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Frequently Asked Questions About Federal Jobs

The following questions and answers are most commonly associated with the federal jobs application process.

What Qualifications Do I Need?

NIFA strives to hire the best qualified people for its positions. The Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) establishes basic qualifications for every occupation in the Federal Government.

NIFA vacancy announcements:

  • Describe the minimum qualifications required for each position.
  • Detail any other qualifications, called selective factors, that candidates must also have to be considered eligible for each position.

You shouldn't apply for a position if you don't meet both the required minimum qualifications and any selective factors described in the vacancy announcement.

If you do meet both the minimum qualifications and selective factors, you may use your experience and education to write the required response to the KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities), which are listed in the vacancy announcement.

Your experience and education help make you “basically qualified” for some positions and “highly qualified” for others. As long as you meet the minimum qualifications and the selective factors, the closer your experience and education match the position's requirements the better your chance to be rated “highly qualified.”

What Are KSAs?

Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are the requirements needed to perform a job and are demonstrated through qualifying experience, education, or training.

Each vacancy announcement will list the KSAs required in terms of “specialized experience” or “selective factor” requirements. In determining if you qualify for a position, reviewers will evaluate your education and experience against the KSAs for each position. Because each position is different, the requirements for each will be different.

When you apply for federal positions, it is important for you to show that you meet the “specialized experience” and “selective factor” requirements for the position in your application package. You can do this by either including the information in your basic application or by addressing these requirements separately from your application.

If you choose to address your KSAs separately, you should keep your responses brief and to the point. You need to relate your responses to the requirements of the job for which you are applying and should give examples that clearly demonstrate how your knowledge, skills, and abilities meet the requirements of the position. If you choose to rely on your basic application rather than write separate responses to the KSAs, you should be sure your basic application covers all the KSAs so that the reviewers don't have to read between the lines to connect your basic application to the KSAs. As an applicant, you are responsible for showing how your education and experience meet the requirements for positions.

How Do I Prepare for an Interview?

During an interview, you should strive to put your best foot forward. To do this, you must know your own capabilities and limitations, understand the job for which you are interviewing, know what you can contribute to the organization and the position, and present yourself and your capabilities positively. Interviews are stressful for most people. You can avoid some of the stress by preparing beforehand.

Applicants interviewed for NIFA positions, in some cases, may be required to conduct a seminar as part of the interview process.

The following tips might be useful to you in preparing for interviews:

  • Know the Organization. Research the organization beforehand. Visit the organization's Web site and read up on the agency's mission and about the specific part of the organization where the position is located. Talk to others who work in the organization.
  • Be Enthusiastic. Show that you're truly interested in the job you applied for and in the organization. Speak clearly and smile.
  • Be Yourself. Don't put on an act for the interviewer. Being yourself may help you relax during the interview and eliminate unnecessary stress.
  • Be Prepared. Review your resumé or job application. Review the announcement for the job. If you have time, you might want to request a copy of the position description for the job so you can get a better understanding of the position you applied for.
  • Be Honest. Openly discuss with the interviewer your work skills, strengths, and experience, including reference to any volunteer work you perform. If you do not have experience directly related to a particular task that's part of the job, say so. Explain your willingness to learn new skills. Don't exaggerate your experience; simply present yourself in a positive manner.
  • Look Your Best. You will never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Dress for your interview in clothing appropriate to a typical office environment.

If you don't get the first job, keep trying. Each interview should be viewed as a learning experience and will be helpful as you try to land the right job.

What Forms Do I Use?

To apply for federal positions, you can submit a completed resumé, curriculum vitae, or an Application for Federal Employment - Optional Form (OF) 612, along with other documents requested in each vacancy announcement.

You can download the OF-612, as well as other employment forms used in the application process, below: