Patent Examiner

Hello Susan,
My name is Aanam, I am very interested in working for USPTO as a Patent Examiner. I have done my Bachelors of Computer Science and Masters of Computer Science with GPA of 3.74 (Bachelor) and 3.97 (Master) and I did my second Master in Telecommunication and Networking with GPA of 3.48, I graduated in 2007 and since then I have been working as a Data Analyst or business analyst.
Currently, there are openings for Patent Examiners in VA which I am very interested in applying. Are there any key pointers which you could please like to share which might be helpful to make my application stand out more?
Which grade did you get hired as a Patent Examiner and when did you start working from home, part time or full time?
Thank you so much for your time
posted by Aanam, VA on April 20, 2014

Answer by Susan Su

Dear Aanam,

I have to be honest, I don't truly know the USPTO hiring process, so I'm not sure the advice I give below will be accurate.  I got the following tips from a professional resume writer who was giving a workshop to government contractors on how to apply for permanent federal jobs.  Obviously you already have the degrees to back you up, so you're half way there.  The other thing is that when you answer the KSA questions in the application, make sure you link your many years of experiences to the keywords in those questions.  I don't know if it'll be a question in the application, but one important attribute a patent examiner should have is to make quick decisions (those who have that attribute tend to have an easier time at the job). Since patent examination is never black and white, you'll need to be able to decide on one path and give your best rationale to support that path (e.g. reject for reason x or allow for reason y).  As we all know, the federal government gets so many applications that the first step is to use keywords and degrees to narrow down the eligible pool.  I guess then your resume will be send to the hiring managers to figure out which unit(s) would match your qualifications best.  With your degrees and experiences, you're most likely going to get hired at GS-9 step-8, maybe even step 9.  That's what a friend of mine got hired at and he also had a masters and several years of experience.  I got hired at the same level with no experience but a doctoral degree.  The only people who get hired at GS-11 or higher are those who have either worked in patent prosecution or are previous patent examiners.  Oh, the grades for a patent examiner starts at 5, then 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, & 14. You'll need to be a supervisor to be GS-15 (or one of few examiners dealing with a different category of applications).  As far as I know, you'll have to be GS-12 and been with the USPTO for at least 2 years before being able to work from home 100% (which means you'll no longer have your own space at the Office).  There are also the programs of teleworking from home 1 day a week or 32hrs every two weeks, and I think eligibility is at GS-11 and at least one year with the Office.  Of course, you'll have to be rated "fully successful" to be able to qualify for any teleworking/hoteling.  Depending on how well you do and how well you get along with your supervisor, I've known people who work extra long hours for 9-10 straight days and then take a 4-5 day weekend to go home; and repeat biweek after biweek for years.  It's not easy to do that since patent examining takes a lot of brain work, but I guess the desire to spend time with family outside of DC can give one the drive and focus.  So in addition to working from home, there are other ways to not have to show up to the office 5 days a week.

Best of luck in your job application process!

Susan