Application Questionnaires, Essays and Other Materials

Creating your federal resume is an important step in the application process—but it’s not the only one. Agencies may require you to answer application questionnaires, which include multiple-choice questions and short essay responses. Other assessment tools might also be used, such as the Foreign Service Exam at the State Department. Agencies are required to provide information on how applicants will be evaluated.  

Application questionnaires and essays

How to answer application questionnaires 

To assess candidate skills, most agencies use questionnaires, which vary in length and will contain some combination of yes/no, true/false, short essay or standard multiple-choice questions. Some positions allow you to preview the questionnaire in the job posting, but generally you will complete the questionnaire when you submit your application. 

Your responses should mirror your resume. If questionnaires ask you to rate your experience in performing certain tasks from “no experience” to “expert.” you should be able to back up your selection through your resume or in an interview.  

Application essays 

Each job announcement will list specific qualifications, knowledge, skills and abilities the agency wants to see in an applicant. If asked to provide short essay responses, you should succinctly describe how your experiences match the desired qualifications.  

As you write, make sure to include as much information as you can that responds to each qualification, even if that information is already included on your federal resume. Address key words and phrases mentioned in the position description, focus on your direct contributions and avoid acronyms. When recounting your experiences, tell a story by explaining the challenge(s) you faced, the action(s) you took and the result(s) you achieved. Application essays are an opportunity to use real-life examples to describe the experiences, education and activities listed on your resume. 

Other Common Application Materials

Depending on the position and agency, you may be asked to submit multiple documents or forms along with your application. Some of the more common types of documentation include college transcripts, professional certifications or proof of non-competitive status. In most cases, you will be able to mail or fax these documents separately if they are not accessible in an electronic file. 

Other application materials requested may include cover letters, letters of recommendation or writing samples. Make sure each document reinforces the knowledge, skills and abilities listed in the qualifications of the position. 

Transcripts 

You may need to submit college transcripts if you need to verify receipt of a degree or special coursework or if you are claiming superior academic achievement. Plan in advance to obtain your transcript, as some schools may need a few weeks for processing. If you are unable to obtain an official transcript, check with the HR contact listed on the job posting—some agencies may accept unofficial documents. 

Verification of status 

If you claim veteran’s preference or another type of non-competitive status, you must submit the appropriate documentation to verify this status. The forms you need are generally listed in the job posting. USAJOBS.gov also provides links to many of these forms. 

Pro Tip

You may also be asked to provide additional information, such as your college transcripts.