YGL – OPM and the Federal Hiring Process

It has been said time and time again that one of the best ways to get young people interested in working for the Federal Government is to change its hiring process. It became no longer acceptable to have a Federal Agency take six months or longer to hire a candidate. In that time, potential hires sought other jobs and were hired in no time especially in the private sector.

What this caused was seeing the best and the brightest perceive the Federal Government as a place that is very slow to change, very bureaucratic and a place that is not interested in seeing young blood fill the halls of each agency.

I was one of those people that felt that way. In May of 2005, on the day of my graduation, most of my classmates had been hired by top accounting and marketing firms. I at the time had applied to over 20 federal jobs and had not heard back from any of them. I only began to hear from them in late October, early November of 2005. A good six months from when I first applied. I was pretty disappointed at this and realized that unless you were determined to be as patient as I was, nobody would be willing to go through this process.

I always wondered how hiring mangers felt about the situation. Well I guess they weren’t as happy as I was because the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is taking an unprecedented step in overhauling the federal hiring process and trying to make it more robust so that people, especially future young Feds, do not get discouraged by the whole process.

OPM on September 5, 2008, presented (in a 59 paged document) steps to cut down the time it takes to recruit at a Federal agency. One of the great initiatives is to cut down the hiring time from infinity to just 80 days or less.

The following links are great articles on this:

From OPM’s website:

From the Government Executive Magazine:

From the Federal Computer Weekly (FCW)

From the Federal Times:

I believe this initiative is a step in the right direction and I believe more work needs to be done, from having a clear and discernable job description on USAJobs that cuts out the unnecessary agency jargons to setting clear expectations on USAjobs on the expected hiring period.

This new initiative comes at the right time with the impending mass retirement of baby boomers.

I am excited at this hiring overhaul (as I have been a victim of the old process) and I look forward to more changes.

I.J Ezeonwuka
Chapter Liaison- Young Government Leaders 2008-2009

For original post please go to: http://www.younggovernmentleaders.org/blog.htm
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Scott Horvath

80 days, 6 months, is still entirely too long. It’s definitely no match for the private sector. Granted, I’m sure there’s many, many more policies, regulations, etc that are required for any federal employment but 80 days is way to long. In the private sector, if I applied for a job that was “closing” in a week, I would probably hear something within 1 – 2 weeks. Go in for an interview, second interview, maybe even a third all within 2 more weeks. Then I would be hired and start 2 weeks later. So that’s 6 weeks (1 and 1/2 months). In a lot of smaller organizations, the hiring process would be much faster. I was once hired for a contracting job for the government and was hired within a week to start 2 weeks later. Within 3 weeks from application, I was in.

The bar needs to be set higher to attract “young blood.” But it’s not just shortening the hiring process, it’s really communicating and marketing government jobs to the new, young, fresh faces. There are several agencies that do a good job of making a position look attractive. The majority of jobs are simply text on the screen, fill out an extremely long application form that takes hours to complete, cross your fingers and hope someone calls. Why are we still trying to attract people to positions that may actually be exciting, or challenging, and using traditional methods?

The technology world has changed. The Web world is continually changing. Why not include videos of people currently in similar positions showing what they do, who they get to work with (The Hill, agency heads, top ranking officials, kids, tribal organizations) or places where they work or travel (on the land, underwater, on a volcano, or in the Arctic)? Why not include stories of what it’s like to be a “x?” What about marketing those jobs through social networks and social mediums like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube?

I’m sure there are a number of ways that making government positions more attractive to young talent. Talk about how current technologies, social networks, presences are being implemented within the organization. Show people that the technology does exist…we’re NOT still working with Windows 3.1 (I’m sure there’s someone reading that still uses it though).

Government hasn’t typically “sold” itself or had to “market” itself to the public. The typical idea of government “brands” are creating a circle shaped logo, throwing in some neat design and being sure to add an eagle, or a flag, or multiple names/logos to represent all the partnerships…then putting onto letterhead and in the upper corners of our websites and leaving it at that. I know there’s many excellent examples of government branding out there that are truly “brands” that sell themselves. But the entire government needs to move in that direction. We DO need to sell to the public. We need to make the public aware that we DO have jobs that are exciting…we DO have jobs where someone can make a difference…we DO have jobs that put people on the cutting edge of technology, education, and science. We need to put ourselves through Communications and Marketing 101 and start marketing our brands and what we do. Otherwise, we’ll just continue on down the same path we traditionally have and hoping that an 80 day hiring process will help make things easier.

I’m not saying an 80 day process, or less, won’t help at all. I’m sure it will. But maybe that can be marketed to make it more attractive as a start?

Teri Centner

Supposedly NSPS is supposed to solve this problem for the DoD. I haven’t really seen any success stories I can point to, though. 🙁


Some departments are making progresss however. The agency where I am currently employed stated that they intended to make a decision within 45 days of the vacancy closing and they actually stuck to it. The vacancy closed Jan 4th of 08, i had an interview roughly 2.5 weeks later and had an offer ~1 week after that. so there is light at the end of the tunnel, alas its still uneven across the federal govt. I had one agency email me in Nov ’07 to indicate that I was not selected to interview for a job I applied for the previous March. I quickly concluded that that was not an agency I wanted to work withas they already left such a bad impression.

Jeremy Ames

Part of the process that slows things down is the disconnect between the HR offices and the hiring offices. There’s virtually no communication, and many good candidates never make the cert, while several poor candidates always seem to make it through. To get around this hiring offices game the system by wiring jobs for candidates they’ve prescreened. Much of this is due to the inflexible application design required by the various laws and regulations, frustrating for all involved. But I think many problems could be fixed, and the process sped up, if there was more communication between HR and hiring offices on the front end. But, in the case of my agency, we’re not even in the same city (or coast). So much of what our colleagues do will remain a mystery if our only opportunity at communication is checking off a box or sending a form email at the end of the process.

O Spencer

DOn’t county on NSPS to streamline anything…it is a much more cumbersome and foggy ordeal…it allows too much discretion by individuals and aids the ‘good ole boy’ network despite it’s claims to curtail it or provide a work invironment more constructive and increase proficiency.

Regarding the hiring process, from what I can see, the reduction in hiring processes are largely attributed to Agency efforts that seek to reduce the wait from close to hire. The process needs a transparent process that allows applicants to view and query their status in accordance with designated milestones. As long as the process keep the applicant in the dark and moves at its’ own pace, without recourse or consequence, it won’t improve. Much of it has to do with ‘operator error’, head space and timing’…someone has to exercise oversight of incoming and outgoing app’s and their stage…I’ve experience in the government hirings that have taken as little as two weeks and as long as a year. These delays sometimes give an improper opinion of an organization that might otherwise be viewed quite effecient, but is thought to be one for which I might be better off to not work for. It’s unreasonable for an organization to announce or attempt to fill a position, select and offer the position, then take over 30 days to place them absent of a negotiated delayed start date…hopefully things are progressively getting better as we discuss it, but I won’t hold my breath until I see it for myself.