Government careers

Derrick Dortch
Career counselor
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; 11:00 AM

Federal careers expert Derrick Dortch was online Wednesday, March 3, 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.


Derrick Dortch: Good morning, Good Morning!

Looks like its a little overcast today but its still a beautiful day and we are going to have a great show.

Some conversations I have had recently with some Federal Job Seekers made me think of some advice that I need to share with everyone. For anyone who is doing a Federal Job Search especially for those who are currently unemployed make sure you are doing what I call a "Parallel Job Search or Multiple Sector Job Search". The Federal Government hiring process is just that, a process, and as many people know it can be a long, time consuming and frustrating one. Even after getting a conditional offer of employment with some Federal agencies if a clearance is required then you may still have several months for that process to be completed before you can start as a Federal employee.

With this being the case you do not want to fully focus on a Federal Job Search and think that will get you a position quickly. I am not saying it wont happen but the instances where a Federal Job Search is completed quickly are rare. If you are searching for Federal Employment you need to make sure you keep a position so you will have stability while you are doing your Federal Job Search. If you are unemployed and you need to get income coming in which is usually the case you need to divide your time accordingly and with the "Parallel Job Search or Multiple Sector Job Search" strategy you conduct searches in both the Federal sector as well as the private and/or non-profit/NGO sector. What you have to make sure you do is find something that is going to stabilize you and get income coming in where you can take care of your financial and family obligations. Continue to push hard and do your Federal Job Search but do no focus only on that search and think that a position will come quickly. Now when you get another job and you are stabilized you can focus fully on your Federal Job Search.

One last point on this: You also want to make sure you stabilized with employment because you do not want to fall into too much of a financial crisis situation. Financial issues are one of things that are looked at when you are going through a security clearance process.

Also let me mention this: is having a Federal Webinar today. Here is the information:

Federal Webinar: Vacancy Announcements in Plain English

March 3, 2010 from 1- 2PM EST

Register at:

I interviewed Chris McConnell the Editor of on my radio show recently and he shared some good information for Federal Job Seekers and talked about about how is a good additional resource to use in search. You can find that interview here:

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 anything related to succeeding in your career, work, and life 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.: Thank you for your chats. I had an interview with the DoS yesterday, and I believe it went reasonably well. Other than the standard boilerplate thank-you letter, what else should I include? I failed to ask when they would reach a decision during the interview, so would it be appropriate to ask in the thank you letter?

Derrick Dortch: Hello DC,

Thanks for your question. I never believe in boiler-plate thank you letters/email or boiler-plate anything for that matter. What I want you to do is to think about being targeted in everything you do. Now that you have had the interview you can review everything in your mind and begin going over what you did great on what you did not do great on. You can also think about the emphasis of the interview. Did they focus on one thing more than the other? Think about the full interview and take notes on your performance, what questions were asked, if there was any personal conversation or personal information that you found out about one of your interviewers, or was there something that you learned about their work that you did not know before. From these notes you should begin to develop your thank you. Having this knowledge will guide you on what you should say. You want to keep it professional but with a touch of the personal. You want to show that you were paying attention to details. You want to be able to persuade them that you are the right person for the job if they are on the fence about you and one other person. So include both elements in thank you letter. Also based on what you found of the emphasis was at this Department of State interview you may have some other reports or papers or other work that you have done that is directly related to this offices work. You may want to consider sending over some documents and telling the interviewer what they are and how they are relevant. This helps to provide proof of your capabilities and may be the one extra thing that pushes you to the top.

I could go on but the key is to be professional, add a touch of the personal, and then show some extra to demonstrate you are the best qualified candidate.

In your email or letter you can also try to ask questions about the next steps in the process and when decisions will be made. This will also give them a reason to write back to you and now you are in the process of developing a network contact regardless of the outcome.

I hope this helps. Congrats on the DoS interview and let me know how it works out. Take care and I wish you much success.


Norristown, Penn.: I was fired from my last job for performance after a new manager was hired and set out to bring in her own people. I had been with the company for 6 years and had an excellent performance record prior to this. I then applied for a federal job and received a conditional offer of employment. When I disclosed what happened, the agency rescinded their employment offer. Do I have any chance of securing a ferderal job after being fired? Am I able to apply to other agencies or will this situation prevent me from any type of federal employment?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Norristown, PA,

I am very sorry to hear about the firing and the rescinding of your Conditional Offer of Employment with that Federal agency. Do not let it stop you from pushing forward. The answer is yes you can secure Federal employment after being terminated from your job. With your situation it might the fact that you put down the termination but it could have been how it was explained or not explained in your SF-86 or whatever security clearance process they were using with you.

