Government careers

Derrick Dortch
Career counselor
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; 11:00 AM

Federal careers expert Derrick Dortch was online Wednesday, February 17, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss government job searching and military transition. Dortch is president of The Diversa Group, a firm that focuses on career counseling and development.

The transcript follows


Derrick Dortch: Good Morning, Good Morning! I hope all of you are doing excellent. Looks like we made it through the snow storm of 2010. I am sure I can speak for many and say that we are all looking forward to spring. I am going to kick into high gear and start answering questions today but let me share some information on career fairs first.

If you have participated in my chats on a regular basis you may know by now that I am an advocate of going to career fairs as one way to find a job. Now I know that career fairs can be chaotic, frustrating and very time consuming but I have seen people and helped people get results that have led to an interview and eventually the job by going to a career fair and implementing the right strategy. Many people ask me where do find career fairs. Well below I am providing you a list of where various agencies who attend career fairs often list what career fairs/job fairs/recruiting events they will be participating in. If these are agencies you are interested in then I would suggest you definitely try to get to one of these fairs. Also remember that usually where you see one government agency attending a career fair more than likely there may be a few others who will be participating as well.

Career Fairs can be good because you can get that face to face time with a recruiter or representative and really sell yourself. When I say sell yourself that means you need to go wayyyy beyond just the basics of providing your resume. Selling yourself means that you need to know as much about the agency as possible and know how your SEEQ (Skills, Education, Experience and Qualifications) relate to that agency and its mission. You need to pull out the jobs they are hiring for and know exactly what you want to target and be able to sell yourself based on that target. You need to have targeted resumes that focus on the positions they are hiring for and the agency and again shows why you are qualified to work for that agency. So when I tell you that you have to sell yourself what you do in preparing for a career fair is much more than just showing up in a suit with a bunch of resumes. The more preparation you do the better response you will have.

A NOTE TO FEDERAL AGENCIES: Now let me take a moment to talk to all agencies who are participating in career fairs. Please stop having career fair attendees wait in long lines to get up to the booth and speak to a representative to only be told that they should go to the website. This is insulting and disrespectful to those who have waited for long periods of time to actually talk to someone face to face. I know its difficult to talk to everyone but if you have to increase your manpower at the fair do so. Agencies who attend career fairs and do this are doing their agency a disservice by taking this approach. Job seekers who deserve better and all they want is a fair shot at a position with your agency. Give them the respect they deserve. If they are not qualified for various positions with your agency tell them that. If they are then talk to them about applying and take their resume and follow up with them via email or phone call to set up an initial screening interview or testing. I know agencies think that sending people to the website is the best thing to do but for most of those attending job fairs they have already been to the website and they have already applied and many times have not heard anything back. This is one of the reasons why they are at the career fair because they want to talk to a real person with the hope that they can sell and market themselves enough to at least get an interview. I know its overwhelming but I ask that you remember when you were a job seeker or at the minimum put yourself in the shoes of a job seeker who has looking and looking and looking for jobs and been trying to get into the Federal Government for a long time. To be told to just go to the website without really giving this person a true opportunity to talk and give you their pitch is wrong. For those in agencies who read this please change that approach. If not just put up a banner instead of a booth and tell people to visit your site for jobs.

Back to JOB SEEKERS: Now for those who can not make it to the career fair it is still good information to know that these agencies are recruiting through career fairs. Keep in mind that many agencies do not spend money to recruit unless they need to really hire people from the outside. Agencies can put up job announcements on USAJOBS for free. So when you see an agency at a career fair and more than likely they have paid for a booth this means they are really recruiting people from external sources. Given this fact this should make this agency more of a target if it is one of your targets.

