October 21, 2013 at 11:49 am #180405
A 20-year cycle of large-scale government retirements has just begun. Some 108,000 federal employees – close to 5 percent – will retire this year. This attrition will only continue to accelerate. That said, the government must identify qualified candidates faster and move them through the recruitment process at a rate that keeps up with these retirement numbers. For agencies to fulfill their missions they must have the right people in place and ensure that there is a seamless transition between retiree and new hire.
While many job seekers view the private-sector application experience as a positive one, they perceive the government version as time consuming and less efficient; And in some cases, rightly so. Within some U.S. agencies, it can take up to 200 days to process a hire, and 140 days is common. These factors, combined with any negative perception from the government shutdown, make it difficult to attract talent to the federal government.
To ensure optimal staffing, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has set a target for government recruiters to reduce the average number of days-to-hire to 80. To help achieve this, I see five main touch points that together can drive a positive applicant experience:
- Leverage social media. The new generation of workers lives on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other emerging social-media sites. It’s as much a part of their lives as water and air. You must reach applicants where they are most likely to gather their information.
- Ensure seamless flow from USAJOBS to your Talent Acquisition System. USAJOBS in the Federal government is central to talent acquisition and the applicant must be able to move freely between the two systems.
- Incorporate a “two-step” application plan. Often times, applicants are required to provide a very detailed (sometimes essay-format) application at the onset of the application stage, regardless of whether or not this information is needed at this point. This wastes applicants’ time. Only collect the information needed before moving the applicant to the next phase of the application process.
- Streamline selection. Agencies need to gain far greater clarity/visualization of their hiring landscape – including which particular steps of the selection-stage workflow are causing bottlenecks and “dead zones.” This can be accomplished through technologies available today that deliver talent management analytics.
- Boost “on-boarding” capability. Laying a foundation for new employees that addresses satisfaction drivers such as those referenced above will get them off to a positive start, which remains critical for retention.
The government must build a talent acquisition experience that looks and feels just like the private-industry version or it will continue to lose bright and talented individuals that can help move the agencies and their missions forward.
I’m always open to discussion around this topic and would love to hear which aspects of the public-service hiring process present the greatest challenges for you? Feel free to comment to continue the conversation.
October 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm #180549
Good points! If we ever start hiring again, agencies should take notice. I have not seen very creative uses of social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for recruitment purposes. I also think that the all-important interview could be held using web-conferencing technology (e.g. Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, etc.). Technology also plays a part in the on-boarding process, which can start even before the employee officially starts working. I agree with the “two-step” process to save time. It would be nice if we had one government-wide talent management system to ensure a consistent interface with USAJOBS. Technology is about 80% of the solution. The other 20% is getting selecting officials fully engaged in the process.
October 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm #180547
I’ve been assigned to the “time to staff” file for a half-dozen years now, examining both what makes it faster and slower in the Canadian federal system, as well as applicant and manager perceptions. I should qualify what I say by noting that we only survey federal public servants. So, we hear from people within the federal system and those who have recently entered government from outside, but have no data from those who applied from outside, waited, and decided they could not afford to wait any longer. And naturally, since the only reason they can provide us with an opinion is because they landed a job, their opinions should be viewed within that context.
One of the patterns I routinely see is that applicant satisfaction with time required for the process declines with time taken (no great mystery there), and those folks with more irons in the fire tend to be less satisfied with how long the process took. We assume this is because they view feedback about the process as urgent information they need to make a decision among multiple possibilities (“What if I accept this offer, and another better one rolls in 2 weeks later?”). As you can imagine, the folks who apply to lots of things are younger and at earlier career stages.
A second pattern observed is that often it isn’t the time it took, but rather how much radio silence there was. I often see complaints from people about waiting lengthy periods (and our staffing times are little different than yours) with no feedback about where the process is at, what’s coming next, or their status within it. Better communication with applicants, and updating them on the progress of the process, or reasons for it stalling, would do much to maintain their interest. It should be honest information, though, and not turn into the Seinfeld “Chinese restaurant” episode, where one gets repeatedly told “only 5 more minutes”.
