12 TIPS FOR CRAFTING FEDERAL APPLICATION ESSAYS
Despite layoffs and a lack of jobs plaguing the world of work, the nation’s largest employer—the federal government—hasn’t stopped hiring, nor does it plan to anytime soon. In fact, the federal government is expected to offer red-hot hiring within the next few years due to a high percentage of its workers transitioning into retirement, say Karol Taylor and Janet Ruck, co-authors of Guide to America’s Federal Jobs, Fourth Edition.
To score one of these in-demand jobs with Uncle Sam, applicants will sometimes have to submit a one-page essay in addition to their federal government application. “If the job you are applying for requires essays, you have a tremendous opportunity to showcase your accomplishments, highlight your qualifications, and target your expertise to the job,” say Taylor and Ruck.
In their book, they suggest the following tips for writing a powerful application essay:*
Tailor each answer to read between half a page and a page in length.
Use the active voice.
Write in the first person, using personal pronouns.
Proofread your work and correct any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Always use plain language and don’t use acronyms.
Use keywords from the vacancy announcement whenever it’s appropriate.
Make sure you answer the question that is asked.
Include examples that demonstrate your ability to take initiative, as well as any other
personal management skills that are important to the position.
Cite quantitative data where possible. Use data that measures how much (such as how much
money or time you generated or saved) and how many (such as how many people attended,
how many units you produced) and point to positive change (percentage growth or savings) to
which you directly contributed wherever possible.
Make sure your answers reflect your level of responsibility. Clearly identify whom you
interacted with and how (for example, providing key information to a manager, working with a
group of peers, or supervising a team).
Focus on examples of your experience from the last five years, if possible. Each answer should
include one example; try to use different examples for each answer. However, it is okay to
use the same example and to go back beyond five years if the example is powerful.
*Tips excerpted from Guide to America’s Federal Jobs, Fourth Edition.