Hiring FAQ


Getting Hired

You need to complete a background check and drug test and be a U.S. citizen.

The background check start with either the SF-86 or SF-85P (sample here from the OPM website, a detailed questionnaire about your personal background and where you’ve lived. This includes drug use. Getting your background check cleared can take several weeks or longer.

For our positions you must be a U.S. citizen. If you are a permanent resident, check out 18F—they can hire non-citizens for some roles—or other civic tech organizations.

The salary for digital service experts ranges from less than $100,000 to around $160,000. The Digital Service does not control salary determinations. Salaries are determined by HR officials based on résumé and experience.

To help with negotiations and get you close to previous salary, the government may require a pay stub or W-2. Only base salary will generally be considered; not bonuses, commissions, stock compensation, or hourly consulting.

Our staff are hired under a special authority and paid on the same General Schedule (GS) payscale as most other federal employees. The GS system has 15 “grades” and 10 “steps” per grade. Check out the Washington, D.C., GS payscale table on the OPM website.

Candidates receive health care and other benefits (such as retirement savings account eligibility). For a wealth of information and different benefit plans offered look on the OPM website.

We operate on a tour of service model. Most people serve for one or two years, with the option to extend up to four years. We want to be able to do their best work while they are here and share what they’ve learned at USDS across different industries when they leave. USDS can accept some shorter tours, typically when people are taking a leave of absence from their other job to temporarily join USDS on a full-time basis. Time commitments are not binding.

It depends. We strive to have you go through the interview process within four weeks. Onboarding can take an additional four to six weeks depending on when you get an offer from the HR team and how long the background check takes. Your time in the onboarding process is generally out of our control at USDS.

You should receive an email confirmation when your application is submitted. If you are selected to move on to interviews, you will be connected with a member of the USDS Talent Team. They will be your guide throughout your interview process.

The roles and responsibilities of any given USDS staff member vary tremendously, because agencies have different technological needs. Even projects within the same agency require distinct skill sets.

Because of the unpredictability and breadth of our engagements, we focus on hiring technical experts who can adapt to a project’s needs, though we also hire specialists for particular projects.

We are always hiring for a number of different roles, so if you are an expert in your field and are interested in working at USDS, you should apply!

You are welcome to apply again after one year with an updated résumé. We recommend looking into other civic tech organizations to stay involved in this important work at all levels — federal, state, and local.

Unfortunately, we are not set up to support internships. We recommend looking into other civic tech organizations that are able to hire and support interns.

Onboarding

It’s a black hole; we know it’s not ideal. Typically we do not have insight into the background check process, which is being completed by the agency where you are being hired.

You’ll receive a formal offer letter from HR when you have passed the background check and drug test. This typically happens closer to your tentative start date. Keep your USDS Talent Team guide informed of any changes to your timeline while onboarding.

Once you have turned in your security paperwork, you will not hear from the security team until they have reviewed the paperwork and need additional information (e.g. additional background or a drug test). This is the start of the background check black hole. We do not have insight into the security process, except when a candidate emails us to let us know what is happening. However, feel free to reach out to your USDS Talent Team guide anytime!

You are eligible to start once your background check clears, you pass your drug test, and you receive a formal offer from HR. Close to the end of your process, we will work with you to set a tentative start date and we will confirm that date with you once you get the green light from HR. If you have taken a drug test as part of onboarding, you must start within 30 days of taking the drug test to avoid being required to take the test again.

Relocation

The fourth USDS value is “Go where the work is.” Since most of the teams you’ll be working with are in the D.C. metro area we ask that you make D.C. or the surrounding area your base during the work week. If you are unable to make that work, consider 18F, which operates differently and has staff distributed across the country.

It’s up to you! We have folks that live in D.C. and the surrounding metro area. We have USDSers who would be happy to chat with you to give you an overview of neighborhoods and moving hacks. People at USDS have moved from all across the world to live in D.C. for a couple of years.

If you are in onboarding stages at USDS, please reach out to your USDS Talent Team guide and they can help connect you to people who can be a great resource during your search.

All conditional offer letters are conditional upon your passing the background check (including security and drug checks). Therefore, we suggest that candidates hold off on long‐term decisions (e.g. signing leases) until you receive a formal offer letter. You are responsible for your housing in D.C.

No. Unfortunately, the government does not allow us to cover moving or relocation expenses.

We are happy to help set up a visit for incoming candidates who have received a conditional offer. Please reach out to your USDS Talent Team guide to schedule a visit.

Life at USDS

There is no such thing as a “typical” USDS experience; it’s a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure. Depending on your skillsets and interests, you’ll either get matched to an agency team (e.g., Veterans Affairs or Homeland Security), or you may bounce around to different projects depending on where the need is. The number and types of projects you’ll work on could vary wildly, and you may be doing things you never dreamed of. (Fly to Afghanistan? Check. Visit a mainframe warehouse in a mine? Check. Pitch a project to a Deputy Secretary? Check.)

Don’t worry — most days you can dress like you’re at any other startup. Every now and then we dress up for important meetings, so it’s good to have at least one formal outfit in your closet.

USDS is full of people who are scrappy, mission-driven, and passionate. We don’t look like your typical government employees (hoodies and sneakers reign supreme here) and we’ve been known to attend Star Wars premieres together. We work hard because we know the work is worth doing and we can see the impact it makes on real people’s lives. Even if you run into roadblocks or bureaucracy, you can always rely on the USDS family to help you troubleshoot, back you up, and cheer you on.