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Are You Approaching YOUR Federal Job Search With “Class?”

You’ve got the federal application process in the bag, right? You know all about selecting your dream job, making sure you are eligible, pre-qualifying yourself, and applying correctly and on time through the USAJOBS online resume builder.

Congratulations! You’ve done a lot of work to optimize your resume’s reach and now all you have to do wait to be referred and/or make the certification lists. However, there is one more thing you can learn that might make your success faster—the Office of Personnel Management’s Position Classification System (PCS), which is based upon two fundamental principles: 

  1. There should be equal pay for substantially equal work.
  2. Variations in pay should be in proportion to substantial differences in the difficulty, responsibility and qualifications required.   

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Government employed 2,711,000 people as of November 2014 (Zumbrun, Josh. "The Federal Government Now Employs the Fewest People Since 1966." Real Time Economics RSS. Wall Street Journal, 7 Nov. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015). That is still a huge workforce to organize! The PCS does just that by categorizing those employees into 420 occupations in 23 groups across 15 levels.

Why should you care about OPM’s Position Classification System? Well, if you want your resume to hit the target every time, you need to understand the target and set your sights on the bullseye! 

Under the General Schedule (GS) classification system, individual positions are classified to an occupational group, a series representing a specific occupation within that group, and an appropriate grade which has been assigned a salary range according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Let’s say you’ve had a diverse career in your field, rising from modest beginnings working your way to positions of increased responsibility and leadership. You’ve worn many hats in assuring the supply, quality, and transportation of your employers’ products. You have pinpointed three positions within the Federal Government that you could easily perform, such as Quality Assurance (occupational group 1900), Supply Technician (occupational group 2000), or Traffic Management Specialist (occupational group 2100).

You begin looking at job announcements, reading through the requirements, and you start writing your resume. You already know how important it is to write keyword-optimized resumes so you are scouring for keywords and start cramming in as many as you can into your resume. You decide there are too many and you start leaving some out. Then you notice certain keywords used over and over so you put them back in. Your resume is starting to go all over the place without clear definition and most importantly, a clear target!

Now you begin to question how you can get all the information into one generic resume for all three positions. Then you remember reading that you should target each resume to the job announcement. Ugh!  So you wonder how to do that your federal resume is effective…and you search around and land on the Intelligence For Your Career blog! (You hit the jackpot! We can help you!)

Let’s study these three occupational series one at a time:

According to the OPM series definition, the Quality Assurance Series (1900) includes “all positions of the duties of which to perform, administer, or advise on work concerned with assuring the quality of products acquired and used by the Federal Government.” If your industry experience happened to be in the agricultural arena, you could find your occupational group and series in 1980 or 1981.

The General Supply Series (2000) gets a little trickier. There are subsets that are excluded from the main series definition due to their specialized supply and related activities’ threads of similarity. You might qualify for a 2003 if your work has included managing a supply program, or analytical, procedural, advisory, or other staff activities. You might be a 2010, 2030, or 2032 if you have experience or education with inventory management, distribution, or packaging. 

The Transportation Group (2100) has 15 subsets ranging from clerical work to cargo scheduling, to aircraft operations as associated with rail, highway, marine, and air transportation. Each series/subset has its own set of unique keywords, specialized experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), and qualifications.

Do you see how the qualifications and specialized experience varies from series to series? To answer the question of whether or not you need three optimized resumes, the answer is a definite: “Yes!” It will be well worth your time to dig into the OPM website and classification system to learn the basic federal language of the jobs and classifications you are eligible to target.

Take the time to customize your resume to the individual factors of each series. Use the first page of your resume to capture the employer’s attention by sharing your knowledge of the specialized experience and qualifications.

The following resources can help you learn more about the classification system: 

  • The Handbook of Occupational Groups and FamiliesPart 1 for GS and Part 2 for FWS defines each occupational group and series established by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Position classification standards, issued by OPM, provide guidance and criteria for determining the proper classification for positions in specific occupations.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issues all Position Classification Standards. OPM also places new and draft standards (as well as all current ones) on their website,
  • OPM Classifiers Handbooka handbook of general classification guidance designed to provide background information, concepts, and technical guidance for interpreting, and applying OPM classification standards. 


Intelligent Takeaway: Make the effort to learn about the OPM “class”-ification system as a first step in choosing job announcements that will be a good fit for you. Be sure to incorporate the keywords and keyword phraseology from the classification description and the job announcement into your federal resume and cover letter for greater success in landing your dream job!


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