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Tips for Completing Government Job Applications

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Employment application and hand
Geri Lavrov / Moment Open / Getty Images

The application process for a government job is full of pitfalls. Follow these tips to help your application get from the big stack of all applicants to the little stack of applicants who will get an interview.

Be Thorough.

Government job application forms tend to be very long. Government organizations often try to pare down their application forms. They are usually unsuccessful.

In countless iterations of trying to reduce the information applicants must provide, human resources departments run into situations where hiring managers say they need this piece of information or that one. The result is little change on the application form.

You never know which minute piece of information is going to be important to the person hiring you. Be thorough. Fill out every single blank on the application.

Explain Time Anomalies.

If you have a gap in employment or were at a job for only a few months, you need to explain these situations on your application. Employment gaps and short stints are red flags to employers. If they are left unexplained, the hiring manager will assume the worst.

Do not lie about time gaps. If you were fired, explain why, what you learned from it and why it won't happen again. You may have limited space on the application form to explain, so at a minimum cover why you were fired. If the gap is due to something awful, it is better the employer finds out from you than in a phone call to your former manager.

Short stints are usually easy to explain. Perhaps the job was not what you thought it would be. Maybe you were reorganized into a position you did not want. As long as you are up-front, a short employment period should not hurt you. Just don't string them together.

Include All Required Attachments.

Depending on the position, government employers may ask for a resume, cover letter, college transcripts, letters of reference, writing samples, and work product portfolios. If the job posting asks for one or more of these items, you must include them. Neglecting to do so will likely earn your application a spot in the trash can.

If you want to include a resume and cover letter with your application when they are not required, it won't hurt to do so. Whether those items will be considered or even read will vary from manager to manager.

Some online job portals do not allow attachments. After all, the application is the organization's way of getting you to tell them what they want to know. Most attachments allow you to tell the organization what you want them to know.

Cover the KSAs.

The knowledge, skills and abilities -- commonly referred to as KSA's -- for a job are the requirements a candidate must meet in order to be successful at the job. A candidate does not always have to meet all the KSAs, but a candidate who does is more likely to get an interview than one who does not.

A common mistake applicants make is not fitting their experience to the KSA's. They either do not tailor their application to the job at all, or they write in such a way that a hiring manager cannot quickly determine how the candidate lines up with the KSA's.

Imagine you are a hiring manager with 100 applications to look through. Are you going to spend time trying to decode one application when you have 99 others to process?

Make it easy on the hiring manager. Use the wording from the job posting to show that you meet each KSA. Will this showcase your writing skills? No. Will it give you a better shot at landing an interview? Absolutely.

Meet the Application Deadline.

You must meet the application deadline. Missing the deadline gives the hiring manager a perfectly valid reason to dismiss your application. Again, imagine you are a hiring manager with 100 applications to process. If 10 come in after the deadline, you are perfectly justified in reducing your workload to 90 applications.

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