Get Hired! How to Land the Ideal Federal Job and Negotiate a Top Salary

Book Review by Janet Ruck

Review of Whiteman, Lily (2005). Get Hired! How to Land the Ideal Federal Job and Negotiate a Top Salary. FPMI Solutions. Alabama.

In her book, "Get Hired! How to Land the Ideal Federal Job and Negotiate a Top Salary", Lily Whiteman emphasizes the key points and offers useful topics for a federal job search. She liberally interjects humor throughout the book, which serves as a welcome antidote to the often mundane world of federal recruitment and hiring. Face it, folks, the federal hiring process is not scintillating, but the author gives her readers several good laughs using cartoons and humor.

Key Point #1: Applicants Must Sell Themselves
In chapter 6 (my favorite) entitled "Your Bragging Writes" Whiteman provides valuable information on how applicants can sell themselves on paper, by brainstorming their accomplishments, name-dropping and matching skills and achievements to the job vacancy announcement. She illustrates the journey of the federal application, from its submission all the way through the review process, providing a useful, hands-on look at why applicants must write for their audience.

Key Point #2: Omit the Bureaucratic Writing Style
The value of chapter 7 "Writing Killer Application Essays (KSAs and ECQs)" is Whiteman's encouragement and insistence that applicants write stories in order to make their applications interesting and thus readable to the individuals charged with reviewing applications. Whiteman provides a "behind-the-scenes" perspective from hiring managers and human resource professionals, personifying them and giving the reader of her book a glimpse at the "human" who is charged with reading pages and pages of text. "A boring KSA is unlikely to be read, much less remembered" (p. 114) is a message that I found to be refreshing and a good one to pass on to my clients, federal employees whose writing style is often very bureaucratic and sprinkled with "governmentese." 
Whiteman's Most Useful Topics

  • Searching federal openings : great information about the many sources of federal job openings
  • Finding student internships : a comprehensive list of intern programs for students (most of which are not listed on USAJOBS)
  • Studying vacancy announcements : how to read them, what to include in job applications
  • Writing applications : how to write KSA essays, resumes, cover letters
  • Interviewing and negotiating salary : dispels the myth that starting salaries are non-negotiable and gives great pointers on interview techniques

Federal Government "Brain Drain" 
In the article "Next Generation of Hires Must Be Cultivated Quickly and Differently, OPM Chief Says" (www.washingtonpost.com, February 1, 2006; Page B02)) Stephen Barr states that 60 percent of the government's 1.6 million white-collar employees and 90 percent of about 6,000 federal executives will be eligible for retirement over the next 10 years. OPM projects that the majority of the turnover will occur 2008 through 2010, as baby boomers and others leave Uncle Sam. The good news for federal candidates is that jobs may be plentiful, if OPM's projections are correct. Whiteman's book may have come just in time to provide assistance to potential candidates for federal employment.

However, rather than providing a do-it-yourself guide for the would-be federal candidate, I thought that the book more appropriately serves as a resource guide for career counselors, coaches, trainers and current federal employees who already have some familiarity with the federal government's application processes. As "A Guide to Federal Employment 101", it falls short. Perhaps this is not the fault of the author. The daunting nature of the federal recruitment and hiring process, with its reliance on KSAs, strict guidelines for the federal resume, and vacancy announcement postings on USAJOBS may preclude any how-to guide for the uninitiated to federal service.

I found the book to be useful in my work of assisting current federal employees with writing competitive applications. Whiteman does a good job of emphasizing the importance of preparation, skills assessment, research, writing and self-marketing as critical components of the federal hiring process, which are vital to any job search process.

* Non-government employees might not know that KSA's stands for Knowledge, Skills and Abilities and ECQ's means Executive Core Qualifications.

Janet Ruck is a career counselor in a federal agency. Through her work with federal employees she has discovered that the greatest barrier to their ability to write competitive applications and compete successfully in an interview is their lack of comfort with and ability to articulate accomplishments. A great deal of her counseling and coaching involves assisting employees with a realistic appraisal of their strengths and outcomes. She can be reached at janetruck@yahoo.com

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