Allied with that is the need to do a better job explaining to external applicants what is involved in public-sector staffing. Private-sector employers, who enjoy the advantages of at-will employment, can make quick offers because, if you were a bad choice, they can dump you just as quickly. Public-sector employers generally intend on a long-term commitment and so have many more steps to the selection process so as to avoid (as much as is possible) a “30 year mistake”. Given that the brunt of younger external applicants’ work experience is with employers who are fairly slapdash in their selection procedures, there is an immense contrast. Yes, we can streamline things a bit, but we also need to still explain why the difference between hiring procedures in this sector vs that.
One of the things I tend to see is that the longer hiring takes, the longer it takes. If a manager can “get in and out” quickly, they will have staffed within a steady-state landscape. That is, the circumstances in place when they realized they needed to fill a position are the same circumstances in place throughout the process. If any aspect of those circumstances changes, that slows things down, which in turn increases the likelihood that something else will change and delay progress even more. That change could be organizational budgets, approval procedures, management, HR staff, etc. If there is a board required to interview candidates, one or more of the board members might become unavailable. We should also note that managers staff on top of this whole other full-time job they have of managing their unit, and their other full-time job of having a life. So work or personal commitments can insert delays. Again, the odds of any of this happening increase with the amount of time initially required. If you’re a private-sector employer and can make an offer within a week or two, chances are pretty good none of those interferences are going to crop up.
Federal staffing processes can be VERY large and involve a great many applicants. The larger the number of applicants, the more time things take. The people who make an offer within a week may only have 8 files to go through, rather than screening 800.
I looked at our data, breaking it out by occupational groups, and was surprised to find that, while there were a number of factors that could be reliably associated with increased staffing times in the aggregate, different clusters of factors tended to matter for different sorts of jobs. So, for example, some kinds of jobs in the capitol region would result in an applicant pool that might already meet the security requirements for the job, and not require any additional time for conducting security checks, shaving off a few weeks on average. Other sorts of positions would be specialized enough that the hiring manager would have to readvertise in order to attract enough qualified applicants. And so on. The takehome message is that there is unlikely to be any monolithic set of steps one might take that would speed up all staffing.
Finally, apart from wanting to make the applicant experience a more pleasant one, the argument we routinely hear from managers is that, by “taking so long” (and I have read that precise phrase in survey comments thousands of time), they fear they are losing out on the best candidates. We should bear in mind that, unlike the private sector, government is not in competition with anyone for market share, such that if government doesn’t land that hire, the competitor gets them. Lightning hiring speed matters in the private sector, but not as much in the public sector. We ask managers in our survey how satisfied they are with the quality of hire (if they have had enough opportunity to observe their performance), and also ask if the first candidate they made an offer to turned them down. Managers’ satisfaction with hire quality is neglibly different between those who got their first pick, and those who were stood up by their first pick. So, while speed is pertinent to holding onto those external applicants who simply want a job…soon, it may have much less relavance to the quality of hire than we might think, based on private-sector experience and priorities.
October 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm #180545
David A. StreatParticipant
Mike, it is even more dire for senior management in the coming years!
October 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm #180543
Maybe I’m missing something….weren’t most of these recommendations part of Pres. Obama’s charge to gov’t agencies back in 2010 when he instituted hiring reform and the implementation of Pathways for students and recent grads? The IC is always an exception in terms of time to hire, but my friends in non-IC agencies have said that they have seen dramatic decreases in onboarding time over the past two years (recent shutdown notwithstanding).
Agree that social media usage is a must. The State Department does a fantastic job with social media (they’re all over Facebook). They even host chat boards for potential hires on careers.state.gov. The CIA recently redid its website to be much more applicant friendly – including a “fit” quiz.
