OPM and the Federal Hiring Process

From Nextgov.com

OPM decides to keep application form on USAJobs
By Alyssa Rosenberg 08/24/2009

The Office of Personnel Management will continue using a job application form it had considered removing from USAJobs, but the agency has asked for comment on whether the form imposes too great a burden on human resources offices.

The Optional Form Application for Federal Employment collects information similar to what’s found on a standard resume, said Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. But it also includes two questions that are important to federal agencies when they make hiring decisions: whether an applicant is a U.S. citizen, and whether an applicant is a veteran. The form also asks whether an applicant has been a federal employee before, and whether they are seeking reinstatement based on their status as a career employee.

In February, when OPM first proposed dropping the form from USAJobs, Howard Weizmann, then the agency’s deputy director, wrote in a Federal Register notice that OPM estimated 50.1 million applications per year would be filled out through USAJobs. He said it takes human resources officers 40 minutes to read through the Resume Builder, which collects similar information about work experience and educational background, and the optional form for each application — creating 33.1 million hours of work annually.

OPM maintained that the optional form was redundant. The Resume Builder captured the same information, Weizmann wrote, noting it was the hiring agencies’ responsibility to tell applicants what information they considered relevant in job notices.

In the latest notice, published in the Federal Register on Friday, OPM said it did not intend to ask the Office of Management and Budget to cancel the optional form “at this time.” Sedelta Verble, director of OPM’s office of communications, said the agency had decided to keep the form on USAJobs because some agencies use it as part of their applications process. But she noted the decision was separate from larger debates about reforming the hiring process.

The notice set a 30-day deadline for comments on the decision, and the agency said it was particularly interested in “whether this information [in the optional form] is necessary for the proper performance of functions of OPM, and whether it will have practical utility; whether our estimate of the public burden of this collection of information is accurate and based on valid assumptions and methodology; and ways in which we can minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, through the use of appropriate technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.”

Stier said it was important to consider the effect reforms to the federal hiring system will have not only on applicants but on the human resources employees who process their applications.

“We have to have a transformation in the hiring process, but we have to have a transformation of resources on the government side,” Stier said. “You’re going to be asking people to do things in a different way, probably in a more time-intensive way.”

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