Federal Employment Job Applications
Many who have applied for a government job say simply completing the application should win you some kind of award.
Some of the forms are lengthy, confusing, and comprehensive, and should not be put off until the last minute. Make sure you get the application and all relevant materials in plenty of time, and consider setting aside several hours over the course of a week or two to work on it – well before the deadline.
Each year, you are permitted to apply to one national forest and two national parks. This is where calling ahead comes in handy. As we pointed out earlier, why apply to a park if you know all of last year’s seasonals are returning? By calling ahead and choosing wisely, you can greatly increase your chances of getting hired.
It is imperative that you complete every section of the application. The government considers certain omissions such as failure to include your name, address, social security number, or other critical information, “fatal errors.” If you forget any of these, your application is headed for the recycling bin – no questions asked. So be sure to take the time to complete the form in its entirety. A hiring officer reveals some of the things he looks for when rating applicants:
“I look a lot at neatness, the amount of thought and preparation that went into the application and how complete it is, as well as training and experience. Basic skills like first aid or emergency medical technician certification, natural resource management, and law enforcement are important regardless of where you’re applying.”
The thought of taking the time to carefully answer each individual question on a sixteen-page form can be overwhelming. In anticipation of the stiff competition, you may be tempted to take shortcuts to the truth, figuring no one will take the time to thoroughly check your answers. But don’t even think about portraying yourself as an expert in any category unless you really are. As one Park Service hiring officer warns, “If you are marking fours and fives for too many skills without showing some sort of legitimate training, it becomes suspect. An astute hiring officer is going to spot that right away.”
While you should never pretend to have skills you don’t, you definitely want to emphasize those you do. To limit exaggeration, many government forms require you to cross-reference every skill you claim to have. Each time you rank yourself higher than ‘1’ or ‘no experience’ (on a scale of 1 – 5), you must describe where you learned the skill – whether in school, on the job, or through special training. Think carefully before answering each question. One longtime seasonal worker offers the following advice:
“I worried about rating myself too high, fearing that they’d expect a lot at the beginning. On the other hand, you don’t want to underrate yourself. I would say that if you’re comfortable with a skill and could prove it if necessary, give yourself a high rating. Likewise, if you can train somebody in a skill, don’t be shy about saying so on the application. But be careful – skills assessment is subjective, and they will check your references.”
In short, be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as what your employer’s expectations will be. Careful planning and attention to details are important tools to help you get the job.