Here is a list of career and recruiting events for various agencies. I hope its helpful. Also remember that The Washington Post has a listing of events on the jobs section. You can find this listing here:


DIA Hiring & Recruiting Events

NSA Career Fair Schedule

Customs & Border Protection Recruiting Events

FBI Recruiting Events

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Recruitment Calendar - Click Careers and look down. You will see "Recruitment Calendar"

Secret Service Career Fairs

Career Fair List - Provided by the Army Career and Alumni Program

USCG Civilian Careers - Career Events

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Career Events

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) - Recruiting Events

Food & Drug Administration Nationwide Career Fair Schedule

Department of Justice Office of Attorney Recruitment & Management (OARM)

Recruitment Event Schedule

Peace Corps Recruiting Events

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Recruitment Events

National Park Service - Wolf Trap - Job Fair



Intelligence Careers

Tech Expo USA

Military Officers Association of America Career Fair

Corporate Gray

Cleared Jobs

Job Zone

Women Job Fairs

Expo Experts Job Fairs

Diversity Job Fairs

Transition Assistance Online

Security Clearance Expo

National Career Fairs

Transition Careers

Idealist - Non-Profit Career Fairs

Women for Hire Career Expos

EOP Diversity Recruitment Career Fair Schedule

Virginia Employment Commission Job Fairs

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!!!


Gaithersburg, Md..: I have been trying to switch over to Federal Agecny for the past 1 year Agency as Contract Specialist GS 9-11. I have been applying through USAJobs for the past 1 year but have not had a respons. I am looking for some advice on how to get an interview. Can you please help? Thank you.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Gaithersburg, MD,

Its hard to say why exactly you have not had any response. Contract and Acquisition Specialist positions have been deemed as critical hire positions so there is a need. When you have been applying and applying and applying for quite some time and you have not received any hit or made any cert lists or received any positive feedback it is time for you to reassess. This means you need to look at two things. One, are you truly qualified for the positions you are targeting. I see many people targeting positions they are not qualified for and this causes frustration because they don't hear anything back. Take a serious look at if you are qualified for the positions you are targeting. Second, if you are qualified then you need to take a serious look at your self-marketing materials. Is your Federal Resume truly selling you and showing that you are qualified. Do you have relevant success stories in your materials that will show your accomplishments and achievements as it relates to the jobs you are targeting.

Keep in mind that for many positions that are announced agencies are received 200 to 400 to thousands of applicants. With this volume you have to make sure you make your materials targeted, powerful and persuasive. They have to be more than just duties and responsibilities.

Lastly I would suggest that you think about finding out if any of the agencies you are targeting are attending career fairs or have any direct hiring initiatives going on. If they do you should attend the career fair and if they are doing direct hire you need to contact the agency and find out more about this initiative.

Take a good look at self and retool and get back out there. Do not wait a year again. Every few months you need to reassess if your job search strategy is working. Do not get stagnant in your approach. Be flexible and adapt to the ever changing job market.

I would suggest that you may even want to have a professional critique your resume based on the positions you are targeting. This may be very helpful and give you the right insight on how to make your package more competitive and interview winning.

I hope this helps! Take care and I wish


Bethesda, Md.: I am a senior executive with 20 years of operational and marketing management experience. I have managed a team of 400 and a P&L of $1.8B. Early in my career I worked for the Federal Government doing lots of procurement then worked for a Federal contractor bidding on Federal contracts. Is there a way I can position my skills for a senior management position with a Federal Contractor? They all seem to disqualify me because I don't have recent experience with government contracts yet I know I have the operational and management skills to efficiently manage large profitable lines of business.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Bethesda, MD,

Great question. I would encourage you to think about becoming a senior executive in the federal government. Take a look at the Senior Executive Service:

Now for government contractor positions and getting to the senior executive ranks I think you are going to have to do two things. I am not sure what line of business you worked in but you may need to really target government contractors who are winning contracts related directly to your past experience. Since the Federal Government contracts with companies for many goods and services there is probably a strong likelihood that what have experience with there is some government contractor doing that work for the Federal Government. That is one approach.

Second approach is that you have to show through your resume that even though your Federal experience was some time ago the Federal Acquisition rules that you have dealt with are not too different from when you did this work. Now i am not sure this is the case or not but if it is I think you can develop your resume around the fact that you had this Fed experience and that it would take you no time to ramp back up again. This means a redevelopment and re-targeting of your resume.

