Government Jobs: Understanding Federal Job Listings

All Federal job listings start with a vacancy announcement. The announcement discusses the job and what you need to do to put in your application. The announcement contains key information about what the agency is looking for in someone to fill the job.

Here are the key items of a government job vacancy announcement. The order, language, and formatting of the items can vary, but the basic elements are included in all of them.

Primary information

This is usually at the top of the government job vacancy announcement. This information includes the job title, announcement number, agency name, and location of duty. This section may also include a contact person

Who is eligible for the job

Some government jobs are reserved for Federal employees, handicapped individuals, veterans, or other who meet certain criteria. Such vacancy announcements carry the title of “Employees only” or “Status candidates only.” Jobs that are open to all are said to be “Open to all qualified candidates” or “Open to all U.S. citizens.”

Series and grade

Government jobs all get a two-letter, two-number code, which refers to a system used for classifying the position. In some cases more than one grade level is listed. GS refers to General Schedule, and is the most common. WG means wage grade, for hourly positions. Some government jobs use a system that’s limited to a specific agency. The letters are followed by a four-digit occupational series number, which correlates to the job title. After this comes a one- or two-digit grade level. This denotes the minimum requirements for the job, pay range, and responsibility.

Pay range

This is what a government job will pay. Sometimes applicants can negotiate salary, but that depends on each agency’s unique individual policies.

Job responsibilities

This is the tasks that are required for the job. Applying for government jobs is just like any other job search in this regard; you should tailor your resume to best suit these requirements.

Primary qualifications

This section lists the minimum education and experience for a government job. If there are multiple grade levels, qualifications are given for all grades.

Promotion potential

The promotion potential shows the top grade level offered in the position. But even if this section doesn’t list anything, most government jobs still offer pay increases at regular intervals.

Employment conditions

If a government job requires special elements such as background checks, screening, or security clearance, they will be listed in this section.

Opening date

This is when the agency will begin accepting applications

Closing date

This is the latest day you can submit an application for a government job. Sometimes the application only has to be postmarked for that day. But more often this is the day it needs to arrive at the agency, generally by midnight of that date. That said, sometimes extensions are given, so it’s worth checking. A closing date of “continuous” means the agency is collecting applications for possible future consideration.

How to apply

This part specifies what materials are required to submit an application for a government job, and how they need to be delivered (online, mail, fax, etc.).

Legal information

Government job announcements typically carry sections on preferences offered for veterans, Career Transition Program (CTP) information, or special treatment for Federal employees whose jobs have been eliminated. This section may not apply to you, and you can ignore if it doesn’t.