You can apply to other Federal agencies but what I would recommend you do is talk to someone about this clearance process to determine what exactly happened and why your offer was rescinded. I am not sure if it was the termination or something else that caught the attention of the adjudicator but this needs to be examined while you proceed with your Federal Job Search so this will not happen again.

You can talk to some of the law offices who do security clearance counseling. Also my company does it as well if you need us. But make sure you talk to someone and get this straightened out. If you need additional help contact me at and we will see about getting you a consultation.

Take care and I wish you much success.


Baltimore, Md.: Derrick,

What is the single biggest mistake federal job seekers make, and what is the one thing that all successful federal job seekers have in common?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Baltimore,

The most common mistake I see Federal Job Seekers make falls under a couple of categories.

First: Targeting the Wrong Positions

I see many people targeting positions that they are not qualified for and this causes them a great deal of frustration. If you do not have the key part of what they are asking for in the qualifications area then you should not apply to these positions. I often times have many people who do not read through the full Federal job announcement and so they fail to read the qualifications and what is required to apply. The key to being successful in your Federal Job Search is to apply to the right positions.

Second Mistake: Not Selling Yourself

I see many people with resumes that are very job descriptive and do not have any success stories in them. I also see many people not utilizing the space allotted to them on the online applications where they can use that to sell themselves. On USAJOBS for example you have 3000 characters that you can use for each one of your job experiences. Because many times our jobs include several capacities that we work under (for example a Project Manager is dealing the not only the project management but budgeting and financial management, quality assurance, personnel management, etc.) we may have different resumes in USAJOBS or other places depending on the position we are targeting. For each one of your resumes you have to make sure you are telling relevant success stories in your resume along with your duties. And let me elaborate on success stories. When you are writing a success story you need to write it in the SAR or CCAR method. Situation, Action, Results, or Context, Challenge, Action, Results. You need to show a story and how it led to the result. Many people will just put the result in some quantitative form but that is not enough.

Third mistake: Only relying on one method to apply to Federal Jobs. You can not just rely on USAJOBS and you cannot be passive. You have to be proactive. Yes, you apply online but you should also go to career fairs, you should also call the HR office and get a point of contact, if you are able you should visit the HR office, you should network, you should utilize other options to help you get the Federal job you want, not just applying online.

I could go on and on but I will stop here for now. The common thread that successful Federal Job Seekers have is that they are following these steps above. They are targeting the right positions, they are selling themselves in their Federal Resumes, KSAs, ECQs or any other self-marketing materials being utilized. They are also exploring all options and networking, going to career fairs and hiring events, etc. They know that its about both what you know and who you know so they are working to get to know people and this will make a difference. Lastly they are also patient and persistent. They know this is not an overnight process. It takes time but they know they will get there.

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


21229: Are the U.S. District Courts a true federal goverment job?

Derrick Dortch: Yes, the U.S. District Courts do fall under Federal employment.


Silver Spring: I have a really dumb question.

I was going to apply for a gov job and they ask if you ever held a fed position before.

Well I did but not sure I want or need to put it down.

I worked in a part-time position 14-15 years ago, got made permanent but my boss had it out for me and didn't keep me after my probation period was up.

Do I need to put this down? I don't want to lie but I would rather not put this down.


Derrick Dortch: Hello Silver Spring, MD,

Never lie on a Federal application. Put the job down. Since it was 14-15 years ago I doubt if anyone will pay real attention to it. Focus on selling yourself with experiences you have had after that are relevant and more powerful. That is the key for you.

If you are asked about the position just be honest and say that it did not work out and you moved on to another position and you achieve great success doing that.

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


Arlington, Va.: I had a 2-month internship with the State Dept about 15 years ago. Would the clearance I received for that internship count towards a clearance for a full-time post? Is it worth citing in a job application?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Arlington, VA,

Clearances only last for 24 months after you leave a position. Since your clearance was at least 13 - 15 years ago it would not be helpful to try to sell yourself or apply to current clearance jobs with that. What I would suggest is that you put down that you worked at the State Department and held a clearance during that time. Focus on your experience and what you learned and how you contributed to the mission of State and Bureau you were working in during that period of time. That would probably be more helpful to you in regards to self-marketing.

Remember: The Federal Government will clear you to work for them. Just as they did when you worked at State Department as an intern they will do it when they give you a full time position as well.