Third I would go to various headhunters who do searches for government contractors and put your resume in with them.

Fourth, I would really do some strong networking. This is what DC/MD/VA is really about. Since you are an executive already you need to get back involved in certain associations where other executives who work for many of the government contracts will be. Let me give you one example. Since many contractors work on defense and homeland security initiatives you may want to think about becoming a member of the National Defense Industrial Association. Here is the link:

Many executives will be a part of this. There are other associations like this around that you can join, get involved in and start networking yourself.

I am not sure if you are still working as an executive for your company but there is a group called Business Executive for National Security (BENS). Here is the link:

You may want to consider joining them. Many decision making executives belong to this group.

If you are still with your company then you may want to consider getting them involved in Infraguard. This is a government and private sector partnership to make sure that critical resources and infrastructure are protected. Many executives of government contractors belong to it. You can find the link here:

I could go on and but you get my point. The executive level is always a tough nut to crack so you have to do all of the above and more. If you need more assistance contact me at and we will set you up with a consultation.

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


Des Plaines, Ill.: How does a federal resume differ from your typical resume? Also, is there such a thing as a federal cover letter? I am currently working with a career counselor, but their background is not securing a job with the federal gov't. So, how do I find an expert in this area?

Thank you.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Des Plaines,

A Federal Resume differs in that fact that the level of detail is much greater. Where a regular resume is 1 - 2 maybe 3 pages the standard Federal Resume is 3 - 5 pages or more depending on the level you are applying. The Federal Job search is different because you have various application methods, you may have to answer KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) or MAF (Mandatory Assessment Factors) or essay response questions as a part of your application where typically with a private sector or non-profit sector job search you just have your resume and cover letter.

In terms of cover letters some agencies will have you submit a cover letter when applying so you so do need to have one. I think you have taken the right step to get help from a career counselor but you do need to find someone who can give you the right guidance. I would suggest you ask your career counselor to refer you. Here are some other firms that do Federal Career Consulting or help people develop Federal Resumes and KSAs:

Federal Career Services

In full disclosure this Is my company. We are fully focused on providing services to help Federal Job Seekers and Federal Employees succeed in their career, work and life.

Resume Place

Resume Place is run by Kathryn Troutman who is the author of several books on writing Federal Resumes. She has been doing this work for quite some time and I can vouch for her work.

Career Perfect

I have not seen the work of Career Perfect but they have been around for some time now. Its a good place to consider.

KSA Doctor

I have not seen the work of KSA Doctor but they have been around for some time. Another good place to consider.

I hope this helps. Take care and I wish you much success.


Columbia, Md.: I just recently went through a complete background check w/a Federal Agency for a police job. I'm now waiting to hear if I will be selected after they complete the final step which is to clear me for security clearance. My question is, because I'm originally from Guinea, Conakry in West Africa and my whole family is from there, including mom and dad and they live there also. I'm a U.S. citizen and I've been living here for over 15 years, since my Freshman year in High School. Do you think that because of my place of birth I won't get a clearance? I'd like to note also that my wife is from here. So far everything we hear from background has been great feedback. I have my cousin who lives with me (25 years old). I'm helping him out because he's still in school, but he has a greencard. I was asked about status of 3 family members who live here in the States and they all have valid greencards (aunts and uncle). It's been only a week since I have spoken with the investigator and I was told i will hear something soon. Just wanted to know your thoughts.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Columbia, MD,

Honestly from everything you have told me I do not see any problems. Given the fact that you do have family in West Africa that may delay the process a bit because they will probably check this out and check to make sure your ties with them would not put you in a position that you would compromise national security but beyond that if you have no other issues I think you will be fine. What I will suggest is that you stay in touch with your security officer and any of the investigators who contacted you. Touch base with them every couple of weeks to see where they stand and make sure there are no problems. Ask them if there is anything else they need to expedite things. Also go back through your forms and make sure you have been as detailed as possible. Make sure you have given full addresses of your family in Africa. Make sure everything is and appears to be above board and that you have nothing to hide.

