By Heather Krasna
There are two types of government job postings–those that are considered “Open Until Filled” and those that have an official deadline. What most people don’t realize is that speed is often of the essence, even for jobs with a deadline.
JOBS WITH DEADLINE. While it’s true that many government employers will only start reviewing applications for a job once the deadline has passed, many will also start looking at them as they are submitted. Of course, the first five resumes will usually get a lot more attention than the last five. So, applying early can help you even if a job has an official deadline. There have even been cases (in my own experience in managing the posting of thousands of jobs in which there was an official deadline) when the employer decided to pull the job listing before the deadline takes place because they received what they consider “enough” resumes. Not fair, you protest! Well, you’re right, it’s not fair. But maybe the employer is really interested only in people who don’t procrastinate. A scary thought when you know that about half of all applicants for anything with a deadline will apply right on the deadline date. Another reason not to wait to apply is that it’s easier to make fatal mistakes. Recently a great federal fellowship program had its deadline pass. At least one person who applied on the last day failed to click the submit button and therefore is out of the running.
OPEN UNTIL FILLED. What most people also don’t realize is that when a job is “open until filled,” there may be a deadline date listed, or a last day to apply, but this date is not the same as a deadline if the job is open until filled. When a job is open until filled, the employer is reading the resumes or applications as they come in. When they get a good one, they might call that person in for an interview. If they like that person, they will simply stop reading resumes and make a job offer. This means that a job that is open until filled might be open for a month or two, or a day or two. Therefore, when you see positions listed as open until filled, it behooves you to apply right then and there. Yes, you need a decent cover letter. But instead of waiting until the weekend to work on it, put aside whatever you are doing, stay up late, and get the application out the door. I recently spoke with a colleague who posted a job; she had two finalist candidates, both recent grads who were equally top-notch candidates and both of whom came with recommendations. One had applied early, and one applied late. My colleague was actually annoyed at the late applicant–because she was ready to make an offer to the early applicant, and the late applicant made her have to slow down her hiring process and consider one more good person! Just having applied late put the second applicant at enough of a disadvantage that it was hard to recover.
The moral of this story is–applying for jobs is like voting. Do it early and often!