Industry Insights

Requirements for Working at the Post Office

By: Melanie Bacallao
Jul 1, 2021 • 6 min read

Requirements for Working at the United States Post Office!

Are you ready to join the Postal Service? Careers in the post office can be quite difficult to achieve since there are always many applicants. In this guide, we will help you set yourself apart from the rest. The application process for working at the post office can be tough. So we will break down everything you need to know!

brown wooden stand

How to Work for the United States Postal Service (USPS)

First, you would need to apply through the USPS’s website. You would need to create an account before you can apply. The process is simple. You’re only required to input your first and last name, email, username, and password.

Requirements to Work at USPS

There are several qualifications you have to check in order to be eligible to apply to the USPS. After all, they are the second-largest employer in the United States. This already brings some competition. Therefore, you would need to pass the minimum requirements to work at the USPS.

  • Have to be at least 18 years old at the time of the appointment, or 16 years old with a high school diploma.
  • Be a United States citizen, permanent resident, or citizen of a U.S. territory.
  • Have recent employment history.
  • Ability to pass a criminal background check, drug screening, and medical assessment.
  • Residency requirement for background checks (proof of U.S. citizenship or other).
  • Safe driving record (if applicable).
  • Registered with Selective Service if applicable.

If you meet all of these minimum requirements, then you’re qualified to apply for the USPS. However, there are some other things you have to be aware of. Many postal service jobs require workers to stand for hours at a time. Unless you’re a driver. There may also be further requirements that you must meet depending on the job listing.

What is the Postal Exam 473?

The Postal Exam 473 is an entrance examination that the USPS requires you to complete depending on the job you applied for. This assessment is not available for every applicant. There will only be a limited amount of applicants who receive the invitation to take this assessment. Each job posting has a predetermined number of applicants that can be tested. Once the maximum is reached, no further invitations will be sent.

white and blue van on road during daytime

Updates on Postal Exam 473

There are other postal exams that have replaced it according to the appropriate job listing. The exam is not necessary for every job listing. However, it is required for over 70% of the USPS’s jobs. Here are jobs in the USPS that require you to pass a postal exam:

  • 474 – City and Rural Postal Carrier
  • 475 – Mail Handler and Mail Handler Assistant
  • 476 – Mail Processor
  • 477 – Customer Service Clerk
  • 955 – Mechanic and Technician

Depending on the job you applied for, your exam may be proctored, un-proctored, or both. If the exam is proctored, you will need to test at a USPS testing-approved facility. The span to complete this assessment ranges from three to seven days. The timeframe is dependent if it is being proctored or not. Make sure to give yourself enough time to prepare and study!

You can only take the exam once per job listing.

More on Exams

The following questions can be found in postal exams 474, 475, 476, and 477. Postal exam 955 is completely different from other assessments. Overall, you will be expected to answer questions based on personal experiences and work scenarios.

  • Work Scenarios: Tests your ability to work out an issue and to resolve them. These questions gauge your reaction to different scenarios.
  • Tell Us Your Story: Prompts questions based on your work experience and background.
  • Describe Your Approach: Formatted as a personality test based on how you approach daily tasks.

These three categories will appear on all aforementioned exams (with the exception of 955). Other than exam 474, all other exams will have an additional category that is different depending on the job you applied for. The Work Scenarios category has the least amount of questions, while the last category, Describe Your Approach, has about 56-79 questions.

While there is no time limit, you are still encouraged to give yourself a certain amount of time per question. Applicants with the highest scores will be invited to an interview much more quickly than someone who scored lower. The minimum score to pass is 70. Any lower, and you will be ineligible to continue. You can retake an exam after 12 months. If you score higher than the minimum, expect the USPS to take an interest in you much sooner than expected.

In order to take the postal exam, you will have to schedule an appointment to take it as an approved testing center. Remember that you have roughly three to seven days to complete it. So prepare wisely!

How to Prepare for Postal Service Interview

If you scored an interview with the United States Postal Service, congratulations! The interview is extended to candidates who have passed their respective postal exam. While there will be questions that are tailored to the position you applied to, here are general topics that the hiring manager will ask you about.

  • Work Setting and Job Content
  • Conscientiousness
  • Adaptability
  • Cooperation
  • Communication
  • Customer Service

red mail box on brown wooden post

Answering Postal Service Interview Questions

The hiring manager will ask you questions from each of the six categories listed. They may also sneak in some general interview questions, so make sure that you prepare!

1. Work Setting and Job Content

The first category, work setting and job content, focuses on verifying if you’re suitable for the postal service environment. These questions will consist of asking if you have worked in a similar setting before or if you’re aware of possible safety hazards. Hiring managers will use this time to ask about your expectations of the job you applied to.

Tips for acing this category is to look up safety hazards in the job listing you applied to. Your answers should show the hiring manager that you’re capable of working in the postal service environment.

2. Conscientiousness

The second category, conscientiousness, leans toward general interview questions about obligations and performance. Hiring managers want to prioritize questions about time management and responsibility. These are important traits to have in a postal service job.

To ace this category, recount previous experiences or jobs where you excelled at these traits. Try to choose highlights in your work history where you met objectives or have been awarded for performance. Hiring managers will also likely ask about previous mistakes and how you overcame them.

3. Adaptability

Adaptability measures how flexible you can be in unpredictable situations. As a postal service worker, you’re likely to meet with unexpected overtime or schedule changes. It’s not only schedule changes you have to face, but supervisor and workload conditions as well.

Tips for acing this category is, like the previous category, recount experiences where you were able to adapt to sudden changes to the environment. You don’t have to solely rely on past experiences. Make yourself as adaptable as possible. Your answers have to show the hiring manager that change doesn’t scare you, but in fact, you embrace it. And you work at it well.

4. Cooperation

The fourth category, cooperation, tests your ability to handle shared tasks and teamwork. Hiring managers want to know how you react when having to do shared and sequential tasks with one or more people.

Tips for acing this category is to mention cases in which teamwork was essential in past jobs. Besides recounting experiences, make sure your answers display the fact that you have good communication skills to partner up and resolve issues.

5. Communication

Communication is key no matter what job you have. How you talk to your supervisor is important to consider, as well as proving you can follow verbal and written instructions.

Tips for acing this category is to essentially prove or demonstrate you can follow directions. You must also show that you’re able to communicate properly to a supervisor, coworker, or customer. Your mannerisms come into play.

letterbox near grass field

6. Customer Service

The sixth category, Customer Service, questions you on the ability to communicate with customers. This means if you’re capable of handling internal and external communication with customers — in-person or via telephone. Hiring managers want to know how you handle customer complaints and how you aid them.

Tips for acing this category depend on recounting previous experiences of dealing with customer complaints or service. Your answers should skew towards wanting to bring the best experience for customers. This is because working at the Post Office requires excellent customer service skills!

Salary

According to Payscale, the average salary for a post office employee working for the USPS is roughly $61,000 annually. Salaries at the USPS can range from $41,362 to $91,013 per year. This means that working at the post office can be a pretty stable career choice!

Benefits

The USPS claim to provide competitive pay, health insurance, dental and vision insurance, flexible spending accounts, long-term care insurance, retirement plan, thrift savings plan, social security and medicare, life insurance, commuter program, and leave.

They observe ten holidays per year and add more leave days depending on how long you’ve worked with them. It starts with 13 days of annual leave until it reaches 26 days after 15 years of service.

These are the requirements to work at the post office! Take your time, study, and prepare for an amazing career!

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