What to expect guide

There has never been a more important time to work in government. State and local governments need technologists now, more than ever, to help them solve some of our biggest challenges. As you continue exploring our curated list of government jobs, use this guide to learn from past applicants and current government employees on what you can expect during the government hiring process.

Application formats

Government job portals are each constructed, managed, and maintained differently. As you sift through opportunities that might be a good fit for you, you might notice that the application requirements vary. The instructions for formatting and inputting your resume might also be different. Remind yourself that every situation is different and the rigid instructions listed are to promote equitable and unbiased hiring practices.


  • To help with time management, identify whether the portal allows you to save your progress or requires you to complete it in one sitting
  • If there are paragraph-sized answers required in an online application, write them out in a text editor first, then copy them in
  • Pay attention to specific terminology in the job description and to any minimum qualifications
  • Qualifications are the #1 most important part of the resume (and are non-negotiable)
  • If there is an option to use a resume builder, and you decide not to use it, look at the resume builder so you don’t accidentally omit any sections


It is common for your application to have to pass through multiple departments and review panels before you can move to the next step. This thorough process, combined with the fact that government departments rarely have dedicated recruiting teams, can cause hiring timelines to be much longer than in the private sector. Remind yourself that this delay is not a reflection on your qualifications or background.


  • Consider searching for opportunities in the public sector while still maintaining a full-time position
  • Ask for next steps and estimated timelines after phone screens, interviews, and panel interviews
  • Because timelines can be very lengthy, consider creating a folder with the job announcement as the title. In the folder add a copy of the job announcement, your resume and any supporting documents you submitted. This will be very helpful for looking back and reviewing before the interview

Understanding the language

Some departments communicate primarily through canned responses or public sector terminology that abides by fair and impartial hiring practices, but may be unfamiliar to you. You may receive an email or a letter that seems noncommittal and difficult to understand. Be prepared for this and recognize that public sector communication can be a learned skill.


  • Ask direct questions and seek clarification when needed
  • Connect with people who already work in government, and seek advice
  • Remind yourself what about this opportunity excited you and why you’re pursuing it

Submitting additional materials

Depending on the role you applied for, you might be asked to submit additional materials and/or fill out additional forms. Again, use this as an opportunity to learn how to best navigate the system and gather insight into what it will be like to work in public service.


  • Ask for specific instructions and deadlines
  • Connect with people who already work in government, and seek advice
  • Remind yourself what about this opportunity excited you and why you’re pursuing it

Taking tests and exams

Some roles will require a multiple-choice or written examination as part of your application process. These examinations are intended to give an unbiased comparison of different candidates’ abilities, and are often a very important factor in hiring decisions.


  • If an in-person (i.e. not online) examination is required, make sure to plan ahead so that your application process isn’t delayed
  • Exams vary across departments and levels. Studying generally isn’t required, but it never hurts to review.
  • Remind yourself that this process was established to even the playing field, and provide everyone (regardless of age, race, gender, etc) to have an equal shot at getting the job

Background checks, fingerprinting, and credit checks

Congratulations, you’ve been offered the position! At this stage, it is common for you to have to complete background checks, fingerprinting, and/or credit checks. Everyone who works in public service has gone through some type of standard screening. Remind yourself that this requirement is not done to unearth your past, but rather to protect their future.


  • Familiarize yourself with where your city’s government buildings and departments are located as you’ll likely need to visit them
  • The faster you complete this process, the faster you’ll be able to start your new job