Government careers

Derrick Dortch
Career counselor
Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 11:00 AM

Federal careers expert Derrick Dortch was online Wednesday, April 28, 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! Its a tad bit chilly outside but its a beautiful day and we are going to have a great show. The first thing I want to do is make an announcement about The BRAC CAREER FAIR on Tuesday, May 18th.

This is a career fair for BRAC Impacted Workers and there will be a number of Federal agencies and Government Contractor Firms who will be there looking to hire. You can find more information at You have to be a BRAC Impacted Worker to attend.

There are still open slots for agencies and companies to recruit at the BRAC CAREER FAIR. BRAC IMPACTED WORKERS are Federal Employees and Government Contractor Employees whose agencies are required to move to new locations because of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decisions in 2005. Many BRAC IMPACTED WORKERS ARE VETERANS. Many of these workers have Security Clearances (Secret, Top Secret, TS/SCI) and are high Qualified Candidates working at Federal Agencies in various career fields, including: IT, Engineering, Aerospace, Intelligence, Telecom, Operations, Human Resources, Mission Support, Finance & Accounting, Management and Program Analyst, Administrative Support and More.

The BRAC CAREER FAIR is FREE for any agency or government contracting firm to participate in. This event is sponsored by the Alexandria/Arlington Workforce Investment Board with funds from the US Department of Labor (DOL) specifically for BRAC.

Both BRAC Impacted Workers and agencies and companies interested in hiring these workers can find out more information and register at

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!!!


Radford, Va.: Is there a website or reference I can go to to match up job titles in the private sector with those in the government? For example I know you will find it hard to locate a job in the government as an Adjudicator because it is listed as a Personnel Security Specialist in the government. What is an Executive Assistant titled as in the government?

I know the short answer is "read the job description," but when you have numerous jobs and titles out there it can get tedious.

(P.S. - You know of any good Executive Assistant positions open?!)

Derrick Dortch: Hello Radford, VA,

Its funny that you should ask this question because I was just having this discussion last week with Linda Rix, Co-CEO of AVUE Technologies Corporation, they run which is a Federal job site. They just developed and released a program called a Resume Analyzer which takes a look at your resume and give you suggestions based on your experience, skills, and qualifications. If you sign on to you can use this tool as another part of your Federal Job Search.

You can also listen to my interview with her about the Resume Analyzer on my radio show on Federal News Radio 1500 here:

In terms of good executive assistant positions you will find them sometimes listed as Executive Assistant. In running a quick search in USAJOBS I saw several. Here is one for example:

Job Title: Executive Assistant

Department: Department Of Defense

Agency: Defense Intelligence Agency

Job Announcement Number: A10-027795-01-CDS

SALARY RANGE: 62,467.00 - 115,742.00 USD/year

OPEN PERIOD: Friday, April 16, 2010 to Friday, May 07, 2010

SERIES & GRADE: IA-0301-B03/B03



WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: United States Citizens

You might also want to do a search under the "Administrative or Administrative Specialist". These jobs may also catch your interest as well.

Do your search in USAJOBS ( but also in AVUECENTRAL ( and I would suggest you use as well as the Washington Post Jobs Section and other sites. Some Federal agencies will us a wide variety of sites and tools to get the word out about vacancies.

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


Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: What is the single most important factor to securing a federal government position without prior experience at any federal agency? Is it follow-up, is it packaging of the application, is it experience, education?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Ft. Lauderdale, FL,

You are in a beautiful part of our country. That area and Miami are some of my favorites. The most single factor honestly is all of the things you mentioned combined. You have to do all of those things in order to be successful with this Federal Job Search but if you want me to pull out one area that I think is truly critical that I see people failing at when it comes to this process then I would say its people not providing enough information about their relevant experience and not sharing enough success stories and achievements in their resume.

What many people do not realize is that when it comes to grading your materials and ranking you for a position the most important thing is not education. Where you will get the majority of your points is from your experiences and if they are relevant that is where you can score very high on a Federal application.

I see many people only putting job descriptive language in their resume and not telling any of their success stories and achievements in detail. You need to be able to tell why you are the best qualified for the job and be able to provide a story or example that will demonstrate that. Just putting job descriptive language will only get you on the minimum qualified list. It wont do anything else. You have to find a way to tell your story. Use the SAR or CCAR method.










With both of these you are giving detailed examples of relevant and I say again relevant success stories.

Take time to analyze the jobs you are applying to and find out what are they asking for over and over and over again and then determine how qualified are you for what they are asking. If you are very or competitively qualified you have to now tell the stories that will show it. Think of it like you putting your interview stories in your resume. This is what you need to do in your Federal Resume, KSAs and anything else you utilize.

