The Federal Coach: Pitching Young Employees on Your Federal Agency

The average age of my agency’s employees is high. With retirements increasing, we will need to recruit and hire younger employees. What is the recruiting pitch that will appeal to younger employees? How do you entice them to join your agency?Federal Manager (GS-15), Department of Veterans Affairs

This is a great question. Recruiting a new generation to public service and getting top-flight talent in the process is essential to the vibrancy and effectiveness of our government.

Let’s start with the recruiting pitch. You should have a clear message about your organization and mission, as well as a straightforward description of the job to be filled.

In particular, you need to speak to the interests of young job seekers on making a difference, workplace flexibilities, relative job stability, and the opportunity that a government job can provide as a possible stepping stone. If you really wanted to push your message forward, you could reinforce that federal employment is an opportunity to be of service of the American people. The folks you want will jump at the chance.

Putting all this into action will require that every agency and every office develop its elevator speech – that 30-second, plain-English pitch that explains your role and mission. You also need what I call a “Metro ad”: a short, catchy written pitch that’s capable of drawing someone’s interest even if they’re standing on a hot, crowded Metro full of tourists.

This means agencies must stop posting vacancies on USAJobs.gov that contain mind-numbing job descriptions and instead read more like incredible opportunities.

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David Reinbold

I’d also be interested in examples, as I will begin my job search with the federal government as soon as I complete my M.A.

Spencer W. Clark

I’d add that managers should also take stock of what they’re up against because not all agencies are created equal. Saavy applicants are likely to look up the Partnership’s “Best Places to Work” rankings and have an idea of your reputation.

A great product (workplace) won’t need much of a sales pitch, while one with a notoriously bad rap will take careful crafting. But more important than good advertising is being the manager who is actually creating a better place to work. Are you getting rid of bad actors and fostering a positive work culture? Are you championing greater workplace flexibility in your agency (to the extent you can)? Are you creating clear expectations and pathways for growth?

I’ve had a number of friends join the federal government and I can say that the several people I know at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission aren’t going anywhere, whereas my friend who started at the VA was gone in 6 months. Getting them in the door is not even half the battle.

I was at a leadership training recently with folks from a bunch of different agencies, and talked extensively with a GS-15 manager at the VA who recounted her difficulties in dealing with/getting rid of several toxic employees she inherited on her team, and the effort required to shield her recent hires from being negatively affected by them. While a middle manager can’t change everything about agency policies and culture, there’s a lot they can do to make their little corner a good place to work, and thus attractive to potential new hires (not to mention everywhere else).