But just a few days ago I visited both IRS.gov and NIH.gov with students, and both sites still reference the long defunct SCEP and STEP programs. And while I know that they are not likely to hire in the near future because of budget cuts, the FBI’s hiring information on their current website is a mess. That is the kind of stuff that turns off interested Millennials. They’ll deal with the rest of it, but the information must be accurate and up to date.
October 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm #180541
As an HR Staffing and Placement Professional I have to comment on this….like I did the last time a non-Federal Government Staffer came up with this. To start with my Canadian friend, the US system is much more complicated with so many safeguards built into it, you would wonder how we ever get anyone hired.
- The hiring processes are governed by Title 5 United States Code for the most part and then Title 38 United States Code for the Veterans Health Administration of the VA. There are some other rules of law (emphasis on law) that govern staffing, but these are the big ones.
- The Federal Civil Service is a Merit System, with safeguards to preclude cronyism, nepotism, and all the other “isms” that have no place in the hiring process. Contrary to popular belief, these “isms” are very prevalent in the private sector…what was the private sector survey that stated hiring managers felt that they couldn’t hire the best qualified candidate 75% of the time, but rather were forced to hire the best connected one, either by friendship or family ties. Under a Merit System, it is what you have done and can do, not on who you know. [There were some citations about the CIA having a very nice Facebook and web site…they are NOT a part of the Merit System, so they can more or less do what they want, also there are some other “agencies” that have lost the designation of “Merit System”. Their employees have no status what so ever to apply for other government jobs. And, I know some people on Govloop will cite all sorts of prohibited personnel practices dating 5 and ten years ago. Only an HR Department of very weak spinal construction would allow such…and from what I have seen, it usually catches up with them sooner or later.]
- Veterans Preference in the hiring process. By law Veterans get preference, end of statement. I can rattle off some of the expedited hiring initiatives from the past that violated Veterans Preference: Outstanding Scholar Program (late 90s till 2003), Federal Career Intern Program (2003 till 2010), SCEP and STEP (been around a long time but died when FCIP did for the same reasons). The new Pathways Program has Veterans Preference embedded into it, which the other programs didn’t. And God help the Agency that is found to have violated the Veterans Preference requirements in the Pathways program. (I have already been through that when hiring manager wanted to hire a well connected non-Veteran that didn’t make the certificate over a well qualified Veteran, and nipped that one in the bud. You either hire the Vet or no-body, end of statement.)
- To change the hiring processes would require changes in the United States Code. That requires the House, Senate, and the President to work in harmony to change the laws. From recent historical evidence, this probably isn’t going to happen.
- There is no “great shortage” of applicants for announced positions, quite the contrary, often the system gets bogged down with too many applicants. This is a very real bottle neck and is totally ignored, like the 18 ton elephant sitting on the couch that nobody wants to admit is there. We may think the private sector is beating out the Government, but they have all same issues the government has, and more. And their hiring processes aren’t any better. They like to make us think they are, but they aren’t.
- By law, all announced positions that seek applicants from outside their Agency must be posted on USAJOBS.
- A person that wants to get a government job that “lives on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedln” hoping to be successful is a fool. They need to be on USAJOBS. If they are serious, they can even set up USAJOBS to e-mail them every time a job they would be interested in is posted. And as I will state over and over, there is no shortage of applicants, that is a fact, and competition is fierce to say the least.
- Once an applicant has the resume and documents saved in USAJOBS, they can apply for any job in less than 5 minutes. They can re-use their resume (actually they can store multiple) and documents for any position they wish to apply for. It may take an hour or two to set it up, but once that is done, there is no burden.
A bit about the hiring process. Under a Merit based system (word MERIT is stressed), there must be some sort of a formal document outlining the scope and nature of the work to be done (can be a Positions Description, Functional Statement, Scope of Practice, etc.). By law this must be a formal written document. Through a very complicated system, this document is classified into a career field and the grade for the position is determined (example GS 201-12 Human Resources Specialist). This sets which qualification standards will be used to grade the applicants. This is all embedded in law and overseen by the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit System Protect Board (MSPB has as much clout in government systems as the Supreme Court does on the law side…what they say goes).