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


Washington, D.C.: Mr. Dortch,

Is there any way to anticipate which agencies will have the upcoming jobs that will come out of the health care reform (yes, I feel that someting will come out of Congress) bill? Also, in terms of qualification for positions by education, do classes taken from institutions such as the Graduate School, help towards qualifying for these jobs? Thanks.

Derrick Dortch: Hello DC,

The best way to do this is to follow the legislation and the bill as its being written. If you go to the Library of Congress (LOC) website and look for a system called THOMAS. This is a site that tracks legislation. Find out the actual name of the bill that relates to Health Care Reform and begin to read through it. You can begin to write down what agencies are being placed in charged to do certain specific tasks. You may find that there may be something in the legislation that discusses creating a new agency.

Me and my team read through legislation as well as the Federal Register daily to see what is going on. You can find some pretty interesting and helpful stuff if you do so. Here are the links:



Using these tools you can begin to look at agencies and determine what is going on and what additional hiring they may be doing in the near or long term future.

If you know of any particular agencies you want to target I would suggest that you make a list and then on a weekly basis follow what is going on with that agency and monitoring what positions open up.

Now as it relates to qualifications this may be more difficult to find out. What you can do for this is begin contacting the HR office of the agency that will be impacted by the changes and ask them about positions and what are the qualifications for them. You do have to assume under the mission of certain agencies they will hire certain professionals whether they are scientists, engineers, lawyers, program managers, program analysts, etc.

I hope this helps. Take care and I wish you the best.


Research Triangle Park, N.C.: As a career employee at the USEPA, who happens to be over 50 years of age, how can I position myself to still be considered for promotions? I apply for every position I can find, for which I'm qualified that would be a promotion, and am usually referred to the selecting official, but never selected. I'm a team player and use deoderant every day -- what else can I do?

Derrick Dortch: NC,

Sounds like you may have reached the point where you are a GS-13 and are now at a ceiling. I would need to know more about your situation to fully advise you but I would suggest that if you have a good boss you first meet with him or her and discuss your desire to move up within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If they are open to it they may be able to put you in a developmental position or even allow you to work on a special detail that will allow you to get more exposure and then a promotion.

I would also suggest that you begin networking. If I am correct and you are a GS-13 then when you start trying to get into the ranks of the GS 14 - 15 and SES it becomes much more political. If you are trying to stay within your region you are going to have to start to find ways to get to know those in the higher ranks. You want them to know your name and your work but its going to be up to you to get to know them. No one will do it for you.

I would also suggest that you look at getting more training. Look at going to The Federal Executive Institute and the Management Development Centers and other trainings so that people can see you are serious. You can find this center here:

I would also suggest that you think about taking on a project that will provide you access and more exposure than you have had in past years. This may be risky because it may be a new program or project but with that risk if you do a good job there is usually high rewards.

By you getting people to know you and your work more then they will want you to be a part of the management and leadership team at EPA.

I hope this helps. If you need more assistance please contact me at and we will see about getting you a consultation.

Take care and I wish you much success.


Anonymous: Are various federal Agencies going to continue to employ contract labor in the field offices or are we finally going to get employees of the U.S. government in place of contractors? Contract employees have no evaluation process, the site supervisors that I have had to deal with in my job are less than qualified, and the contractors help to bring down moral in the field. In addition, sensitive information should not be viewed, reviewed or at the disposal of anyone not controlled by government employees.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Anonymous,

Over the next few years there will be a great deal of insourcing of jobs and transitioning them from contractor to Federal. Does this mean that contracting will go away? NO. It does mean that some agencies will begin to rely on them less and will increase their workforce with Federal employees rather than contractors.


New York, N.Y. : I am interested in a position that is advertised on as falling under two different agencies. It is listed under DOJ/OIG, and it is also listed separately, under the Oversight and Review Division at DOJ. Should I apply to both jobs (they have the same control number), or just to one? I don't want to miss any opportunities, but I don't want to come off as not-credible.

Derrick Dortch: Apply to both. You will be fine. Always cover all bases.


Derrick Dortch: Well looks like my producer is telling me to close it up for today. We will be back in two weeks with another show where I will do my best to answer all of your questions. Thank you so much for participating and stopping by the show today. Please know that you are truly appreciated.

I also want to thank my producer Sakina as usual for doing a great job and keeping me on track.

Till the next time please be careful out there and I wish you much success in your career, work and life.

Derrick T. Dortch


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