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Greetings all,

I joined WIFCON, at the suggestion of my mentor, to build my knowledge of the FAR and my understanding of contracting related topics and issues. I have been using the resources, blogs and discussions on this site to further educate myself on the nuances of being an acquisition professional.

I have four years of acquisition/contracting experience as a contractor in DHS in the DC Area. I’ve joined NCMA for the learning opportunities and I am in the process of testing for my second NCMA Certification (CFCM). I have applied to many 1102 opportunities, made many cert lists, and had several interviews but I have yet to be selected and get my foot in the door. I meet all of the qualifications and I am wondering if there is anything I can do to give myself a better chance. Can anyone provide advice on what I can do to make myself more marketable? Are there any programs for non-veterans that I may be able to utilize to help me accomplish my goal of becoming an 1102? I truly appreciate any feedback that may come as a result of this post. Have a wonderful day, everyone!

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I came to the government from private industry via an Acquisition and Contracting Intern Program. If you have a Bachelor's degree that has a minimum of 24 business credits you should qualify. My intern program was a 2 year program starting at the GS-7 position and at the end was GS-11 - this may vary among the Departments and Agencies. Here's one web site for for reference:

http://www.acquisitionacademy.va.gov/schools/internship/

There are others so you may want to look for a Department or Agency that has vacancies. I was able to get hired around this time of year since they wanted to fill the positions by the end of the fiscal year so the earlier you start your search and submit application(s) the better.

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DC1911... Check your resume. Does it emphasize your ability/experience in contracting? Does it show you can can make business/contracting decisions independently? Does it show you know how to research the FAR, the CFR and other contracting resources?

I am trusting that since you have had several interviews that you are taking good notes afterwards to apply to future interviews. Before going to an interview, do you research the agency/office, try to learn what they do, and discuss some of that in your interview? I have sat on several interview panels and it is surprising how little research many applicants do prior to walking in the door. They expect they can just "wow" us with their smile and good intentions. Show that you WANT the job by putting in some effort before you walk in the door.

I hope this helps.

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After my transition from military to contractor - and then finally to government civilian - I put together some tips and tricks. While military focused some of the items could definitely be similar to the contractor to civilian process. PM me and I will send it.

When it comes to the government the easiest way is to have a personal referral. Without that there are a few other ways, but some general guidance I received (and that I found useful) follows:

1. Communicate competencies using some of the language from the OPM 1102 series. This can be helpful with getting past HR. (I would not change a lot if you are already interviewing at your target grade, but if you are looking for higher positions).

2. Highlight any required elements (experience, education, other) in your resume or attachments.

3. Contact individuals listed on the announcement before it closes to make sure you have submitted everything.

4. Contact individuals listed on the announcement after it closes (preferably if you made the cert) to follow up (requesting an interview if you made the cert) or for a de-brief (Especially helpful if targeting specific agency).

5. While negotiating a grade is difficult negotiating a step is much more likely. Especially if you have an offer that meets/exceeds the government offer, but be advised that it will slow down the process as it gets approved.

Having recently gone through the process I struggled to explain my role on several projects. While my past Contracting Officer experience (almost three years ago as of this writing) was clear and I could talk about having responsibility for a project, my contractor experience was not as clear and I would have to qualify my experience under the FAR 7.503 prohibitions (sometimes explaining it to folks who had not read it recently or did not know what it works in action). If your interview panel has not worked as a contractor before, or awarded/administered an acquisition services contract, this may be a difficult area.

Good luck.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Some random thoughts.

Keep in mind that some of the job opportunities you've had may have been phony, because someone had been preselected. I don't know how often that actually happens, but i know it happens sometimes.

You've been getting on cert lists and getting some interviews, so your resume is probably okay, although perhaps it could be better. Experience is probably big with most hiring officials, because they want someone who can show up and go right to work without needing or demanding a whole lot of training. NCMA certifications are nice, but in my experience they don't carry much weight in today's contracting offices. Formal education is also good, but I'm not sure that it always carries much weight.

Perhaps you should think about the interviews. What do you think they were looking for? How do you think you did? Interviewers sometimes react to things, consciously and subconsciously, that they should not react to in a perfect world. No need to review the prohibited considerations, because we all know what they are. Let's face it, people might consider them anyway. But what about factors that you can do something about, such as personal presentation: grooming, dress, speech, attentiveness, thoughtfulness of responses, manner, etc.? How do you measure up?

How careful are you in your responses? Sometimes we use expressions that trigger an unexpectedly negative response. Say enough, but not too much. Be honest about your views and opinions, but not too forthcoming.

If you get to ask questions at the end of the interview, do you ask them and, if so, how thoughtful are they? Do they show that you researched the hiring office's mission and work?

Is it possible that you look too good for the job they have to offer? What kind of people work in the hiring office? How would you fit in? How did you dress in comparison with the interviewers? Too fancy? Too casual? Might you seem threatening to prospective supervisors who may not know as much as you? Did you come across as a show-off?

What does your work history suggest? Why do you want to leave your current office? Is it just promotion, or is it something more, something that would cast you in a more favorable light? If you're just looking for promotion and getting the job would satisfy that objective, what would motivate you to perform well after you're hired?

Anyway, just some thoughts.

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Some of my thoughts -

My second to last question is always "Have I responded completely to your questions or do you require further clarification of my responses?"

At the end of every interview, my last question is always "Who should I contact for a debriefing?" More often then not, the lessons learned in debriefings will increase your preparation for the next interview. Sometimes the debriefing may just be worthless. You decide.

Whether in person or telephonic, I always take notes on the questions asked, then pause, and provide a concise complete response. If I have not heard the complete question, I ask that it be repeated.

If I do not know the answer, my response usually is "That's a good question and something I will research because I do not have a satisfactory response". This indicates your willingness to be honest and open about your lack of knowledge in a particular area and your willingness to do research and learn.

Most intern program selectees do not have much, if any, contracting/procurement experience. The interview panel is listening for your responses - eloquent, grammar, slang, "ummmm", "like". They are listening for your ability to think on your feet.

Be friendly (but not overtly so), open, honest and polite.

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