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What is the difference between eligibility and qualifications?

What is eligibility?

Eligibility, in the federal hiring process, refers to being part of a particular group of people that an agency wants to hire – whether it’s a current federal employee, a veteran, or a recent graduate. There are several different eligibilities in the Federal Government; we call them “hiring paths”.

For example, some jobs are only open to current or former federal employees—this means you must be a current or former federal employee to be eligible. Other jobs may be open to a current student or recent graduate—if you’re not a current student or recent graduate, you’re not eligible.

Your eligibility has nothing to do with your work experience, skills, and other qualifications.

Why is eligibility important?

Understanding your eligibility will help you know which jobs you should apply to. You can apply to any job, but you may not be eligible for the job if you don’t fall into one of the required hiring paths listed on the job announcement. If you’re not eligible, the hiring agency will reject your application.

What are qualifications?

Qualifications include your work experience (years, type of work), skills, education level and your overall knowledge of a particular field of study.

The hiring agency will look at your qualifications after they determine your eligibility. The hiring agency will rank you based on how well you meet the qualifications of the job.

Regardless of your qualifications, if you’re not eligible, the hiring agency will reject your application and you will not be hired for that job.

How do I know if I’m eligible for a job?

Before you apply

You must read the This job is open to and Who may apply sections of the job announcement to see if you’re eligible for the job. If you fall into one of the “hiring paths” listed, you’re eligible for the job. If you don’t fall into one of those groups, you should look at a different job.

After you apply

The agency will first review your application to see if you’re eligible. If you’re not eligible, they will reject your application—they won’t even look at your qualifications. It doesn’t matter if you have the qualifications – you must first be eligible.

If you’re eligible, the agency will then look at your qualifications.

How do I know if I’m qualified?

Before you apply

You must read the Qualifications section of the job announcement. Your application must show, you have the specialized experience, education, and other qualifications listed in the job announcement.

After you apply

If you’re eligible for the job, the agency will review your qualifications and rank you based on how well you meet the qualifications. The agency may rank you as “minimally qualified”, “highest qualified”, or somewhere in between. Based on how well you meet the qualifications, your application may, or may not, continue through the application process.

Learn more about the federal application process.

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