With this as the ground work, a determination must be made of what competencies are required to do the work. This used to be Knowledge Skills and Abilities, but the new “buzz word” is competencies (they are still the same). By law there must be a direct correlation with the Position Description (or other written document). A questionnaire is developed from these to be used in USA Staffing (90% of the government uses USA Staffing) that interfaces perfectly with USAJOBS. USA Staffing builds the announcement you see in USAJOBS. 99% of what you see in an announcement on USAJOBS is there because of legal requirements (either directly from United States Code, or as a result of legal/court decisions, some even going to the Supreme Court).
The announcement is opened (must be open for at least 5 days…in my Agency the Master Agreement with the Union requires it to be open for 3 weeks…another bottleneck, but the LR guys just can’t get this out of the agreement) and the applicants apply. A typical announcement for an IT specialist will have at least 200 applicants if not substantially more (300 or 400). I have had some announcements with over 400 applicants…as stated there is no shortage of applicants these day, of all age groups, which is a sign that the private sector isn’t quite as attractive is everyone seems to make it out to be. The items that are required are based upon the minimum required by law. The resume is used to determine if an applicant meets the minimum requirements to be qualified for the position. This is all based upon level of experience and length of experience as outlined in the specific qualification guide established (legal required) for the career field and grade as compared to the resume or CV. A bullet type resume just doesn’t give enough information to make these [legal] determinations and for them to stand up in court, which is a very important consideration in today’s society. An essay type resume is really needed to have a chance at meeting the requirements (and USAJOBS even has a resume builder built into it, so there is no excuse for not using it, oh and it stores it also for re-use). My Agency requires the submission of an OF 306 Declaration for Federal Employment. The reason on this was too many of the selected applicants had suitability issues where they couldn’t be hired (and this is after the entire staffing process is complete), thus it was decided to request this document first. Another requirement in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the completion of a VA Form for Healthcare Providers. This must be in the application because Title 38 USC states that the applicants must submit this with their application (no wiggle room to get around this). Also in the VHA, if a medical field requires a license or certification, then it is required to submit such with the application. If you don’t have a full and unrestricted license (straight out of 38 USC) to practice medicine, then you don’t qualify for the position, end of statement. And we want to know this up front so we don’t’ waste the selecting officials time. A big plus is, for anyone that has uploaded their documents into USAJOBS, they will be saved so they can be used over and over. Once an applicant has the resume and documents in USAJOBS, they can apply for any job in less than 5 minutes. So, for the applicant, this is extremely streamlined. It takes more than 5 minutes to fill out an application to work at the local corner store.
