USAJobs can be an extremely helpful website for civil engineers looking for work in the public sector.
However, in order to maximize the available opportunities, civil engineers must develop specific skills and approaches as they navigate the site and apply for jobs.
In today's Member Voice article Mike Pniewski, P.E., P.S., F.ASCE, the Lucas County Engineer in Toledo, Ohio, and I (Ashley Rose-Nalin, P.E., L.S., M.ASCE, Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements (SABER) program manager at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee) share stories, tips, and lessons learned from their careers that might help their fellow civil engineers find success using USAJobs in their own job searches.
Rose-Nalin: When I was in college and private industry, I received many tips about how you should craft your résumé . Somewhere along the line I became a federal civilian engineer, and none of those short courses prepared me for how to navigate the applications and résumé writing to apply for federal positions on USAJobs. (https://www.usajobs.gov/) To navigate USAJobs, I recommend creating a profile and then using their résumé builder to draft a template résumé that you can edit to apply for specific positions. You can also upload other documents to store in your USAJobs profile indefinitely, such as copies of your college transcripts.
Once you have your base résumé drafted, you can search for federal positions. If you are looking for engineering specific positions those will fall under the 0800 job series, and you can utilize the search filter to sort based on the job series. Civil Engineering is the 0810 job series and 0801 is the General Engineering job series. It's also important to note that jobs which engineers typically think of as engineering related, like a project manager, are not part of the engineering job series, so you may need to broaden your search a little bit. If you are interested in a specific agency or location, you can filter by agencies and/or location too.
Pniewski: Definitely. I spent the first 15 years of my career on the private sector side, and the expectations for résumés and how a job search is conducted is completly different. The key is to understand that in the public sector, the civil service laws require a hiring process where everyone is treated equally. Everyone gets the same questions, and the opportunity to address the questions in a way which accentuates their experience. USAJobs is a big part of that process; the interview is the other … but that's a completely different topic.
Rose-Nalin: In USAJobs any applicant needs to draft a base résumé and home in on a position you are interested in. Then it's time to start analyzing the job announcment. You'll typically see seven sections at the top that you need to look over carefully (Overview, Location(s), Duties, Requirements, Required Documents, Benefits, How to Apply). You can scroll down through the entire announcment to review each section or select the tab at the top to automatically go to that section. When applying, make sure you read the Required Documents section to make sure you have uploaded everything in the format directed in the announcement.
Pniewski: That last part is crucial. If you don't provide all the information the job announcement requires, in the format it requires, the application is rejected. No one is going to call you to ask you to fix your application after submission. If that was done, it would break the requirements of the process that everyone be treated equally.
Rose-Nalin: Let's jump back to the federal résumé. Federal résumés typically end up being significantly more detailed than the typical one-page brief summary that you may be more familiar with. My personal thoughts are that federal résumés tend to read more like career biographies. In the job announcement, I would make sure that you scroll down through the Requirements section, which may have within it a section titled "How You Will Be Evaluated." I recommend making sure that any positions listed in your résumé show how you have gained experience that makes you qualified for the position. This section may also link to a questionnaire that will ask some questions to determine your eligibility for the position, and includes Assessment Questions. I recommend reviewing those Assessment Questions before applying and reviewing your résumé to make sure it reflects the ratings you feel are appropriate based on what you choose.
Pniewski: Focusing on how your description of your experience meets the requirements of the position is how you pass the first phase and get invited for an interview. Every question the questionnaire asks and every requirement in the job announcement needs to be addressed in the résumé in detail with clear, concrete examples. Applicants are often asked in the questionnaire the level of their experience in broad terms. The reasons that you rated yourself a certain way in the questionnaire must be supported in the résumé. Again, it is extremely important that the federal resume addresses every required qualification in the job announcement. If anything is missing, the application will be considered incomplete and rejected.
Rose-Nalin: Hopefully this has provided you with some tips on how to navigate the federal application process through USAJobs and job announcements. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and in federal service!
Ashley Rose-Nalin, P.E., L.S., is the Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements (SABER) Program Manager at Arnold AFB, Tennessee. She manages the overall SABER Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, which has varied task orders ranging from small drainage projects to building additions. Rose-Nalin previously worked as an area engineer with the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service leading teams to develop solutions for conservation projects on agricultural lands
Mike Pniewski, P.E., P.S., F.ASCE, is the Lucas County Engineer in Toledo, Ohio. He leads a public service agency responsible for roadway, bridges, and drainage projects across Lucas County. He previously worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a program manager responsible for water resources projects. Pniewski is currently president of the Ohio Council of Local Sections, the chair of the Committee on Student Members, and a member of the Government Engineers Council.
Learn about the ASCE Resume Workshop here!
Ashley Rose-Nalin P.E., L.S., M.ASCE
SABER Program Manager