Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Understanding Federal Job Postings

This first step in your successful federal job search is understanding what each piece of the job announcement means.

The ‘Job Title’ gives you the first clue to what the position is all about. For example, the ‘Human Resources’ part of the title is easy. However, the position type descriptor, ‘Assistant,’ says a lot about what you will be doing.

Most federal positions have two categories of positions for each field. A substantive, more independent version of this job would be a Human Resources Specialist. Assistant is usually interchangeably with Clerk or Technician. These identifiers mean that the position supports work at the specialist level. Getting in the door through an assistant position may create future opportunities, but you may be doing basic while you work your way up. For professional positions, the assistant/technician level jobs will be named in a similar manner as this HR Assistant. However, once you are in the professional field they will be named accordingly Civil Engineer or Economist.

*Note: All USAJobs vacancy announcement close at midnight eastern time.

The Pay System & Series & Grade piece of the announcement is critical for deciding if you meet the basic qualifications for a position. As you may have seen, there are many different types of positions. There are GS, YA, ZA, SV, etc. These are the pay schedule of the position. GS, otherwise known as the general schedule, is by far the most common. Each group of letters defines how you will be paid. The GS-system is a set of 15 grades, GS-01 to GS-15. Each grade has 10 steps and each step is a pay increase within that grade. I will be posting another entry specifically on qualifications requirements.
Other pay schedules, like YA or ZA, are pay banded systems, which means that there is a wider range of salary encompassing multiple levels of positions. The last numbers in the sequence GS-1320-13 tells you what grade (or band) the position falls within. The GS base pay is set worldwide and locality pay (in the US) or cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA for overseas) will be added on. Most US job announcements will list the salary amounts with the locality already added in. This position lists the GS-13 salary range with the locality pay added in.

The /13 piece means that this position does not have any promotion potential beyond the GS-13 level. For example, the HR Assistant position from above is a GS-06 target GS-07, written as GS-0203-06/07. Candidates can be hired at either grade depending on their qualifications. If they are hired at the GS-06, once they meet certain performance objectives and regulatory conditions, they can be promoted to the next grade without having to compete against their peers.

This non-competitive promotion potential is a widely used practice to allow and encourage the hiring of people who need training, but would make good hires. Some positions that start at a GS-07 have non-competitive promotion potential all the way to the GS-11! In three years, you can go from $40K to $60K per year.

The middle piece GS-0203-06 and GS-1320-13 is the job series of the position. Each series falls within an occupational category like the 0200s for Human Resources and the 1300s for the Physical Sciences. The following website details the wide variety of occupational families and the more specific job series under each: Feel free to explore to find types of jobs you would like. You can use the specific series you are interested in to narrow down your USAJobs search.

Stay tuned for the next installment…Are you qualified for this position? How to determine what you are qualified for?

For additional questions or clarifications, feel free to contact me: brownea2 at uw dot edu.