Rating the applicants in USA Staffing (and this is a bottleneck because of sheer numbers of applicants). You are required to review each document the applicants submit. If an applicant submits 3 resumes, you have to look at each one. Why, because of legal liability. Ergo, you disqualify an applicant because one resume doesn’t show the required level of knowledge and experience to do the work of the position and you don’t look at the other 2. If one of the other resumes does show such and you didn’t look at it, and it hits the inside of a court room, you will lose (and end up paying all sorts of monetary penalties). If you require a document, then you must make sure it is there. And, everyone MUST be treated the same. If one applicant doesn’t submit a required form/document, and you disqualify them, then you must disqualify all that don’t submit that required form/document. If you don’t you have violated Merit Principles….many of which carry criminal penalties, and as the expression used by most HR people, “I’m not going to jail for anybody”. You must do this process for each and every applicant. You must also determine which documents can be sent to the hiring managers and which can’t because of Personal Identifiable Information is on them (i.e. SSN, DOB, etc.). Also, thrown on top of this is the requirement to apply Veterans. There are different categories of Veterans Preference, such as 30% or more disabled, 10-20% Disabled, Purple Heart Recipients, Served during a time of conflict, etc. And getting this right is a glass ball that just can’t be dropped. So now you go through each applicant’s application and review each and every document and determine their qualifications. Remember, this is all required by law, and to get around this the laws would have to be changed by the House, Senate, and signed off on by the President. Rating each applicant can take from 5 to 10 minutes (depending on if the network cooperates or is running slow it could take longer). For 250 applicants, that would be roughly 33 hours of work (a little over 4 days roughly). But staffing specialist do more than just staffing, they also do the day to day personnel actions and advisement that keep a government agencies running. Thus the 4 days roughly will be drawn out to at least 5, usually more like 7 or 8 work days (a week and a half in normal time). After all of this is done, and only after this is done, then certificates of eligible are constructed and sent to the hiring manager and interviewers (this is also done electronically in USA Staffing). Constructing the certificates, though not a bottle neck, is an intricate process depending on what rules of laws apply. An example is if an announcement is open to “All US Citizens”, and there is a large number of qualified Veterans, you don’t even send a certificate with other than Veterans on it. To bypass a Veteran on the list quite often requires OPM approval, which if you have already determine they were qualified, if going to be difficult at best to justify they are not qualified. If there are 4 or 5 Vets at the top of the list, the odds of all of them being bypassed is almost zero, so why even bother sending a list with non-Veteran applicants on it to the hiring manager because he won’t be able to hire them.
Then the interview process ensues. This could take a week, maybe more depending on the number to be interviewed (though in some agencies this will drag out for months). The people I support usually can do the interviews in a week and have the results to me the same day the selection is made. I will contact the applicant that same day and let them know they were selected and what the “on boarding process” will be, to include a background investigation, physical if required, etc. I can get to this point almost always in less than 60 days (that is unless I have 300 or 400 applicants and the network doesn’t crash).
October 23, 2013 at 7:44 pm #180539
Mike – the one left off the list that I find is the most important is “Commit the resources to recruiting and retaining talent to achieve the agency’s mission.” I find that agencies want to streamline, they want to engage, but they don’t take the time or commit the resources to do the work. I can think of only a handful of agencies with actual recruiters – real, live people who engage with applicants either at events, through social media or both – and even fewer agencies performing regular workforce and succession planning to determine the agency’s needs. Until leadership changes from their post-and-pray routine, we won’t be able to fill seats with the right person to do the job. There certainly is no shortage of applicants – just a shortage of the best and brightest at the right time.
What I’d love to see is those few agencies that do engage sharing their return on investment and lessons learned more often – make this a regular conversation rather than concentrating solely on time-to-hire.
October 23, 2013 at 8:58 pm #180537
Actually, what you describe is not a LOT more complicated than the Canadian federal system, with the exception that requirements pertaining to Veterans Preference are perhaps not so onerous here since we have less of them, by virtue of a smaller military…but we do have priority entitlements for medically discharged vets. We also have obligatory portals through which all staffing must be done, and various kinds of approval systems. Insomuch as a significant share of our positions also have 2nd language requirements (and virtually all management positions require fluency in both English and French), there is the not-so-small matter of classifying positions and setting language requirements in conjunction with the powers that be.
And without wishing to get into a whose-system-is-slower contest, as the poor sap who has to read through thousands of survey comments annually, from folks who either tried to staff, or tried to get appointed, and had just a miserable time at it, we have more than our fair share of slow-as-frozen-molasses staffing, and things that got held up for the dumbest of bureaucratic reasons. As a partial consequence of managers’ expectations of slow complicated staffing, positions posted internally are often what I like to call “6-fers”. The manager will advertise a position as either permanent, limited term contract, acting, secondment, deployment or assignment, and is happy to take whatever arrangement yields the fastest hire. Naturally, when it comes time for us to survey employees about their job-seeking experiences, we have to differentiate between what the ad was offering, what they were seeking, and what they ended up getting. Complicated.
