USDS Wants You: A Guide to Joining Our Team
By Lewis Mcilwain IV, Talent Operations at USDS
In the eight years since our founding, the United States Digital Service has hired hundreds of dynamic and bold innovators working to make positive change. Many of our alumni continue their careers in public service, going on to hold roles such as the Federal Chief Information Officer and executive technology leaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and digital service teams at the state and local level. As we serve alongside public servants throughout the government, USDS emphasizes collaboration, creativity, and mutual learning to help untangle complex challenges and ultimately deliver better government services to people.
Because what we do (and how we do it) is unique, so is our hiring process. As part of the Talent team, I work closely with USDS leadership to find mission-driven technologists across the country who want to join us to make a difference.
Since we’re asked about our process a lot, here’s a quick guide to who we’re looking for and how we hire great folks, along with answers to some of your FAQs.
Who we’re hiring
We’re looking for United States citizens who are experts in engineering, data science, product, design, procurement, talent, operations, or communications; who are excited by the mission of improving government for the public; and who are flexible, adaptable, and open to working with people who have very different backgrounds. Many USDSers work with multiple federal agencies and collaborate with other civic tech organizations in their roles as well.
The people who make great USDSers are passionate about what they do, experienced in their skill set, deeply committed to teamwork and mutual learning, and driven to improve processes and promote change on a large scale for people across our nation. USDSers come from many different cultural, linguistic, and geographic backgrounds.
We look for candidates who have a strong sense of emotional intelligence, as working amiably and effectively with lots of different people is a big part of everyone’s job at USDS.
With the wide-range of experiences we bring, USDS is a pretty interesting place to work!
◻️ Meet a few USDSers and alumni ◻️
How we hire
Everyone at USDS is hired for a two-year term with an opportunity to extend for another two years, although we’re free to leave before the term is up. This means that people are constantly joining the organization with fresh, innovative ideas. It’s also a major part of why we look for potential USDSers who are flexible and capable of collaborating as part of cross-functional and multidisciplinary teams on various projects.
Here’s what the process looks like:
- Submit an application (it’s super short and takes about two minutes to complete).
- Our team will evaluate your application and decide if your background and experience may be a good fit for one of our Communities of Practice: Engineering (including Data Science), Product, Design, Procurement, Operations, Talent, and Communications.
- Speak to a Talent Recruiter, like me, who will answer questions about working at USDS. You’ll also have the opportunity to tell us about your background and go over your questions.
- Participate in interviews to address your technical skills and knowledge in your field as well as problem-solving skills, communication strengths, and other typical interview questions.
If you’re selected to join the team after your interviews take place, you will work with a number of groups to begin the security and offer processes. This can take some time — but Talent is there to walk you through it, provide updates, and help make sure things move as quickly as possible.
Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions that come up for the Talent team from candidates:
1. What do people tend to do when they have reached the full four-year tour at USDS? Is there a transition plan in place for staff?
One of the exciting elements of the job at USDS is that we partner with agencies across the government on project work, which gives us a chance to experience a variety of different missions and environments. While we know not every USDSer will remain in public service, many choose to apply and are selected for other government roles, and we are eager partners in helping you narrow down those opportunities.
Digital service teams are well established in other agencies such as the Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services, and in state and local governments as well. The relationships built while working on projects paired with our in-demand skill sets are an asset to other roles in public service.
2. When can I start?
You’re eligible to start as soon as you receive a formal offer and pass a government background check, including a drug test. At the end of your process, we’ll work with you to set a start date.
3. How does the background check process work?
USDS is part of the Executive Office of the President and everyone we hire must pass a thorough background check, including sharing more information about where you’ve lived worked, and traveled in the past, as well as other biographical information about yourself. This process can take several weeks, so we build that into our hiring timelines.
4. What does the day-to-day look like at USDS?
USDSers are all assigned to projects when they arrive, most of which are in partnership with other government agencies where we work together to address their challenges, and some of which are internal to operating our team. Projects can be long-term or short-term depending on your skill sets and interests, and you may be doing things you never dreamed of. (Visit a mainframe warehouse in a mine? Check. Pitch a project to a Deputy Secretary? Check.)
5. Do I need a federal resume to work for USDS?
While resumes are typically in a different format for government jobs, we try to find a middle ground between private sector norms and the federal government. You should prepare your resume to be a bit more narrative than what you’re accustomed to — tell the story and detailed accomplishments of your work. For example, don’t just list your tech stack or design approaches, but say what you did with them and what the outcomes were.
We want to be sure we capture your full breadth and depth of experience right away as we consider you through the application process, so don’t be afraid to have two or so pages.
🔘 Learn more about our projects 🔘
USDS wants you! We’re always looking for great people to join our team. If you’re searching for a place to use the skills you’ve cultivated in your career and want to make a big impact, you should strongly consider USDS. You can apply here.
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