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


Resume length for federal jobs: Derrick, I work at a federal agency that has been zero funded for the next fiscal year and the job hunt is on for a new federal position. We've been asked to send a hard copy resume to the office of management to be circulated and I have a question about what to send and resume length. I have my USA jobs resume and I have various hardcopy resumes for the private sector that are both long and short-a 2 page resume and a 4 page resume. Was wondering what would be more appropriate in this situation-the 2 pager that focuses in more detail on the 2 most current positions and light on other job history, or and everything I've ever done 4 page resume that highlights the different skills I that were utilized in each job-especially my past 3 jobs? thank you!

Derrick Dortch: Hello Resume Length,

I am always torn on the question of Resume Length because I do see the need for short resumes but I also see that sometimes they do people a disservice because they have been shortened to such a degree that the resume has no substance in it. To me in a competitive environment where you are competing with people who do your job or people who have similar qualifications you have to show substance in your resume. This means you have to sell yourself and you do this by telling your success stories and achievements within that agency and in the work you have been doing.

Now with me saying all of that let me get to the actual length. Since you want to have a a resume of substance that you are turning in then I think you can have anything from 2 - 4/5 pages. Most Federal Resume on average are about 3 - 5 pages. The good thing about this situation is that you have an opportunity to turn in a very solid, powerful, persuasive, targeted, and good looking resume. I would suggest you that do not just take your USAJOBS resume and have it in block form and turn that in. I would suggest you craft a "PRESENTATION STYLE RESUME".

This type of resume is one that has certain headings, has a nice font, is very easy to read and outlines what you bring to the table very clearly and it may have a summary of qualifications so that a manager can find out what you bring to the table very quickly without reading through your entire resume.

Think about what management in your agency is looking for in someone who they want to give a new position to and then target your resume towards that. If they are looking for Program/Project Management and you have done that at this agency then you may have a subheading under your job for that and in that section you will describe your experiences as a project/program manager but most importantly you will tell about your success stories in doing this work. Do not ever assume that people know your success stories. If you do not sell yourself and tell your story no one else will.

You may need to go and get some professional help in developing your resume as well. Whether you do it yourself or have someone to do it the key thing is that you are making sure you sell yourself. Do not just have job descriptive language. Make sure you have success stories. I cant emphasize this enough.

I hope that helps. Let me know how things work out. Take care and I wish you much success.


Trying to find the silver lining.: Do I chalk it up to internal hiring when I get a 100 on my KSAs and then I'm told they have hired someone else? Do I just have to keep trying?

Thank you.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Trying to find the silver lining,

I can hear the frustration that you have and I truly understand it. If you are getting 100 on your application then you HAVE TO KEEP ON TRYING. There are so many variables that play into why someone get a Federal position but you have at least mastered putting together a package that is scoring 100. This means you are doing something right and to give up now when you are close would be an injustice.

What I would suggest is that you now become more aggressive. You know what these agencies are looking for so keep putting together strong packages. But in addition to those strong packages I want you to reach out to the HR person and talk to them. Especially for agencies you are applying to over and over again. Let them know you are truly interested and being a Fed and that you are serious. Ask for advice and tips. Let them get to know you beyond the application and they can at times become your advocate.

Also think about how you can network. Is there anyone in these agencies who are alums from a school you went to? Is there anyone who you have a connection with? Do you know of any family and friends who work in thee agencies who can put in the good word? Do any of the people you want to talk to and meet belong to any associations that you can join? Are there any career fairs or hiring events these agencies are having that you can attend? Is there any additional training or experience you can get somewhere that will even make you more competitive than you already are?

Do whatever you can to bring more positive attention to yourself. Talk to the HR person and express your frustration about getting 100 but let them know you wont give up. Do not express anger and take it out on them, that can backfire on you.

You are very close. Be more proactive and aggressive with your search with patience and perseverance you will achieve your goal. DO NOT GIVE UP!

Let me know how it works out. Take care and I wish you much success.


Columbia, Md: Hi Derrick--are there any BRAC-related career fairs for agencies that are moving to Ft Meade? Where would a person interested in employers moving to the Ft Meade area as part of BRAC look for information on job openings? Thanks.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Columbia, MD,

Maryland has a BRAC Task Force for the state and each county has its own services. The same for Washington, DC. You can find information on MD BRAC here:

Since Columbia, MD is in Howard County I would suggest you take a look at the Howard County BRAC Task Force site and contact them about services and agencies moving into MD. Many agencies are moving to Ft. Meade so you will want to talk to the Anne Arundel County BRAC Information Center:

Each of these offices should be able to help you.

I would also suggest you look at the BASE REALIGNMENT & CLOSURE COMMISSION website at:

Go through and identify all the agencies who are moving to MD and then develop a target list. From there begin focusing your job search on those agencies. Many people who live in VA and their agency is moving to Ft. Meade or to another part of the country will begin looking for new jobs. This means that there is opportunity for you.