I will note, however, that the boomer retirement wave that everyone talks about also includes folks who work in staffing, and who are replaced by people not nearly as seasoned and fully informed as themselves. As a result, the hoped-for improvements in staffing, and staffng speed, are often stymied by flawed or conflicting advice, or hesitation, from HR staff. That is not to blame them; after all, they can only know what they know. But that backdrop is part of what is impeding the sorts of improvements we all hope for.
We are in regular contact with our brethren at MSPB, and try to learn from each others’ experience and adapt/adopt practices that work well and can fit in the respective systems.
At present an across-the-board 7-10% reduction in staff was mandated for the whole of government, and managers’ performance pay tied to achieving that goal. One of the results of this presumed cost-saving exercise (and it will take some time until it is determined whether the expected savings were offset by the hiring of temps and consultants) was that all agencies (“departments” in our terminology) had an inventory of surplused employees. It is expected that departments will fill any positions that become open with those recycled layoffs, such that external recruitment has largely ground to a halt (though I imagine some still goes on to fill entry-level positions). Managers can certainly reject any such referrals, but that rejection has to be very defensible. I just sat through a focus-group session this afternoon, listening to managers complain about how long it takes to get those referrals.
So yes, between all the mechanisms in place to prevent the various “isms”, PLUS the mechanisms to support the ethical obligation to find something suitable for folks who have been involuntarily displaced from a job, it can take a long time.
Our own system is different from yours in that it uses individual merit rather than relative merit. If one is demonstrably qualified, and a justifiably good “fit” to the job, operational requirements and future organizational needs, then one can be appointed, even IF others scored higher on test A, B, C. One of the recent introductions (if 2006 can be considered “recent”) is what is termed an “informal discussion”, which permits those excluded from a process, whether at initial screening or later points, to inquire of the hiring manager what the basis for their exclusion was, and possibly fix any mistakes that might have led to that exclusion. I won’t claim that these discussions all provide the clarification the candidate seeks, but in a pleasing percentage of cases (not too big, not too small) we find that people are brough back into the process, and some eventually get appointed. The prototypic case might be one where the academic credentials of the applicant were misunderstood by the screening officer (e.g., their program/degree had a different name than the officer was looking for), and they were erroneously screened out. This “error” is rectified and the applicant brought back in. But it can also happen that flagging test-administration, or other “conduct-of-process”, errors at a later point can be a basis for re-inclusion too. Of course, this all adds time, but it also holds the promise of reducing grievances, and improving the (internal) applicant experience. Our fervent hope is that it improves perceived fairness too, and our preliminary sense is that, when done right, it achieves that goal..
October 24, 2013 at 12:16 am #180535
That brings up a very good point about allocating the appropriate resources to the hiring process. My section is down 2 people. And, in accordance with the “government standard for HR”, we should have 6 more employees in staffing (this is in addition to the 2 vacant positions). [As a side note, my Agency was not affected by the budget shortfall, it was business as usual. And every potential applicant in the area knew that, to include the ones at the other Agencies in the area that were furloughed.] But, back on topic, ultimately, HR always takes the reductions first (and then management wants time to hire reduced). I have seen that in 3 different agencies. When economies must be found, they invariably take them in HR first (and in the field, not inside the beltway). Adding insult to injury, we are authorized no overtime, end of statement. So we work extra for compensation time that is if we want to keep up. And if we use it we fall behind, and if we don’t use it we lose it.
What I have observed that is very interesting, as the HR Specialist become eligible for retirement, they bolt. It’s as if they second they can retire, they do. (3 years 2 months and 7 days…not that I am counting).
