How to Write a Cover Letter to Land a Government Job

Building a cover letter for a government job search means understanding how they are used in the hiring process. Here is what you need to know to build a government cover letter that gets interviews.

A government job search is different than a private sector one. This difference is in how the hiring processes work. A cover letter for a government job needs to meet the different requirements of a federal job search. Here is what you need to know to write a cover letter for a government job search that will get you the interviews that you want.

Role of the Cover Letter in Government Job Searches

The role of a cover letter in the government hiring process is different. In many cases, the government agency that you are applying to will review the cover letter before they even look at your resume. The cover letter and additional job application questions are used to determine whether you meet the minimum requirements for the job posting. Your resume will not be opened by the government recruiter if they do not find the answers to these basic questions in your cover letter or job application questions. So, the cover letter plays a much larger role in any government job search than its private-sector counterpart.

Address the Qualifications Explicitly

Because of the importance of the cover letter, you need to explicitly address the qualifications as outlined in the job description. This means listing out how you meet each of those minimum qualifications that are included in the job description. You should also include an explanation of how you meet the preferred qualifications in your cover letter. The best way to include this information is to do so right away in the cover letter and to put it all together in a paragraph or two. This will make it easier for the person skimming the cover letter to see that you are qualified for the job and to move you on to the next step in the hiring process.

Use Specific Examples

Make sure to include specific examples of how you have demonstrated the skills required for the government position in your cover letter. This will make it easier for the person evaluating your application to see how you fit their needs. It will also help the hiring manager to compare you to other candidates. You can stand out from the competition on your cover letter by including those big talking points from your resume.

Tell Your Story

Remember that the point of the cover letter in any government job search is to tell the story beyond your resume as well. This means explaining how you meet the requirements for the job, but also why you are the best fit for the position. This means you may need to use your cover letter to explain gaps in employment or skills that don't show up on the resume if they are needed for the position.

You don't need to tell your entire life story on the government cover letter. Instead, it should be told in a way that is relevant to the particular job and the particular agency that you are applying to. This means keeping your cover letter focused on your audience and sticking to the information that is important to show you are qualified for the job that you are applying to.

Connect Your Experience to the Opening

Take your government cover letter to the next level by connecting the dots for the person reading the cover letter. Make it easy for that person to see you as qualified and a fit for the role. This process can be easy if you are already in government service. But, if you coming from the private sector, remember to change the way you convey your experience to meet the expectations of the government agency that you are applying to.

For example, government agencies aren't operating on a profit mindset. So, details about how much money you made a company may not be relevant. Instead, talk about the great service that you delivered to customers and how that drove their satisfaction with the organization or how that may have enabled expanded capabilities. Point is, reframe your achievements in a way that is relevant to your next career move so that the people evaluating your application can easily see you in the role.

Be Specific

The more specific you can be in a government cover letter the better your chances will be at landing the interview. As explained above, the government hiring process is based on qualifications for the particular job that you are applying to. This means that you need to include the specific qualifications for the particular job on your cover letter and to explain how you meet them.

This may take more time, but it will yield better results in your job search. The time that you spend to create a cover letter that is customized for a particular job opening can be worth it. You can also build cover letters for different agencies/job types so that the process is faster going forward. Remember, you only need to customize the letters - you don't have to build entirely new content each time. So, having a few cover letters built for the types of jobs and agencies that you are applying to will make the customizing process faster overall.

Explain Your Interest in Public Service

Moving into government service at any level requires a unique motivation. In fact, you may see a cut in your base compensation to make this move. Most recruiters and hiring managers in the government understand that this is a factor. So, they will want to see that your motivations are right for their team for the long term. They want to hire people that can do the job, but also want to serve the public. This public service mindset is key to a successful career in the government.

As a result, you need to explain your interest and commitment to joining public service in your cover letter. This can be specific to the particular job or agency. Or, you could opt to talk about your motivations for public service generally. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you are clear on your message about why you want to move into public service and why a government career is right for you now. This will also make it easier for you in the interviewing process as you will get asked about your interests in public service and the agency at some point. So, be proactive and include that information in your government cover letter whenever possible.

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