Recruiting for the Public Sector

Next week I have the opportunity to utilize five minutes to talk about Human Capital Issues as part of a panel during our All Managers Conference. So the topic of the panel discussion has been running around in my head for the last several days and I have the urge to share.

There are three topics (hiring process, recruitment, and retention) and most of my thoughts have centered around the latter two. I know the hiring process is slow and needs to be faster, however I suspect there are plenty of people already thinking about it so I can spend my time on recruitment and retention.

Specifically on recruitment my latest ‘thought’ is why are we not reaching out to all of the Universities/Colleges in the Washington DC area? Specifically, why do I not have the ability to reach out to a Public Administration professor at the University of Maryland (literally 5 minutes from my office) and offer to come into her/his classroom and speak to the students about why I love being a bureacrat? Even better, perhaps I can bring along several people just out of school that are working for us and they can talk to the class about what they enjoy about working for the Federal Government. Does the Professor and students even know that they have a large Federal presence so close to their school and they can take advantage of for site visits, internships, summer jobs, etc.? Get us into the classroom and perhaps we can convince some bright young talent to join the Federal sector and begin contributing to our Mission.

Or what about Howard, JMU, GMU, Georgetown, Galludet, Bowie State, Hopkins, UMBC, etc. etc. And this can’t be an original idea (I have very few) so is somebody already doing the above? Are they willing to share?

Most importantly, are you willing to share if you are already doing any of the above?

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Celia Mendive

I work for CRS as a recruitment coordinator and we try to reach out to local universities as much as possible; we definitely try to make it to career fairs (I was just at SAIS). I coordinate information sessions for graduate students (and have done so for a number of local schools such as GW). Next month, I’ll be at Howard, to speak to Econ students about our summer internship program. A good place to start is with the Career Services Office, they can be very helpful in identifying ways to partner with your agency. Also, seek alums within your agency to reach out to their contacts. It does take time to develop relationships with these schools, but they are such a great resource, its worth it.


I talk a lot about these issues and Partnership for Public Service also has some good materials.

My ideas-
-Recruitment – attend career fairs, start internship programs, create two year fellows program for entry-level (see resource tab for some examples), use direct hire when possible (acquisition and IT security for example), advertise in non-traditional areas (not just USAJOBS but post links on sites like GovLoop, Washington Post, organizations – like Government Accountants group, etc). I’d also recruit outside of Washington – a lot of agencies are at the local universities and as someone who went to school in Ohio and PA, there are a lot of students who would love the idea of coming to DC and working for gov’t but never get exposed.

-Retainment – tie work back to mission, send people to field for one-day frontlines, create details and rotations, provide opportunities to voice new ideas – like TSA Idea Factory, become more transparent – leadership blogs and sent out information about what managers are doing (simple meeting minutes being sent out to more people instead of just senior managers is good), more feedback, social events at work (birthday lunches), learning events at work (lunch n’learn, bring in speakers), provide opportunities for training and expanding skills

Michael Huang

As a recent grad from GW’s MPP program, I found the PMFs, OMB and GAO to have the strongest recruitment presence on campus. Tom, I think your ideas are great and would have been extremely effective so my answer to everything you had to say is “yse, yes and yes.” Here’s what I would add:

– Process: I’d focus on acknowledging that the process exists and just extend the application time line. There were a number of private sector companies that interviewed in the fall to hire a student for the next fall. If anything, grad students would value that the lag time, which gives them both the time to finish their programs and the knowledge that they have a job waiting for them when they’re complete.

— Recruitment: back on subject. Lunch n’ Learns, speakers, all the ideas mentioned before are great. They’re effective and they attract active people who are willing to make the trip and listen to someone speak about their agency or mission, etc. I always found these information sessions to be the most effective when a senior leader came with a recent graduate. Now, define senior leader within an agency however you want, but as a student, the job became very attractive when the person speaking about an agency was a classmate in my shoes not too long ago.

Good luck! -M