Though I have to say, I am not running short of highly qualified applicants. But, I staff for healthcare professions and the #1 large high complexity hospital in the area terminated (not laid off, but terminated) over 2500 employees (something about overcharging Insurance Companies and Medicare for services not provided and having to pay back millions and millions of dollars by 1 January 2014, and there is the rumor that as many as another 1000 may get terminated). Also affecting the target rich environment, the Affordable Care Act also has non-Federal Medical Centers running scared (the law shifts the profitability from large Medical Centers to the small local Primary Care Providers). Thus, I have no issues with finding highly qualified applicants, especially at and below the GS12 or equivalent level. The only issue is wading through all of the applicants to find the top 30 or 40 applicants and deciding who will get referred and will not.
Now on the analytics part…… Currently in USA Staffing, it is very easy to skew the results however you want to ensure compliance with the 80 day or 60 day model or whatever day model is used. One of our sister facilities is making the day goal 100%, but they are conspicuously leaving out certain pieces of data in USA Staffing that would allow cross referencing to the other personnel action systems we use (which are harder to “ensure” compliance in). Not saying they are cheating, but when you turn in 100% compliance, it just looks strange. I know of another facility that will open an announcement for internal agency employees for 3 weeks, and then during the last 2 or 3 days, will update USAJOBS to reflect all other categories of applicants may apply (this cuts down the outside applicants to almost nothing), and USA Staffing will reflect that everything is perfectly OK to the statisticians, until you start looking at the “eaches” and you realize they are violating Merit Principles for open and fair competition.
But ultimately, and I had this discussion with an HR GS 15. The ultimate hiring times are not going down. From the time there is the need for an employee to be hired, until the time that applicant shows up on the first day of work to become an employee, there is no change. It’s just that the Agencies are “gaming” the processes so they appear to be meeting the goals to the statisticians that are counting the days. I will say, I have been at this “numbers game” a long time (30 years now I think, no it’s 32), and know there are more than a hundred ways to make the “stats” look good, ways that the people keeping the analytics would never know, and to make the people inside the Beltway smile (because if it looks like you are making your goals, nobody is going to question how you do it).
October 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm #180533
While I’m certainly not an expert in HR I think that another improvement would be to increase the involvement of people in the hiring process who actually understand what the job requires. I came away from several (unsuccessful) application processes believing that whoever wrote the front end questions and requirements had no real understanding of what the jobs involved and that this automatically gave the advantage to someone already internal to the hiring agency.
October 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm #180531
Conceptually, you are spot on. Operationally, it’s tricky. The best expert in what the job requires would be the manager and the future co-workers. Unfortunately, those folks have full-time jobs to attend to***, and even if there is enough of a lull to be involved in selecting, aren’t well-versed in what makes for good selection procedures. “I’ll know it when I see it” is not the most dependable of methods. Of course, turning it over to full-time HR professionals who understand selection, but maybe much less about THAT job in particular, brings its own cluster of challenges.
The best would be HR professionals who are blessed with the time and acumen to ask the right questions of the manager and coworkers, and levels of management above that, to identify what the ideal incumbent needs to be able to do, now, and in the future. And I imagine you can figure out what the odds of that happening are.
(***The received wisdom is that 20% of the managers do 80% of the staffing across the board. Some fill a position every couple of years, simply because of the size of their unit and low turnover of folks in that sort of work. Others will tell us it seems like they never get off the staffing treadmill, constantly backfilling positions in their unit as folks move on. Line managers will do more staffing than, say, folks in a policy shop.)
October 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm #180529
In our previous federal employee surveys, we asked public servants whether they thought they had “opportunities for promotion” within their current agency, and in the public service overall. I broke the data out by occupational group and identified those who perceived more and less opportunity, and more opportunity across the system, compared to within their agency. As you might imagine, those in rather specialized jobs (e.g., agricultural scientists, coast guard radio operators, or dentists) viewed their opportunities as somewhat limited, and generally limited to their current agency. Others, in more generic sorts of occupations, like admin support, program managers, or folks in finance (essentially the kinds of positions that every agency had to offer) had much broader horizons, and perceived rosier prospects.