Do this and you should be good to go. Let me know how things work out. Again stay on top of things, be honest and be as detailed as possible. Theses are the keys to success in this. Let me know how things work out.

Take care and congrats on getting to offer for the Federal Police Officer position.


Silver Spring: Mr. Dortch:

Many thanks for the discussion. I am interested in positions at the GAO, FDIC, Treasury or DHS respectively. My background is over ten years within the financial services sector with practical experience in the privacy and fraud arenas. To boot I have even been recently documented as Schedule A qualified. Accordingly, I have applied for a number of positions since December but have not heard any word. How long does the process take, especially for the agencies I listed. Also, are you aware of other resources, avenues that I should be exploring?

Many thanks.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Silver Spring, MD,

Thanks for your question. In terms of the time it may take to hear back about a position that really varies. What I honestly suggest is that you do the following:

First: Get the contact info on the job announcement. Make sure you try to reach someone before apply for the position. Call and email. The key is to touch base with someone who can answer your questions. When you reach a point of contact talk to them and find out what is the time table for the job announcement. Ask when do you they expect to do selections, when will those who are selected to go up the selecting official be sent, when do they expect to have interviews, and when do they want someone in the door working. Try to find out this information. If you find this out it will allow you to do follow-up's at the appropriate times and find out what is going on.

There are many avenues to explore. I mentioned the career fairs earlier in the show. Many DHS agencies will be participating in fairs and they are definitely hiring.

I would also suggest you get out to various events where people from agencies you are interested in are speaking or presenting. Let me give you an example. The Office of Foreign Assets Control from the Department of Treasury has a listing of various events where they will be presenting. I would suggest you find a way to be there, ask questions and meet some people and do some networking. Here is the listing of that office's events:

You should also contact your Office of Alumni Affairs from the college or university you did your undergad and graduate work (if you did that) and see if you can get a list of alums from your schools who now work in the Federal Government. Try to contact them. Also explore any other network contacts and see if anyone has any ties to these agencies. You have a targeted list so I am sure you can probably find someone who is either work for or knows someone working for one of these agencies.

I would also suggest you begin looking at TERM, NTE (Not to Exceed) and TEMP positions. These are term limit positions of usually 1 - 2,3,4,5 years. This means you work for the Federal Government but you are not a permanent employee. This is a good door opener. Do keyword searches in USAJOBS under TERM, NTE, and TEMP. I just did a quick search and one of the agencies you are interested in came up:

Job Title: Asset Management Spec., CG-1101-14 (Term Appt NTE 2 Years)

Agency: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Sub Agency: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Job Announcement Number: 2010-HQD-B1640

SALARY RANGE: 105,155.00 - 201,984.00 USD/year

OPEN PERIOD: Friday, February 12, 2010 to Friday, February 26, 2010

SERIES & GRADE: CG-1101-14/14


Competitive service This is a term appointment limited to 2 years and may be extended another 2 years..


DUTY LOCATIONS: 20 vacancies - Washington, DC; 2 vacancies - New York City, NY


Applicants with federal status should apply to

the "Public Status Positions" announcement

2010-HQ-B1641 for this same vacancy. Merit

Promotion referrals will not include applicants

to this announcement.

This is a term appointment limited to 2 years. It may be extended an additional two years.

These TERM and other positions are sometimes designated as quick hire positions because they are designed to fill a critical need. It is a door opener but you have to keep in mind that once you are in you will have to begin looking for another job within 6 months or so.

I hope this helps. Please contact me at if you need more assistance. We will see about setting you up with a consultation. Take care and I wish you much success.


Upper Marlboro, Md.: Hello Mr. Dortch - Thanks for the information. I feel confident that I have some great qualifications for the Federal Government (as well as private industry for that matter ---- MBA, PMP, 10+ years account/project mgmt. experience, etc.) I must admit, I am frustrated w/the Federal Government application process. How realistic is it that I would be hired into the Federal Government (at least a grade 12) from private industry, given the fact that I do not have a security clearance?

