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Forget Cyber Monday – There is a holiday hiring spree

Ok, a hiring spree might be a bit of a stretch. But the government really is hiring. Despite all the bad publicity, the shutdown, the sequester, the pay freeze, the furloughs, the government really is looking to hire new talent on a daily basis. (You can check out GovLoop’s top job openings here.)

However, there is a problem. Due the bad publicity, getting young people interested in government is a big challenge. So how do you recruit effectively?

Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He told Chris Dorobek that the key to hiring the best and brightest is to recruit where the young talent already resides, college campuses, twitter and Linkedin.

“The demographics are not in our favor right now in the federal government. Even if, budget reductions have slowed hiring, agencies still need to maintain the job market profile and find ways to continually reach young people. There are jobs right now that are looking to be filled. There will inevitably be jobs in the future that will need to be filled. You can’t just pick and choose when you reach out to college students or recent graduates. You need to maintain an ever-present view towards them so when it comes time for them to find their first, second or third job, it is a highly mobile workforce, they will be thinking about the government as a career option for them,” said Fox.

What’s the best way to reach potential new hires?

“It is important for federal leaders and what we call near-peers, folks who have recently entered government service, to get out there. To get out on college campuses. These near-peers need to be the face of government. It needs to be a boots on the ground approach. You need to get a lot of people out there, telling their personal story, so that these folks can see themselves potentially in the same role at some point in the future,” said Fox.

Can one person make a difference?

“Absolutely. We do a lot of work with individual agencies where we help them prepare former interns to go back on college campuses and educate their peers about the opportunities back in their federal agency. When you think about this generation, more than anything, they trust the views of their peers. Whether it is through social media, networks, in person, they are looking for their peers input. They want the honest truth and they feel like they can get that from somebody that looks and acts like them,” said Fox.

What do you say to recruits?

“With the shutdown and some of the other issues confronting the federal government right now, it can seem like a less than cool place to be, but if leaders can get out there and really talk to folks about the mission of their agency, government in fact is really cool. If you can make that connection to mission you will find that right source of inspiration for millennials. Millennials really want to make a difference in their work, not just make a buck. So anyone out there talking about the federal government needs to talk about the mission, not just an individual set of job responsibilities,” said Fox.

Where do you go to reach new recruits?

“College campuses are obviously a great place to start. You can meet with classes or student groups. You can also go out to associations and other organizations that are organizing around the various mission critical occupations. Just get out there in terms of networking events. Millennials are incredibly savvy. They are constantly out there looking to build and maintain a network. Go where they are. Don’t leave it simply to in person meetings. You need Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin,” said Fox.

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Is the question one of public service coolness or that USAjobs and federal hiring practices are so difficult to break through that a potential employee would just say, “If this is the best they can do, no thanks.” The hiring system is an adversarial black hole and only some inside magic allows entry.

Earl Rice

USAJOBS is not that all hard to use. Mechanically, once you have uploaded your resume, transcripts, and anything else you may want to throw in, they are there to be reused over and over. If a person is smart, they can even set up USAJOBS to send them email notification of when an announcement in their career field is published.

Where many of the “Soon to Graduate” college people get tripped is how the selection process occurs after they submit their application. First of all, the GS system is an experienced based system, not an education based system. The expression is “1 year experience at the next lower grade”. There is some substitution, where a BS can get you GS5 or 7, Masters GS7 or 9, etc., PhD can get you GS 11 (GS12 if in a scientific research field). Also, because of personally identifiable information (PII), only the resume and the cover letter will be forwarded to the selecting group for interviews. I have seen applicants submit a huge number of documents (15 or 20), and only the resume and the cover letter are given to the selecting group. If the announcement was to Status candidates, the selection group will got though and determine the best qualified, based on the resume. And those 4 or 5 best of the best will get interviewed.

But, now comes the Veterans Preference. Not saying it is right or wrong, but Veterans Preference has really slowed down the hiring of soon to graduate from college people (unless they are a Veteran). There are 2 types of announcement: 1. Status Candidates (Currently in the government, Veterans, Schedule A, etc.) can apply. 2. All US Citizens (everyone can apply, however Veterans Preference is applied, and in simple terms, most Vets go to the top of the list and you can’t bypass them). I just checked my area, and there were 33 announcements for Status candidates (full time positions), of which 8 of them were to All US Citizens. So, if Joe College student is about to graduate this month, in theory there would only be 8 positions in the area they could apply (this is not even saying they are qualified for the positions, most were for Registered Nurses, a Biologist or two, and an accountant). If a Disabled Veteran that meets the criteria applies, and is qualified, they will go to the top of the list and bypassing them is precarious at best. (I have yet to have an announcement for All US Citizens that didn’t have at least 4 or 5 Disabled Vets apply that were fully qualified, thus blocking the non-Veterans from consideration for interview.)

