Federal Employment Hiring Practices

The following are some general guidelines regarding U.S. government hiring procedures. In subsequent chapters relating to individual departments are specific application requirements. In general, all employees for government outdoor jobs are required to be:

  • At least 18 years old on their first day of work
  • U.S. citizens
  • In good physical condition and health

A physical exam may be required for employment consideration. Federal employment is based on qualifications without regard to race, color, creed, handicap, sex, national origin, politics, marital status, age, membership or non-membership in an employee organization, political or personal favoritism, or any other non-merit factor. It’s the law. The federal government does give preference to veterans of armed forces and returned Peace Corps volunteers.

Government job seekers should also be aware of a federal policy change that may or may not reduce the number of seasonal jobs available. Over the next few years, seasonal positions lasting more than six months will be reclassified as “permanent seasonal,” which some say is the government’s way of getting around the current hiring freeze on permanent positions. Under this new system, permanent seasonal jobs will be much tougher to get, but will have more perks – job security, health insurance, and a government pension. But don’t think because you’ve held a seasonal job in the past that you’ll be able to keep it when it becomes permanent.
Reclassified positions will be filled using the same competitive hiring standards now used for other permanent hires. Even if you’ve worked the same seasonal job for five years, you may not have priority over other qualified applicants.

What does this mean to those who simply want short-term, seasonal employment? It’s hard to say at this point what the long-term ramifications will be, but most people in the industry expect this policy change not to have much effect on the overall seasonal hiring picture. One fact that cannot be ignored is visitor attendance. National parks and forests are breaking all-time attendance records, so it’s not likely they will be able to do without the continued support of seasonal workers. In most cases, the reality of the situation seems to indicate that the U.S. Park Service and Forest Service will have to hire more seasonals, not less, just to keep up with demand for visitor services.

The Office of Personnel Management, the agency in charge of hiring policies, somewhat concurs with this observation. They note that changes will be implemented gradually over the next few years and may not affect every region at the same time, if at all. As a job applicant, the best policy to follow is one in which you ask about current hiring practices when you apply.

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