Government careers

Derrick Dortch
Career counselor
Wednesday, December 9, 2009; 11:00 AM

Federal careers expert Derrick Dortch was online to discuss government job searching and military transition on Wednesday, December 9, at 11 a.m. ET. Dortch is president of The Diversa Group, a firm that focuses on career counseling and development.

Find more career-related news and advice in our Jobs section.

Submit questions before or during the discussion.


Derrick Dortch: Good morning, good morning. Well it looks like we are getting some winter weather but its still a wonderful day and we are going to have a wonderful show. I am going to get right into answering your questions but I wanted to pass along some information.

If you are a federal Job seekers or an federal employee looking to switch agencies one of the best ways to do so is through hiring events. With these hiring events you have to register and then based on your skills, education, experience and qualifications you are selected to attend the hiring event. At these events you are usually interviewed on the spot and a hiring decision can be made there on the spot or a few days later. I have seen numerous people get hired at hiring events. Recently various agencies have held them including Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) , Defense Security Service, and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA). To find these events you have to stay on the look out for them with various agencies but one good way to find them is to go into USAJOBS and do a keyword search under "Hiring Events".

Make sure you put your best foot forward when applying to these positions because there is a great deal of competition out there but if you are selected to attend one of these hiring events you can very well walk out with a Conditional Offer of Employment (COE) in your hand or get an offer a few days later. Here is an upcoming hiring event being held by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Department Of Defense
Agency: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Job Announcement Number: 20101199
Hiring Event
SALARY RANGE: 38,117.00 - 118,803.00 USD /year
Salary may vary depending on locality.
Please refer to for additional salary information.
OPEN PERIOD: Monday, November 30, 2009 to Friday, December 18, 2009
SERIES & GRADE: IA-0301-02/02 POSITION INFORMATION: Full Time This is a permanent position.
DUTY LOCATIONS: vacancy(s) in one of the following locations: multiple duty locations - click here for more info

NGA is currently accepting applications for our February 2010 invitation only hiring event to be held in Honolulu, HI. We are seeking entry to mid career level candidates, pay bands 2 to 3, interested in joining our highly skilled team supporting national security objectives of the United States. Resumes submitted through this assignment opportunity notice will be actively screened and applicants whose background, experience, and skill set meet the requirements of the targeted positions for which we will be hiring (listed below) will be contacted for an interview to be held in mid to late February 2010. Most individuals selected for hire as a result of this event will not fill current vacancies, but rather, fill future vacanies as they occur. Please Note : The primary duty locations for these positions are within the Washington, DC and St. Louis metropolitan areas. However, this event assignment opportunity notice may be used to fill limited opportunites at other NGA locations outside of the Washington, DC and St. Louis areas. There are a limited number of opportunities available for initial posting in Hawaii. On your resume, please notate which of the positions listed below you wish to be considered for: GEOINT Analyst (Geospatial Analysis) GEOINT Analyst (Imagery Intelligence) GEOINT Analyst (Imagery Science)

Job seekers continue to value face-to-face interaction
By Emily Long - November 30, 2009
Federal agencies are catching on to the social media craze and leveraging that technology to attract job seekers, especially young recruits. For example, the Labor Department advertises open positions on Twitter and plans to upload its recruitment videos to YouTube. The State Department regularly updates its Facebook page and maintains the @DOSCareers Twitter account. But conventional wisdom, which holds that recent college graduates and tech-savvy young professionals respond favorably to anything on the Internet, doesn't always apply when it comes to federal recruiting.

Bill would require agencies to recognize security clearances governmentwide
By Kellie Lunney - December 3, 2009
A bipartisan bill /> introduced on Thursday directs agencies to ensure that approved security clearances for federal employees and contractors apply governmentwide.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, amends the portion of the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act that deals with the security clearance process. It mandates the creation of a performance accountability council to oversee the reduction of the government's security clearance backlog and extends reporting requirements.

Well without any further delay let me get to answering your questions. If you have any questions related to the federal job search, writing federal resumes and KSAs, getting a security clearance, military transition and more please send your questions in. I will respond to as many people as possible. Also if anyone has any comments, advice or a good tip they want to share please do not hesitate to do so.

Thank you so very much for stopping by the show. You are truly appreciated. ENJOY!!!


Washington, D.C.: As we enter holidays, just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed your chats. After 20 years, still a gas making a difference in a Federal system so averse to change. Thanks.

Derrick Dortch: Thanks so much for your comments DC. They are truly appreciated and keep me going. Have a Happy Holidays!!!


