merger. I really believe it's about who you know and not what because some of the people I've seen in positions should not be in them. But I can't be mad at them, just because they have something I want. The opportunity knocked at their door, not mine. However, I still believe I'm good enough, not to old where society figures I have nothing to offer since 40 is the new 65 (they can't ask your age, just what year you graduated high school) so today I'll fill out another application and WAIT! At some point I'm going to come out a winner in this process.

August 17 2012 at 9:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jc_williams1's comment


October 11 2012 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have so many "eligibles" but not "not referred" from jobs I've applied for on USAjobs that it's mind boggling. I have a temporary job at NIH in Bethesda and I know for a fact that many jobs listed have already been decided on. I to am a Vet and have 13 years in HR, with 5 of them as manager. I've been told my resume is excellent, my credit is pretty good, even "I'm very likable" but I've have heard those words "We'd like to offer you a position in since years which is when I lost my job due to a company merger.

August 17 2012 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good morning I see you have sufficient experience in this subject. I am a prior veteran and now I have a federal position. Fortunately I have good thing on my side because I am a VET and that’s the reason why I am holding this position. It is not the same for my wife; she graduated 3 years ago from college with a degree in Psychology. It is hard for her to get a job applying on USAJOBS, we don’t know the reason but she been applying for the past 3 years with not result. Can you please help us in this or give us some advises?

May 30 2012 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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