The three E’s: How to get your VA application to rise to the top

The three E’s: How to get your VA application to rise to the top

As you prep your application and polish your resume, it pays to keep in mind what our recruiters are looking for as they consider you for a VA career.

Recruiters know that employees and candidates vary widely in their knowledge, skills, abilities, interests, work styles and more. These differences affect the way you’ll perform or behave on the job and if you would be a good fit for a team.

Consider the three E’s that could be crucial when it comes to your qualifications.


What you have done in your career tells volumes about the kind of worker you are and the kind of employee you’ll be at VA. Whether you’re a Veteran stepping into civilian life or a health care expert looking for a change, the things that you’ve accomplished will tell our recruiters a lot about who you are and what you hope to achieve.

On your resume , showcase your previous work experience in clear, concise language. Use those summaries to tell our recruiters specifically what you brought to the table, rather than just outlining what someone with that job should do. It’s a key difference that can highlight your unique qualifications for a role at VA.

“Take the time and sell yourself,” explained Kendra Wilson-Hudson, a physician recruitment consultant with the VA National Recruitment Service, during a recent “Talk About It Tuesday” broadcast. “Don’t sell yourself short, but sell yourself so that people will realize you are the crème de la crème; you are the unicorn in the room; and that you deserve to be at the top and interview for a position.”


You may have had a teacher in school that asked you to “show what you know,” and when it comes to your resume, highlighting your education is an absolute must.

Especially crucial for recent graduates, providing a detailed summary of your studies can help show you have the knowledge and training for a VA career.

Your education doesn’t have to be limited to college either. Continuing education efforts, like program certifications and training programs, are very important. We want to know what you know, so don’t forget to include the work you’ve done since starting your career.


Here’s something you might not consider: your enthusiasm for a job can absolutely make a difference when our recruiters start selecting candidates for interviews. Your application tells them you’re interested in the job, and your resume can tell us a lot about your work, but the best way to show your enthusiasm is in your cover letter.

The mission of VA is to serve Veterans, and our employees frequently share that it is the greatest mission in all of health care. We need people who want to help Veterans get the care they need and deserve, people who know the value of what Veterans have done for our country. Enthusiasm for our mission is a great indicator that you could be the right candidate.

Our friends at Indeed captured this part of our message perfectly as part of their interview tips for VA jobs: “Many VA employees will work directly with former military and their family members. Consider showing your passion and interpersonal skills by showing your enthusiasm for the role.”

From opportunity to offer: Examining the VA application timeline

From opportunity to offer: Examining the VA application timeline

One of the most common concerns we hear from prospective employees is related to the application timeline.

Here’s a little guide to help you understand the application process and some of the more common sticking points that our recruiters come across as they look at applicants.

Step One: The job listing

You’ll find open VA jobs on USAJobs, so head there first.

When you find a job you’re interested in, read the entire announcement to make sure you’re eligible and meet the qualifications listed. Your application will need to show how you meet the required qualifications.

However, if you’re not considered eligible for the job, those qualifications won’t matter. Carefully read the “This job is open to” section, as well as the “Clarification from the agency” and the “Who may apply” sections. If everything looks good, move on to the “Qualifications” section to see if you meet those criteria.

Step Two: The application

Starting your application on USAJobs may be the easiest part of the whole process: just click “Apply.”

From there, the site will walk you through a five-step process where you’ll attach a resume and any required documents.

Referring back to Step One, make sure you include any and all supporting documents requested in the job announcement so your application isn’t deemed ineligible and rejected.

When your application is ready on USAJobs, you’ll be directed to the VA application system. Here, you’ll submit your application, as well as any other information we need. You may be asked to provide more personal information, more documentation, or answer questions about your eligibility.

It may take you longer to apply to some jobs than others because some require more information.

Step Three: Receive, review, refer

Your application has been received and is now in VA’s hands.

Keep in mind, though, that the hiring team won’t look at your application until the job announcement closes to ensure that all applicants are treated fairly. In short, don’t expect to hear anything until after the closing date listed in the job announcement.

Generally, though, you will hear from the hiring team about 15-30 days after the announcement closes. If you have not heard anything, you should contact the hiring office listed in the announcement to inquire about the status of your application.

Once the job announcement closes, your application enters the review stage. At this point, the hiring team will examine your application to make sure you’re eligible and meet the job qualifications. Qualified applicants will be classified either as “minimally qualified” or “highest qualified.”

“We do know that government jobs are coveted jobs,” explained Kendra Wilson-Hudson, a physician recruitment consultant with the VA National Recruitment Service. “There are a lot of people who are applying to get in. We want to make sure that we’re taking our time in reviewing those jobs and giving them the attention that they need so that we bring in the best talent to take care of our Veterans.”

Only the highest qualified applicants will be referred to the hiring manager. If your application is among those presented to the hiring manager, they will do their own review of the application and begin the next step – the interviews.

Step Four: The interviews

The hiring official will review the highest qualified applications and select applicants to interview. At this point, you will be contacted directly to schedule interviews, whether by phone or video, in-person or with a panel.

It may take some time to schedule an interview depending on the number of referred applicants. Among prime candidates, there may be more than one round of interviews.

Step Five: Selection

After our hiring managers complete all interviews, they will select a candidate (or candidates, depending on the position) and contact them to start the offer process.

If you’re not selected, you may notice that the job status has been updated to “Hiring complete” on USAJobs. If the position has not been filled, the status will change to “Job canceled.”

Step Six: The offer

If you receive and accept a tentative offer, it still may take a few weeks to months before you start. The background investigation and other security checks begin once you accept the offer, and the length of these checks depends on the security clearance level of the job.

Once the background investigation and additional security checks are done, we’ll extend a final offer and set up a start date.

The fine print

It’s important to remember that this timeline can be affected by any number of factors. The number of positions to be filled, hiring urgency and even the number of candidates can slow down or speed up the process.

Regardless, patience is key, and most concerns can be addressed by checking the status of your application or by contacting the hiring office listed in the job announcement.