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I have been offered a US government job that is on the General Schedule pay system. This is the 3rd time they have tried to fill the position (I didn't apply the other times). The position requires a PhD, clinical experience, and research experience in a very narrowly defined sub field. I am friendly with one of the members of the interview panel and he unofficially said that only a few applicants made it through the HR screen and the panel were not happy with anyone else besides me.

What aspects of the job offer can I negotiate? The job was advertised at a single grade, so I do not believe that the grade can be negotiated. I think I can negotiate the starting step within the grade. I believe of the recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives I can only ask for a recruitment incentive since I am not currently a government employee. My friend on the interview panel said I can negotiate vacation time up from 13 days to 20 days, but I cannot find the policy on this. What else can be negotiated?

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The Grade is fixed in place. The step is very hard to negotiate. If they are filling the position via promotion they will offer the starting step as equal to a double step advance of the lower grade. If you are coming from an Agency with bands vs Grades there may be some wiggle room.

Whether they will offer relocation is based on their budget, and how they perceive their ability to find local talent. Some job descriptions have a extra bonus becasue they are considered hard to fill in that location, but that would have been figured into the job description.

Vacation is harder to negotiate because they don't want to have too many different starting numbers and earning rates. I have seen a non-zero starting number, or treating all employees at a certain level as if they were there X years so they earn vacation at a higher rate, in the private sector. When the government allows a variation it is becasue they are filling a senior position, or when the employee is coming from another part of the government that would strip earned vacation from their account.

Starting date can be negotiated, to allow you to move, finish a project, or take leave prior to starting.

Insurance is related to where you work/live. Items such as student loan forgiveness, day care, and maternity leave are determined by the agency. Non-standard work schedules are dependent on your supervisors permission and are not an HR concern.

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If it does not say that relocation is authorized in the job announcement then there is no way around that period.

A Couple of websites

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