Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Fed Contract Specialist interview

During a particularly busy period at work, I blanketed USAjo thirdtierlaw06/27/17
Yes the contract specialist is a much better job than what y gs1306/28/17
I became contract specialist after about 9 years of practici carlito06/28/17
I became a contract specialist after one year of practicing flyer1406/28/17
Graduated law school in 2010. Missed passing the MI bar by o fedlawyer06/29/17
Doesn't sound like you're a fed lawyer, fedlawyer. booyeah06/29/17
Graduated law school in 2010. Missed passing the MI bar by o fedlawyer06/29/17
Still doesn't sound like you're a fed lawyer, fedlawyer. booyeah06/29/17
Fake it til you make it, and if you're a GS-14, you've made flyer1406/29/17
I am not fedlawyer. I should probably change that handle. fedlawyer06/29/17
I practiced for a few years and hated it. I took a contract lawyernomore06/29/17
This post makes me wonder what building you work in, as I'm flyer1406/29/17
Can you describe more the duties and how you do them? Is the notreallyalawyer09/06/17
The answer to the negotiation question is "it depends" based flyer1409/07/17
Thanks. Do you know if there are any documents/books/publica notreallyalawyer09/07/17
If it's an entry-level position (GS-7 or 9) they're more lik flyer1409/07/17
Thanks, it's a GS9 position. Won't they expect me to know so notreallyalawyer09/07/17
As a general rule, the government can only buy something if flyer1409/07/17
Ah, thanks that helps a lot. They expect CO candidates to me notreallyalawyer09/07/17
https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-ove rsight/classification-qua downwardslope09/07/17
I once was in a federal office where the CO, a pretty young sanka09/07/17
Kind of hard to imagine. My dad could never help me, due to notreallyalawyer09/07/17
In my agency you'll always see at least one young guy (or gi flyer1409/07/17

thirdtierlaw (Jun 27, 2017 - 4:45 pm)

During a particularly busy period at work, I blanketed USAjobs with resumes. I received a job interview for a contract specialist position. So I have 4 questions for those in the know:

1. I applied to multiple positions at the same office the different ads ranged from G-7 to G-12. What was interesting when applying to the G7 position is that the salary range went from G-7 up to the max G-12. Even though the ads just said G-7. All the other ads had the full range. USA jobs just had all my applications reviewed. So I have no idea which one I'm being brought in to interview for, does having a JD automatically put me in the G9 range?

2. There is another local office, same department, that I had applied to work in as well. My interview is scheduled at a different location than where the ad said I'd be working. This leads me to believe that there is a central office that interviews for all of them. Would it be inappropriate to express interest in those other positions during the interview?

3. What can I expect during the interview? Is there anything to prepare for?

4. The most important question. Is the contract specialist position worth taking? I'd be taking at least a $20k cut this year. I currently work in a small firm, average 50hr weeks. No one keeps track of my vacation. I.E. I can duck out to pick up a sick kid from school. I keep 100% of whatever I bring in for business. There are days I enjoy what I'm doing, other days the anxiety is killer. I do not receive any benefits, but do get them through my wife. So is the $20k hit worth it?

Reply Like (0)
gs13 (Jun 28, 2017 - 9:48 pm)

Yes the contract specialist is a much better job than what you have. You have to take into consideration benefits of being a fed ( pension etc) plus the oppurtunity to get higher paid positions gs 13-15

Reply Like (0)
carlito (Jun 28, 2017 - 7:55 pm)

I became contract specialist after about 9 years of practicing. To answer your questions:

1 - They will probably hire you as a GS-9. That's typically entry level for contract specialists for someone with masters/JD.

2 - I don't think it would be inappropriate; it just shows you are open to various locations.

3 - If it is anything like mine, it will be COMPLETELY different from private sector interviews. You are given a list of questions when you walk in and have something like 15 minutes to write notes for your answers. You will then go in front of a panel and have a set time to speak to answer each question. It is really like giving a speech.

4 - Yes, yes, and yes. I took a much larger pay cut, and it has been so worth it. I was miserable practicing law, and now I actually don't mind going to work. The benefits, vacation, retirement, etc are above and beyond anything you will see in small law.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Jun 28, 2017 - 9:40 pm)

I became a contract specialist after one year of practicing law. I'm a GS-12 now in a low COL area and regret nothing. Take the interview, and take the temporary pay cut. You'll enjoy going home at 4 every day.

Reply Like (0)
fedlawyer (Jun 29, 2017 - 8:50 am)

Graduated law school in 2010. Missed passing the MI bar by one point (never took again). Took Fed job as contract specialist and now a GS14. TAKE THE JOB.

Reply Like (0)
booyeah (Jun 29, 2017 - 8:57 am)

Doesn't sound like you're a fed lawyer, fedlawyer.

Reply Like (1)
fedlawyer (Jun 29, 2017 - 8:58 am)

Graduated law school in 2010. Missed passing the MI bar by one point (never took again). Took Fed job as contract specialist and now a GS14. TAKE THE JOB.

Reply Like (0)
booyeah (Jun 29, 2017 - 9:02 am)

Still doesn't sound like you're a fed lawyer, fedlawyer.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Jun 29, 2017 - 9:05 am)

Fake it til you make it, and if you're a GS-14, you've made it... barred or not.