Fairfax: For job postings on USAJOBS, are the answers submitted to KSAs screened by automated tools or are they read by individuals? If they are scanned, are there certain keywords I should use when submitting my answers?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Fairfax,

For most automated systems whether its USAJOBS, AVUECENTRAL, or any of the other systems used by various agencies you can always assume and pretty much guarantee that there will be some automated tools scanning your resume first to determine baseline or minimum qualifications. I recently interviewed the CO-CED of AVUE Technologies who runs a government job site where you can find and apply for federal jobs. She indicated that their software uses algorithms to run keyword searches on applicants. She also mentioned that for most federal positions there are between 200 - 400 applicants at the minimum. For others there are thousands of applicants.

Now with this being the case you do have to make sure do a couple of things. 1. Use Keywords: Yes you need to use keywords that are based on the job you are applying to and the experience you have. You can find keywords in the job description on the position announcement and many times since the government publishes so much information about its work and about positions you can usually do a good amount of research and find other keywords that you can use. Now these keywords that you are using should also be related to work you have done that makes you qualified for the position. Do not use keywords for keywords sake. If you are being deceptive and have used keywords just to get pass the first screening, you will be discovered pretty quick as you move up to the human phase of screening. You must use keywords in conjunction with telling your relevant success stories and achievements. This leads me into my second recommendation:

This is critical. Many people will put in large amounts of content that has job descriptive language without really telling their story and what they have achieved or done. Once you are past the first screening the human resources person or selecting official will be looking for you to describe your relevant success stories in your federal resume as well as in any KSAs or Essay Responses. You have to catch there interest and in your success stories you have to provide both quantitative and qualitative examples.

If you think about it the majority of people applying will provide job description type language but if you only do that you are stuck in a sea of people with similar qualifications and none of you stand out. You have to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

I could go on all day, but the key for you is to combine both keywords with your relevant success stories and achievements and you should begin seeing good results.

Take care, and I wish you much success.


Fairfax, Va.: Mr. Dortch,

I attended a job fair where they had DIA representatives. I am retiring with 20 years in Army intelligence, I have three tours in Iraq, I have a TS/SCI and 2 foreign languages, one of them being Arabic. When I presented my credentials to the recruiter, she told me to fill out an application online. She was not able to provide me with any answers I was unable to find on their web site. While I didn't expect her to kiss my ring, I did expect a little more enthusiasm as I would seem to be exactly who they would want. Was this an anomaly or is this normal? I have to be honest, I wasn't too impressed. I'd like to transition to DIA but am somewhat concerned. Should I be?


Derrick Dortch: Hello Fairfax,

I am very surprised by the way you were treated by the DIA representative. I deal with a good number of people from DIA, and I have always found them to be top notch and a place that I highly recommend in terms of being a great place to work. With your background I would think they would definitely be more interested in you. What I will say is that you may have run into a human resources person who was in job fair mode where they just talk to you without really talking to you or this representative could have worked in a section within DIA that would not completely understand your value. I am not sure.

After 20 years in Army Intelligence and your qualifications I am pretty sure they are interested in you. Unfortunately you ran into the wrong representative. Let me suggest a couple of things.

1. Given your 20 years experience in the field of intelligence you probably know some people already working at DIA. I would suggest you do some networking and reach out to them. Be proactive and let them know you will be transitioning out of the military soon and would like to work at DIA. The person you know may be high up or they may be a person who can get your resume to a selecting official. Since DIA is half military and half civilian and many of the civilians have either been military or understand the military they should take an immediate interest in you. The key point is: Make sure you NETWORK!

2. Look for DIA Hiring Events. DIA just had a posting for their hiring event and they will have additional ones in the near future. Monitor and look at recruiting events.

3. Apply to DIA positions. DIA is definitely hiring so keep on applying. Make sure you have a strong federal resume and KSAs or what DIA calls Mandatory Assessment Factors. These are essay question responses. Do not take it for granted that you have this experience and you do not need to put your success stories down. I know there is only so much you can discuss, but you have have to sell yourself. Remember there are also other people with military intelligence and other intelligence backgrounds who are trying to get the same positions you are applying for.

4. Contact Me. Send me your resume and let me see if I can pass you along to some people who would be interested in you. Email me at and I will follow up with you.

I hope this is helpful. Take care, thank you for your service and I wish you much success.


McLean, Va.: Dear Mr. Dortch,

I just had an interview with the Board of Immigration Appeals (DOJ), and I am still waiting for the results. I have a question about clearance matters, though. I applied to be an FBI special agent, and although I made it through the selection process, I failed the polygraph examination. Do you think this will count against me if I get the BIA attorney position?

Thanks so much!

Derrick Dortch: Hello McLean, VA,

Thanks for your question. I am sorry to hear about the polygraph. The FBI's polygraph process is a very stressful one so don't be too discouraged. Keep on applying to federal positions as you are doing.

