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Federal Hiring Process

The federal government’s hiring process is very different from the private sector’s hiring process. When applying for federal jobs, Veterans may be eligible to take advantage of hiring preferences and secure employment more quickly. What do you need to know?

Application Tips

The federal government uses a unique application process to recruit and hire for open positions. Follow these tips to prepare a professional application package for each job opportunity.



To apply to an open position on USAJOBS through the VA for Vets Job Search:

  • Select “Apply on USAJOBS” to open a new window to log into USAJOBS. NOTE: VA for Vets will remain open.
    • If you do not have a USAJOBS account, please refer to the USAJOBS Quick Start Guide to learn how to create a USAJOBS account.
  • Upon signing in, you should be prompted to select your resume and related documents to apply to the position.
  • If you are not directed to the position selected from VA for Vets, you can search for the position by returning to your VA for Vets window, copy the announcement number (highlighted below) and paste it into the “What” search bar on your “My Account” page in USAJOBS. From there, you can select “Apply Now.”
  • Carefully review the “Qualifications and Evaluations” section on jobs listings to ensure you meet the basic requirements. Tailor your resume to meet these requirements. A career coach can help you customize the resume based on these requirements.
  • Follow the “How to Apply” instructions listed in the job announcement and provide the exact information requested on the application. Do not leave any sections blank or the application may be considered incomplete and can be rejected.
  • Include full contact information for your references, including mailing addresses.
  • Make a copy of the entire application and supporting materials before submitting.

Application Tip Image 


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Veterans’ Preference
The government fills its vacancies in two ways, competitively and noncompetitively. Through the competitive process, jobs are advertised to the general public on USAJOBS.gov. Through the noncompetitive process, positions do not have to be announced to a large pool of applicants and give special consideration to eligible Veterans.



Veterans’ Preference awards points to Veterans during the application process, providing an advantage in job placement. Veterans’ Preference only applies when Veterans are applying to competitive positions, meaning those positions are publicly announced to a pool of job seekers.


Veterans who are disabled, or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain time periods or in military campaigns, are entitled to preference over non-Veterans for federal positions. To be entitled to Veterans' Preference, a Veteran must meet the legal eligibility requirements:

  • An honorable or general discharge is necessary.
  • Military retirees at the rank of major, lieutenant commander, or higher are not eligible unless they are disabled.
  • Guard and reserve personnel on active duty for training purposes do not qualify.
Type of Preference When You Apply for A Federal Job
If you are classified as having a 0-point preference, you are evaluated on the basis of your qualifications only. When applying for a job, you must submit Form DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, to document your discharge under honorable or general conditions.
You are eligible for 5-point preference if you served during any of the following:
  • During a war
  • From April 28, 1952, through July 1, 1955
  • For 180 or more consecutive days after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976
  • During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through Jan 2, 1992
  • For 180 or more consecutive days between September 11, 2001, and the date prescribed by presidential proclamation or by law as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, or between April 28, 1952, and July 1, 1955

To pursue a 5-point preference, you must submit Form DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, to document your discharge under honorable or general conditions.


You are eligible for 10-point preference if you served at any time and you have a service-connected disability or received a Purple Heart.

To pursue 10-point preference, you must submit:

  • Form DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, to document your discharge under honorable or general conditions
  • Form SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veterans' Preference
  • Letter from the VA Regional Office stating your disability rating

Disabled Veterans receive 10-point preference regardless of their disability rating. As a disabled Veteran, you can seek noncompetitive appointments for some positions within VA.


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Noncompetitive Hiring

Eligible Veterans may be appointed to federal positions without competing with the general public, and federal agencies can hire Veterans without posting a vacancy announcement. Veterans who are eligible for Special Hiring Authorities may be noncompetitively hired if they meet the eligibility and qualification requirements for the position. What are the differences between competitive and noncompetitive hiring?


Competitive Hiring Noncompetitive Hiring
Positions must be announced to a pool of job seekers in USAJOBS. Positions do not require public announcement.
The applicant does not have to meet the same eligibility requirements as a noncompetitive job posting. The applicant must meet the requirements for noncompetitive status and be able to perform the essential duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.
The applicant is rated based on qualifications. The applicant will not be subject to the usual requirement to determine the most qualified candidate and rating of qualification.
All Veterans have the option to apply. Veterans must provide proof of eligibility for Veterans' Preference or special appointments in order to be considered for noncompetitive placement. These documents may include:
  • SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veterans' Preference
  • DD214, Certification of Job Readiness
  • Other medical documentation as requested

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Special Hiring Authorities


Special Hiring Authorities allow federal agencies to place eligible Veterans on a fast track to positions that are available through noncompetitive hiring. Although Veterans are not necessarily entitled to appointment under any of these authorities, it is helpful to be aware of them. Agencies may use Special Hiring Authorities at their discretion.



Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA)
The Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) authority allows agencies to hire eligible Veterans noncompetitively through the GS-11 grade level. Veterans can be converted to a career or career-conditional appointment after two years of successful performance. If a Veteran is hired to fill a temporary/term position under VRA, the Veteran will not be converted after two years of service. Veterans’ Preference applies when using this authority.


30 Percent or More Disabled Veterans
The 30 Percent or More Disabled Veteran authority allows any Veteran with a 30 percent or more service-connected disability to be hired noncompetitively to any position for which they meet the qualification requirements. This is a time-limited appointment of more than 60 days, during which time Veterans may be converted to a career or career-conditional appointment based on successful performance. There are no grade level limitations for job opportunities under this authority.


Schedule A
Schedule A authority allows agencies to noncompetitively hire eligible disabled Veterans and persons with disabilities who have severe physical, psychological or intellectual disabilities. Veterans can be converted to a career or career-conditional appointments based on successful performance and there are no grade restrictions for job opportunities under this authority.


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Veterans Recruitment Appointment

Authorities: 38 U.S.C. 4214; 5 CFR Part 307


Disabled Veterans
Authorities: 5 U.S.C. 31125 CFR 316.402(b)(4)5 CFR 315.707 


Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Physical Disabilities, or Psychiatric Disabilities
Authorities: Executive Orders 12125 and 13124; 5 CFR 3.1(b)5 CFR 213.3102(u)5 CFR 315.709​ 


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Federal Forms

Depending on the job you are applying for, you may need to submit the following forms. Read the instructions carefully to determine which ones you will need.


  • DD214​ - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
  • OF-612 - Application for Federal Employment
  • OF-306 - Declaration for Federal Employment
  • SF-15 - Application for 10-point Veteran's Preference
  • OF-510 - Applying for a Federal Job (Instructions)

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After Yo​u Apply

What happens after submitting an application and supporting documents?


  • If you applied to a position through USAJOBS, you can check the status of your applications to make sure they have been received.
  • Seven to 10 days after the job’s closing date, an HR professional will send the best-qualified candidate applications to a hiring manager, who will determine which applicants to interview.
  • The interview and final selection process can take several weeks to complete. To check the status of an application, contact the office listed on the job announcement.
  • All applicants are notified when a final selection is made.
  • If you are not selected for a position, visit the VA for Vets Career Center to continue to build your resume and search for new opportunities.

For one-on-one assistance, please call 1-855-VA4VETS (1-855-824-8387) or complete the Request a Coach Form to begin working with a coach.


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