For many agencies who are going to Alabama or Kentucky many Federal workers who have established lives up here will not want to make that move. This means that in each of these areas were an agency is moving there is opportunity for someone who is not Federal to get into the door and take those open positions.

Identify agencies, call HR and talk to them about openings (there may be some coming up that are not announced), look for jobs at those agencies, and also look at government contractors who may be moving into those areas as well to support those agencies. Look at the big picture and ask the BRAC officials for the State of Maryland and the counties about all of this.

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


Got me waiting....: Derrick,

I had one interview in mid-February, and was brought back for a second interview in early March for an attorney position. Three weeks ago, I heard from a source not involved with the interviews or the hiring decision that an offer may have been made, but the position was still officially open. I haven't heard anything since my last interview, and phone calls have not been returned. Any idea what is going on? What should I do next?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Got Me Waiting,

I always hate this part of the process. The waiting game. What I would suggest if that you try to call the HR Point of Contact for the position you applied to and find out what is going on. If an offer has been made they will know because they will be the ones who will have to make the offer and begin the process. I am not sure how many times you have reached out to the hiring manager or those you interviewed with but if it has not been too many then I would suggest maybe one more friendly email and call and then you have to let it be when it comes to them.

If you do not have the HR Point of Contact because you did not copy it down you may be able to find a HR point of contact by either going to USAJOBS and searching under that agency and finding one of the HR Specialists name or you can also do a search within the agency. If you sometimes search long and hard enough then you will find HR points of contact listed. Let me just give you an example. If you did search through the Department of Justice website you will find employment contact under this link:

These are the actual HR representatives who can help you with employment questions and possible issues or at least direct you to the right person.

Reach out to the HR person as much as you need to until you get answers. I am sure I do not have to say this but please make sure you polite and friendly. When people get frustrated many times they will get an attitude and that will show when they are talking to someone. The way a person handles themselves can make a world of difference in terms of you getting help.

Let me know how it works out. I hope it works out in your favor but even if it doesnt what you can do is still follow up with the Hiring Manager and congratulate them on the new hire and wish them the best but let them know that you are still very interested in working at their agency and if any position does come up you would love to hear about it and be considered. Do not look at you not getting a position after an interview as defeat look at it as an opportunity to possibly build your network and learn about how to improve selling yourself by asking for a critique of your interview performance.

I hope this helps. Take care and I wish you much success. Please let me know what happens.


Detroit, MI: Is it possible for me to get a copy of the application I sent in to USAJOBS once I delete my profile? Turns out the latest one got me to the last stage of hiring at an agency but I no longer have it on file. I do have the contact (HR) person's information - do I just start there?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Detroit, MI,

Yes I would start there for sure. If it recently got you to the last stage of the hiring process then they should have something on file from you. If not just recreate that package but do it better. If the HR person does have your materials ask for advice on how it could be better and you may want to even get it professionally critiqued. Sounds like you are close so keep pushing forward.

Take care and I wish you much success.


Veterans Preference: When applying for government positions, we have run into occasions where the veterans preference description includes my son's 4 years at the USAF Academy and sometimes it doesn't. He doesn't feel comfortable using it, but it can make a huge difference in the selection process. Any idea why there would be a difference?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Veterans Preference,

The thing about Veterans Preference that many people do not understand is that military service does not automatically mean you have Veterans Preference. I am not sure if your sons time at the USAF Academy qualifies his for Veterans Preference and this may be why he is uncomfortable in using it. This is what it says are the qualifiers for 5 point Veterans Preference:

5-Point Preference (TP)

Five points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a veteran who served:

* During a war; or

* During the period April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955; or

* For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976; or

* During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992; or

* For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001, and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom; or

* In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge, including El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia, and Haiti, qualifies for preference.

A campaign medal holder or Gulf War veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980, (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982, and has not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty) must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty. The 24-month service requirement does not apply to 10-point preference eligibles separated for disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or to veterans separated for hardship or other reasons under 10 U.S.C. 1171 or 1173.

Veterans Preference can definitely help a persons application but you do not want him to put that down and he is not eligible for it. You can read more about this at these two links:

OPM Vets Guide

Feds Hire Vets Portal

Now what I would suggest your soon look at is his connection through the service academies. Getting into the USAF Academy is no small feat and those who have gone to the various academies usually have a strong network and allegiance to each other. Tell him to tap his alumni network:

He is also eligible to go to the career fair the academies have each year. You can find that information here:

I hope this helps. Take care and I wish your son much success.


Derrick Dortch: Okay, well my producer is giving me the nod that its time to wrap it up. Time goes by so fast but we will be back May 12th at 11 AM for another great show. As usual I want to thank my producer Sakina for all of her great work and I want to thank you for participating and stopping by the show today. I appreciate all of you very much so.

Till the next time please be safe out there, enjoy this weather and I wish you much success in your career, work and life. Take Care!!!

Derrick T. Dortch


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