Now in terms of the polygraph and the DOJ position, it should not be held against you. Most DOJ positions outside of those in the FBI and a few others do not require you to do a polygraph. They usually only require a background investigation and sometimes a security clearance. This all depends on who you are working for. Since you only received a conditional offer of employment and you only went through the initial phases which includes the polygraph you did not go through a background investigation more than so even when asked the question were you denied a clearance the answer would be no because a security clearance background investigation was barely started if started at all and was never completed.

The polygraph should have no bearing on this position and you should be fine.

If you need more advice on this matter contact me at dtd@diversagroup and we can set up a consultation and I can advise you better with more additional details of your situation.

Take care and I wish you much success.


Fairfax, Va.: Derrick, I recently found your discussion page and found your information helpful in my job search. Keep up the good work!

My question is: Am I automatically disqualified from working for any of the intelligence agencies like DIA if my spouse is not currently a US citizen?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Fairfax, VA,

This is a good question. Many positions within the intelligence community do require your spouse to be a U.S. Citizen. I can not say all because this is not always the case, and some agencies do have their own rules and some at times will provide waivers for exceptions depending on the person, their qualifications, etc.

I will share this with you. This below comes from the military side of military members applying to work at DIA. This same question is asked in a FAQ and here is the response:

Q. My spouse is not a U.S. citizen yet, but she does have her green card. Can I get a waiver for this?
A. Assignment to Defense Attaché Duty requires eligibility for access to classified information at the TS/SCI level. IAW Defense Intelligence Agency Manual 50-8 and Director of Central Intelligence Directives, all applicants and their immediate family members must be U.S. Citizens. As noted in DIAM 50-8: "Immediate family includes the individual's spouse, parents, brothers, sisters, and children. Immediate family members also include step and foster parents (in loco parentis); half, step and foster siblings; and adopted, step and foster children, provided that a close relationship existed or exists as evidenced by a substantial period of common residence. Cohabitants, with whom an intimate relationship is maintained, are also considered to be immediate family members for the purposes of this regulation. Permanent Residency (green card) or other status will not substitute for citizenship. In addition, once citizenship issues have been resolved, an applicant will normally be prevented from serving in or near the country of origin.

You can see the full FAQ here:

Now with that being said I do know of people who full families are not U.S. Citizens because they were naturalized when they came to this country so I know this rule is not fully applied.

The best way to find out each agencies rules and regulations when it comes to citizenship and status of a spouse is to call and ask. You do not have to provide your name, you are calling for information and that is all. Call the HR point of contact on the application in the How to Apply section and you should get some answers.

I will also track this down more to provide you a more concrete answer and to see if there is now one set answer for the IC.

Here is general contact information for DIA: For more information on these upcoming events and employment with DIA please direct your questions or call 1-800-526-4629

I hope this was helpful and I wish you much success.


Reston, Va.: Derrick- I was selected for a FEMA position 6 months ago and have completed the security/backgound check. I have heard that funding for the position has been frozen for review. While the wait has been frustrating- what would be more frustrating is not getting the position at all. How possible is it to not get the position at all since the funding is under review?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Reston, VA,

Congratulations on the FEMA position and I am sorry to hear you have been put on hold because of funding. To be completely honest with you I have been working on helping people get into the federal government for a long time and there are times when I have had clients we worked with win positions, get an offer of employment and then have the position withdrawn and the offer rescinded because of lack of funding. It does happen. Now I did not tell you that story to scare you or discourage you. I only tell you the story so you will have some real insight on things.

What I recommend is this:

1Stay in touch with FEMA. I am not sure if you still talk to the HR point of contacts and those who interviewed you (possibly the selecting official) but you need to make sure you are in regular contact with your points of contact at FEMA. Every couple of weeks check in and go beyond that. Get to know them. Develop relationships with these people since this will be the place you hope to work one day. Become someone that they care about and want to make sure you come aboard at FEMA instead of just another person with an offer of employment who is on hold. If you make yourself important and build good relationships even if the worst happens they may try to find a way to still bring you on board at FEMA. People help people they have a connection with. Always remember that.

2. Monitor the budget process. Keep monitoring the federal budget and when agencies will be getting their monies. Since you have a personal stake in FEMA you want to monitor what is going on and when their full budget will be passed and monies distributed to them. When you see this you can call your points of contact and talk to them and see if this means that you will be brought on soon.

3. Keep applying to other positions. You now have a security clearance at some level and since FEMA saw interest in you I am sure other agencies will see interest in you as well. I know you probably do not want to do this since you thought your job search was over but begin putting in for other positions of interest at federal agencies. I am not sure if you are out of work or have a position and looking to make a move. Either way you need to have a B plan. Also talk to your HR point of contact about other positions at FEMA. Some positions are deemed more critical than others and will be brought on regardless of funding issues. Talk to your POC about other positions, your concerns and if you should also apply to any other position within FEMA. Let them know you are truly interested in FEMA and you are ready to begin working and doing the great work FEMA does.