Reply Like (0)
fedlawyer (Jun 29, 2017 - 9:42 am)

I am not fedlawyer. I should probably change that handle.

Reply Like (0)
lawyernomore (Jun 29, 2017 - 9:58 am)

I practiced for a few years and hated it. I took a contract specialist position starting at the gs 09 grade. I'm 1 year in and making gs 11 pay, and I will be automatically promoted to gs 12 in another 11 months.

It's a solid position with good pay and benefits, and the work is at least as interesting as most law practice. An added bonus is that you can transfer between agencies easily and potentially live anywhere you want after a few years. As for the day-to-day, I might work 37 hours per week (we get 3 paid hours for PT) pricing out contract proposals and negotiating based on the FAR. When I interviewed I focused on my reading/ writing ability and desire to negotiate a great deal for the taxpayer etc.


I'm content with the work, there's opportunity to promote to at least gs 13 in the next few years, and I have plenty of time to go on vacation or do whatever else I want in my free time.

Good luck with your interview.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Jun 29, 2017 - 10:03 am)

This post makes me wonder what building you work in, as I'm starting to think we work for the same agency.

Reply Like (0)
notreallyalawyer (Sep 6, 2017 - 8:36 pm)

Can you describe more the duties and how you do them? Is the negotiation you do in person, on the phone, via correspondence?

I applied for a contract specialist position that closed on September 5th, I already got referred. That was pretty quick.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Sep 7, 2017 - 11:02 am)

The answer to the negotiation question is "it depends" based on the nature of which office you're in. It could potentially be "yes" to all of the above - but in my experience the vast majority is done over email, with phone calls placed when you need to move things along.

Reply Like (0)
notreallyalawyer (Sep 7, 2017 - 12:18 pm)

Thanks. Do you know if there are any documents/books/publications which in more of layman terms describe what is done? I'm reading the description of what my job does, but it seems written for people who are in the know and doesn't really explain what it is they do. Like more perhaps on what AQD does, interagency agreements, why government agencies do these with each other (I realize it has to do something with how they are funded)... Even just seeing an example of what they do might help, but everything I've found is so technical it just confuses me more.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Sep 7, 2017 - 12:27 pm)

If it's an entry-level position (GS-7 or 9) they're more likely to ask behavior analysis type questions. They may ask you why you want to work for that agency, of course. And expect at least one off the wall question (give me three uses for a paper clip other than clipping papers, for instance.)

If you insist on getting a book to learn about government contracts, try "Government Contracts in a Nutshell", probably available at your friendly local T3 law school bookstore.

Reply Like (0)
notreallyalawyer (Sep 7, 2017 - 1:14 pm)

Thanks, it's a GS9 position. Won't they expect me to know something about what it is that they do/how they do it? This particular Contract specialist seems to be mostly if not entirely about the government being the customer, so it's a bit different than other procurement stuff that I've read about. I'm just trying to visualize or find examples of that in action so I can understand it.

Any suggestions on why I want to work there? I'd take a contract specialist job at any agency, though this particular one is in an area that I'd prefer to live in. i'm not sure that's the kind of answer they are looking at.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Sep 7, 2017 - 1:19 pm)

As a general rule, the government can only buy something if a contracting officer signs at the bottom of the document. In order to become a CO, you go through a warrant process, where a board quizzes you on your knowledge of the FAR, Federal Acquisition Regulations.

The CO is supported by one or more contract specialists or buyers, people who do a lot of the negotiating, market research, and contract drafting... the grunt work in general as most offices only have a few warranted CO's. Depending on your agency you can usually get to a GS-11 or 12 as a specialist... with a CO's position being a 13 or higher.

http://farsite.hill.af.mil

Reply Like (0)
notreallyalawyer (Sep 7, 2017 - 1:46 pm)

Ah, thanks that helps a lot. They expect CO candidates to memorize the FAR? Kinda like a bar exam? The particular job I was referred to seem to be more of a interagency agreement thing if I'm not mistaken. Facilitating either taking over someone else's contract or something like that. I'm still quite a bit confused on it. Point is, the "buyer" is going to be another agency, not some private company.

Reply Like (0)
downwardslope (Sep 7, 2017 - 12:38 pm)

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications/classifying-general-schedule-positions/standards/1100/gs1102.pdf

Reply Like (0)
sanka (Sep 7, 2017 - 2:12 pm)

I once was in a federal office where the CO, a pretty young blonde girl, was married to a nephew of the office boss. Beyond that, I observed no skills by the CO above 8th grade level.

Not that there is never ever ever any nepotism in any federal office.....

Reply Like (0)
notreallyalawyer (Sep 7, 2017 - 2:18 pm)

Kind of hard to imagine. My dad could never help me, due to nepotism rules, and he had been a federal attorney for decades..

Not really sure of they are comparable, but I once worked as an intern at US consulate. The FSOs were really busy interviewing visa candidates, but the chief of the office, didn't really do anything, at least nothing that I saw.

Reply Like (0)
flyer14 (Sep 7, 2017 - 2:22 pm)

In my agency you'll always see at least one young guy (or girl) in practically every office who shares the same last name as some other GS-15 or SES elsewhere. It's not coincidental. Won't be in the same office, but will definitely work at the same installation.

Reply Like (0)
Post a message in this thread