What about the intern programs? Well since FCIP, STEP, SCEP, etc. were found to violate Veterans preference, the newer programs (Pathways) have a very rigid highly inspected requirement to apply Veterans Preference. Basically, all the “back door” means to get around Veterans preference to hire non-Veterans in the intern programs have been nailed shut (with just a few exceptions, such as Schedule A). Also with the Pathways program, the Agencies were restricted to only using Pathways to hire less than 5% of their total hires for a year. Previously, some Agencies had used FCIP, etc., to hire as much as 49% of their hires for a year. This does make it precarious for a non-Veteran to get hired. Data wise, FY 2013 will be the first full year to see what the impact will be with the Pathways Program. And, 2014 will provide an even better profile of the results. That is if the data is released, since there are a number of Veterans Organizations watching the program for the slightest violation to file a court action on.

Now, the stage is set to make all the contacts on the college campuses (which my organization is doing). Just wish there were positions that they could apply for. I always felt bad at a recruiting event, getting all sorts of enthusiasm to work at my organization, knowing there won’t be any positions coming up soon (next 6 months), for them to apply for. Now, on the Medical side, there are a huge number of student training programs they can apply for, and be non-competitively converted to a permanent appointment. But these are very special programs outside the control of the Office of Personnel Management, and yes Veterans Preference is applied, but the need is so high, that many non-Veterans are hired. I can elaborate on these with anyone is interest.


This guy has never applied for a federal job and doesn’t seem to understand much about the process. Despite the oft-mentioned impending retirement of older workers, agencies are not rushing to hire new employees given the current fiscal climate.

There are few entry-level positions for individuals who actually wish to work for the government. If you are not a veteran, former/current federal employee, or lack non-competitive eligibility, then you have virtually NO CHANCE of scoring an interview, let alone being hired. The only exceptions are for positions that require specialized training such as in the medical and STEM fields.

Encouraging students to consider federal employment will only be a waste the time for the agency and applicant. In light of how opaque, convoluted and interminable the path to federal employment is, the best and brightest will look to make a difference outside of government.

Bad publicity is the hardly the most pressing issue when it comes to hiring. The civil service has no comparative advantage vis-a-vis other sectors.

Earl Rice


I was more or less thinking the same thing but didn’t want to be negative (I have already been negative concerning some of the surveys here and wanting to see the raw data). And in the medical fields, outside of Physicians and RN’s, well it’s hard for non-Vets to get hired. See about a year ago the VA (Veterans Health Administration, the biggie for healthcare) was dinged by the MSPB for not apply Veterans preference to what is called the Hybrid Title 38 (Hybrids is all the other medical fields other than Physicians and RN’s). Up to that time, Veterans preference was only used as a tie breaker if all things are considered equal (as it still is for Physicians and RNs). Well, now, after the MSPB finished with the VA, the certificates are Facility Employees (usually don’t have any because they are already in positions that go to the Full Performance Level, or higher), Government Employees, and then every one else with the Veterans at the top. If you have more than two 30% disabled Veterans, then you don’t even bother putting the non-Veterans on the Certificate. If you have more than 5 Veterans altogether, even if they are not disabled, you don’t even bother putting non-Vets on the certificate. And, where the VA really got into mechanical issues with this, because the way they set up the Hybrid systems, all the certificates an unranked by regulation, which thrown it into absolute Veterans preference. Ergo, list order is 30% Disabled, 10 to 20% disabled, Purple Heart recipient and a couple of other small Veterans statuses, and then all those that served during a time of war. Currently, the last war started on 9/11/2001 and goes to a date to be determined (all you have to do is spend 180 days on active duty). Last is everyone else (ergo non-Veterans).

I will joking say, HC, he may have applied back when the FCIP was alive and well (or before that with the Outstanding Scholar Program, which was neither scholarly or outstanding to qualify), when some Agencies were hiring over 50% of their new hires non-competitively (which was found to violate Merit Principles and Veterans Preference). Those avenues to slip in the back door just don’t exist except for very special positions in very special circumstances. Some of the STEM positions fall into this, but many do not. As stared, some of the medical positions fall into this, but many do not.

Now, I have heard of Agencies manipulating the qualification process. Which to me is nothing but a time bomb waiting to end up before the MSPB, IG investigations, OPM investigations, and on and on. Veterans and Veteran Organizations are looking for these situations to file a case that would eventually end up with the MSPB. And, the Agencies doing this just haven’t been fairing very well before the MSPB.

There are some Agencies and personnel systems that are outside this, such as the Defense Intelligence System, NSA, CIA is another. However they are not considered a part of the competitive service and their employees have no status to apply for Civil Service jobs in any merit system. I guess the college folks could go to these for hiring.

Now, the retirement of older workers. Some is happening, or it is starting to happen, but with the economy in the slumps, many are hanging on for a few more years. And, some just can’t afford to retire right now. Likewise, there will also be some time for the trickle down affect. Senior employees retire, so they advertise the senior positions and hire someone in the government to fill it. Then the midlevel position now vacated get filled by another government employee, and so on till you get to that entry level position. Well, most agencies are holding off to see what round 2 of sequestration has in store. The only one not affected this is the Veterans Health Administration. And, unless something changes in the House and the Senate in next 43 days, all that will come out is a CR, and application of round 2 of sequestration (where even bigger cuts are to come).