Many Federal agencies fill their jobs like private industry by allowing applicants to contact the agency directly for job information and application processing. But, while the process is similar, there are significant differences due to the many laws, executive orders, and regulations that govern Federal employment.
Many years ago, applicants who passed the civil service test were placed on standing registers of eligibles maintained by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). In addition, applicants had to complete a standard Federal employment application form, the SF-171, to apply for all jobs.
- OPM no longer maintains registers of eligibles
- Applicants can mail, fax their resume, or apply online using their resume in My USAJOBS. An optional application for Federal Employment, the OF-612 is also available for those who do not have a resume.
- Job seekers do not need a rating from OPM to enable them to apply for non-clerical vacancies.
- Only a few positions require a written test
- The SF-171 is obsolete
There are two classes of jobs in the Federal Government:
Competitive Service jobs are under OPM's jurisdiction. These jobs are subject to the civil service laws passed by Congress. These laws ensure that applicants and employees receive fair and equal treatment in the hiring process. They give selecting officials broad authority to review more than one applicant source before determining the best-qualified candidate based on job-related criteria. A basic principle of Federal employment is that all candidates must meet the qualification requirements for the position for which they receive an appointment.
Excepted Service agencies set their own qualification requirements. These agencies are not subject to the appointment, pay, and classification rules in Title 5, United States Code. However, they are subject to veterans' preference. Some Federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), have only excepted service positions. Other agencies, may have some divisions or even specific jobs that may be excepted from civil service procedures. Positions may be in the excepted service by law, by executive order, or by action of OPM.
In filling competitive service jobs, agencies can generally choose from among (3) groups of candidates:
- A competitive list of eligibles. This record lists the applicants (in rank order) who meet the qualification requirements for a specific vacancy announcement.
- A list of eligibles who have civil service status. This list consists of applicants who are eligible for noncompetitive movement within the competitive service. These individuals presently or previously served under career-type appointments in the competitive service. They are selected under agency merit promotion procedures and can receive an appointment by promotion, reassignment, transfer, or reinstatement.
- A list of eligibles that qualify for a special noncompetitive appointing authority established by law or executive order. Examples of special noncompetitive appointing authorities include the Veterans' Readjustment Appointment (VRA), the special authority for 30% or more disabled veterans, and the Peace Corps.
Agencies in the competitive service are required by law and OPM regulation to post vacancies with OPM whenever they are seeking candidates from outside their own workforce for positions lasting more than 120 days. (Agency, in this context, means the parent agency -- i.e., Treasury, not the Internal Revenue Service.) These vacancies are posted on OPM's USAJOBS and in America's Job Bank (AJB). Excepted agencies are not required to post their job announcements in USAJOBS. To learn about their job opportunities you must go to their websites.
The area of consideration, listed on the vacancy announcement, is the source from which the agency will consider candidates. The agency may designate whatever area of consideration it considers appropriate. A candidate who is outside the area of consideration will not be considered.
Veterans' preference recognizes the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform in times of strife, restores veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledges the larger obligation owed to disabled veterans. Historically, Congress has reserved preference for those who were either disabled, who served in combat areas or during certain periods of time.