I hope this is helpful. Agencies are still getting their monies so I feel positive that you will hear some good news soon but again be proactive in preparing for the worst just like FEMA does. I wish you much success. Let me know how it works out.


D.C.: Could you please explain your comment about full families not being US citizens because they were naturalized. At naturalization, a person becomes a US citizen in all respects, correct?

Derrick Dortch: DC,

A naturalized becomes a full citizen, yes, but sometimes they will have immediate family who lives in another country or in our country who will not become U.S. Citizens. They may only have a green card status or again they may live in another country all together and maintain that citizenship status. Under security clearance guidelines this can be a red flag because of foreign preference or foreign influence. If you have immediate or close family who are not U.S. Citizens and live here or abroad this will be looked into and scrutinized.

This is from the Adjudication Desk Reference which is used as a guideline for Adjudicators in determining a persons suitability for a clearance:

Foreign Influence
Relevance to Security

The adjudicative guideline specifies that foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern under the following circumstances:

* The individual "has divided loyalties or foreign financial interests." This is discussed below under Divided Loyalties and Competing Identities.
* The individual "may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization, or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests." This is discussed below under Vulnerable to Influence or Manipulation.
* The individual "is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by any foreign interest." This is discussed below under Vulnerable to Pressure or Coercion.

Potentially Disqualifying Conditions

Extract from the Guideline

(a) contact with a foreign family member, business or professional associate, friend, or other person who is a citizen of or resident in a foreign country if that contact creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;

(b) connections to a foreign person, group, government, or country that create a potential conflict of interest between the individual's obligation to protect sensitive information or technology and the individual's desire to help a foreign person, group, or country by providing that information;

(c) counterintelligence information, that may be classified, indicates that the individual's access to protected information may involve unacceptable risk to national security;

(d) sharing living quarters with a person or persons, regardless of citizenship status, if that relationship creates a heightened risk of foreign inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;

(e) a substantial business, financial, or property interest in a foreign country, or in any foreign-owned or foreign-operated business, which could subject the individual to heightened risk of foreign influence or exploitation;

(f) failure to report, when required, association with a foreign national;

(g) unauthorized association with a suspected or known agent, associate, or employee of a foreign intelligence service;

(h) indications that representatives or nationals from a foreign country are acting to increase the vulnerability of the individual to possible future exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;

(i) conduct, especially while traveling outside the U.S., which may make the individual vulnerable to exploitation, pressure, or coercion by a foreign person, group, government, or country.

Mitigating Conditions

Extract from the Guideline

(a) the nature of the relationships with foreign persons, the country in which these persons are located, or the positions or activities of those persons in that country are such that it is unlikely the individual will be placed in a position of having to choose between the interests of a foreign individual, group, organization, or government and the interests of the U.S.;

(b) there is no conflict of interest, either because the individual's sense of loyalty or obligation to the foreign person, group, government, or country is so minimal, or the individual has such deep and longstanding relationships and loyalties in the U.S., that the individual can be expected to resolve any conflict of interest in favor of the U.S. interest;

(c) contact or communication with foreign citizens is so casual and infrequent that there is little likelihood that it could create a risk for foreign influence or exploitation;

(d) the foreign contacts and activities are on U.S. Government business or are approved by the cognizant security authority;

(e) the individual has promptly complied with existing agency requirements regarding the reporting of contacts, requests, or threats from persons, groups, or organizations from a foreign country;

(f) the value or routine nature of the foreign business, financial, or property interests is such that they are unlikely to result in a conflict and could not be used effectively to influence, manipulate, or pressure the individual.

This is only under foreign influence there is another section that focuses on foreign preference but unfortunately I have to wrap up the show. Just know that these things are looked at in the security clearance process. The best way to really get the answers is to talk to the agencies specifically about your situation and find out what their rules and regulations are. Since we do have many naturalized citizens whose immediate family are not U.S. Citizens but these individuals have the skills in terms of languages, etc our government needs there has been many changes in rules and regulations regarding immediate family.

I hope this was helpful. If you need more assistance with this please contact me at and we can set up a consultation to discuss your individual details more. Take care and I wish you much success.


Derrick Dortch: Well my producer is giving me the cue to wrap it up. Thank you so much for stopping by today's show. We will be back in two weeks with another great show, and I look forward to answering your questions. Know that I appreciate you and your questions and comments.

I also want to thank my producer for today, Sarah Halzack, for doing such an excellent job.

I will be back in two weeks. Till then take care, be careful and I wish you much success in your career, work, and life!


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company