Federal Hiring — Want to vent?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently announced that only 2.3% of 35,000 college students surveyed are interested in pursuing federal employment.

Looking beyond myopic political rhetoric, my sense is the main causes for this is the government itself. The competitive hiring process is frustrating, exasperating, and difficult to manage even with recent efforts to improve it. For example, about 18 months ago, I heard an anecdote that only 2% of all those who apply for federal positions on USAJobs get an interview. I have no idea what the hiring rate is.

And the tales of woe I’ve heard FAR exceed the tales of success when it comes to federal applications for non-veterans.

Have you experienced this? Were you or someone you know successful? Is success the exception?

Or am I living in a negativity bubble?

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Corey McCarren

I’ve heard from a friend that it’s extraordinarily difficult to get anything from USAJobs if you aren’t a veteran. I am interested in working for the federal government, but it’s difficult to justify spending too much time on USAJobs if it’s an uphill battle to begin with.

Andy Lowenthal

Given its visibility, our federal government is actually an employer of choice in many instances. By that I mean it receives a deluge of applications (sometimes in the hundreds or even thousands for one open position), making it difficult to cull the applicant pool down to a manageable number.

In order to mitigate, HR officials often place an extraordinarily high “burden of proof” on the applicant. In other words, they have a “disqualify” mentality in order to get the list down. For example, I was once turned down from a job because it was a “status position” and for tenured State Dept employees only. I had tenure when I applied, but I didn’t supply proof of said tenure and was thus deemed ineligible with the comment code “Does not work for the U.S. Department of State.” In reality, I had worked there for many years but my resume was apparently not sufficient proof of that. Nor were my SF-50s. Sound bizarre?

This is compounded by the fact that many hiring agencies are bound by draconian hiring procedures, and the federal hiring space has a notorious culture of litigation. As a result, many HR shops are reluctant to make bold steps to alter the selection process in any way. The fear of lawsuits is real and somewhat crippling at many agencies. In reality, HR directors and managers should be focused on how to create more applicant-centric hiring experiences — let the General Counsel’s office worry about the lawsuits.

Allison Primack

We asked GovLoopers on Facebook if they thought the hiring process drove away young talent. This is what they said:

Christopher Huerta Sometimes.. It’s a long, drawn out process and I think young talented individuals have multiple options and don’t have the patience to wait for the Gov. to take 3 to 6 to 9 months or more to fill an opening. I myself have changed positions within the Gov and been involved in a 9 month process. It’s tedious, and sometimes excessively so.

Brian V. Jones yes it does. and the usajobs website errors all the time and cost me and quite a few others jobs/promotions

Steve Fronabarger Yes it does.

Tammy Jackson Proffitt sadly, yes.

Shelly Sullivan Nuessle Lack of follow up, onerous paperwork requirements and time line does not encourage younger candidates. Heck, it doesnt encourage enperience candidates from the private sector.

Sean R. Hoyden Christopher nailed this one. In a sagging economy, most people can’t afford to sit back and wait six months for the gov’t to get its act together. When Corporate America calls and says we can start you in 2 weeks, you take what you can get. On top of that, when gov’t finally does get things moving, most people (contrary to popular belief) feel a certain sense of obligation to their new boss and don’t like to leave after only having been at a job for a few months.

Eric Pierce Absolute torture. Unless you really know what you’re doing (i.e., have read several career guide books on how to properly apply for federal vacancies), nail the federal resume style (not the most intuitive format out there), pass the onerous and generally abrasive security clearance process, *and* somehow manage to qualify yourself so well that you can match up with potential “Status” candidates (translation: “We’re kind of busy and don’t want to bother interviewing a lot of folks, could we just get someone who already works for the government? Yeah?”), then you’ve not only landed a job, you’re a rockstar.

Sharyn Dobson Unfortunately, yes.

Jameel Moses Yes.