Derrick Dortch: Upper Marlboro, MD,

First let me make one thing very clear. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A CLEARANCE TO APPLY TO A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT JOB! This is a myth that seems not to die. Government Contractors will many times require clearances and this is because they have a contract and need people to start right away so they can begin billing, providing the service to the government and making a profit. So for them its more about the economics of the situation. Its more profitable to get a cleared person and get them started then it is to hire a person and have to wait they are cleared and then get them started. To them that is revenue that is lost. Its not the say they will not hire people without clearances but their first preference is to hire a cleared person.

Now Federal Agencies are not focused on profit and loss. So you can apply and get hired by a Federal agency and be given a Conditional Offer of Employment (COE). During this time the agency will conduct a background investigation and adjudicate you if your position require a security clearance. This the security clearance process. Once they do this if everything is good to go they will then clear you and provide you whatever level clearance you need. The government does not require a clearance to apply. They will clear you. The same goes for the military.

As far as your qualifications are concerned from what you have told me in brief you seem well qualified. Do note that with this economy the way it is now there are many very very very qualified people applying for Federal jobs so you are going to have some still competition. The key for you being successful consists of targeting the right positions (positions that you are well qualified for) and then developing a package (Federal Resume, KSAs, etc.) that truly sell you to the employer.

So I encourage you to apply. The government always needs good project managers.

If you need more assistance please contact me at We will see about setting you up with a consultation.

Take care and I wish you much success!


Arlington, Va.: Derrick,

I've been waiting since nearly your last discussion to ask you this question: I'm a contractor & I've been told that my position is being converted to a Fed position. The people I work for really like me & want me to compete for the position but I'm paralyzed, where do I start? Just the entire process overwhelms me. of course, there is no guarantee that I'll get the position.


Derrick Dortch: Hello Arlington, VA,

Well you are in a good position. Let me give you a couple steps to make this process manageable. Since you know the people within the agency and you are also doing the work inside the agency as a contractor this gives you the inside track.

First: Get them to provide you a vacancy announcement or a job description. They may not have posted the job but I am pretty sure they have begun writing up the announcement or job description for the position. Get this because it will be your guide.

Second: Find out how they want you to apply. If you only have to submit a resume then this will be different if you have do submit a resume and KSA or essay question responses. Can you hand deliver or email your resume in or will they make you apply online through USAJOBS, AVUECENTRAL or some other online system. Know this will also guide you on how you should develop your materials.

Third: Enlist the help of those who want you to apply. Ask them for guidance on what should be in your resume and other self-marketing/application materials. If they want you to join them let them walk you through the process.

Fourth: Begin writing down your success stories that you have had while working there. For them to want you to work for them you must be a pretty stellar govt contractor so I am pretty sure you have some success stories to talk about. Write them down because you will include them in your resume and any other materials if necessary.

Fifth: Redevelop and target your resume. Let the bulk of your resume be focused on this position. Combine your success stories with various duties and responsibilities you have in the job right now. You want your materials to sell you. Do not take for granted that they like you show them that you are indeed the best candidate in everything.

Sixth: As you redevelop your materials have those who are assisting you give you feedback to make sure it exactly what is being sought after.

Follow these steps and this should make the process more manageable. If you need more assistance please contact me at We will see about setting you up with a consultation. Let me know how things work out.

You are in a great position so take advantage of it. Take care and I wish you much success.


Derrick Dortch: I wish I had more time but my producer is telling me we have to wrap it up for today. I want to thank all of you for your participation in today's show. Please know that I appreciate you very much so.

As usual I want thank my producer Sakina for all of her great work and support. I will be back in two weeks to answer more of your questions. Until then continue to be safe out there and do not give up on the Federal Job Search. Take care and I wish you much success in your career, work and life.

Derrick T. Dortch


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