Folks in HR were up near the very top of the list in terms of seeing lots of possibilities for advancement locally, and near limitless possibilities for them across the system. It was as if they could stroll down the street in the capitol, say “Y’know, I like that office”, and have it within a matter of a few weeks (an exaggeration, but you get my drift). And indices of the mobility/movement/turnover of folks in HR in subsequent years echoed that.
As for staffing/hiring times, we too noted declines in average time required. Closer inspection, however, indicated that this tended to stem from managers opting for the most efficient staffing procedures from among those available. The actual average times for those individual procedures actually hadn’t sped up, just that more people were using the short cut, and fewer taking the long way. For instance, staffing that opens up a position to the public, or to all public servants (but not the public), traditionally take longer than staffing actions confined to just that agency. And we saw a shift over time towards that latter area of selection. Mean staffing times for all the various kinds of staffing procedures remained largely unchanged.
October 24, 2013 at 9:24 pm #180527
In our agency, DoD, DoN/MC, there is not going to be a Pathways. Yeah, it’s a great program. However, one must “read the FINE PRINT”. Pathways requires “funding” and the daddy DoN, is not willing to give Uncle Sams MIsguided Children one thin dime to fund this program, so we don’t have one. Yes, we are experiencing a huge retirement tsunami…however, hiring freeze kinda puts a damper on things. In our organization, we currently have 2 vacant billets…going into the 1st and 2nd year of vacancy.
In 2010, the President also had another wonderful program…the EO of July 2010 ..a great plan where the government would be the model for hiring persons with disabilities. Oh, yeah, what I call “bird cage liner”, because the words aren’t worth the paper they are typed upon. After much inquiry and investigation….the agencies must formulate a “plan” to hire, but they don’t necessarily have to hire. You see, there is “no funding” attached to the EO. It is up to the agency, organization level to make a conscience decision to do this. If the agency has set aside funding to hire persons with disabilities and/or Schedule A, they “may” do so.
Add to that, lest we forget, Vet pref hiring. That comes first above any college grad, don’t care if they have a college degree. Vet pref asks for “minimal qualifications”. I remember back in 2008 we had “summer hires”, (high school kids), STEPS, and SCEPs. Gone after August of 2008 and never returned. Why? I asked, foolishly. Answer: No funding to support the programs. You see the salaries out of these programs are connected to the organizations who hire them budgets. The question becomes would rather have some new technology, or pens and paper, or do you want to help a high school kid (in the summer) or a college kid, or a college kid getting ready to graduate a “leg up”? Yeah, thought so. And so that ends.
For the last 5 yrs. we have had bus loads of high school kids tour the base as part of the “shadowing” program in Feb. Where they were assigned an area of interest and they followed a supervisor and or workers throughout the day. Prior to this they were encouraged to apply for the “summer hires.” Well that is long gone.
For the last 5 yrs. we have had bus loads of VocRehab, people with disabilities, some are college grads also “shadow”, in Feb. and again in July. The college students and college graduated (alot of them are STEM qualified) to apply when the “NEW” Pathways Program comes out. (yeah, what a joke, it was like waiting for the Great Pumpkin). This past Feb. there were no volunteer organizations in the STEM (engineering) dept to mentor a student. Why? what’s the point, they can’t hire any of them. Our EEO office worked like a dog to get organizations to mentor on the shadowing day….especially in the STEM areas. None volunteered. I should mention that the engineering dept is suffering in the retiring tsunami.
For the past 5 yrs. or more, there hasn’t been any active recruiting on college campus’. What’s the point, the students know they will never make the cert due to vet pref hiring. It’s not a bad thing…millenials are smart….they will just move on to the private sector.
With all the heck and bother of USA Jobs, do these young people want to work in civil service? Probably not. All these “feel good” programs to get young folks into civil service is great. But truth be told….please read the “fine print”. The agencies have to have a “plan”, then the plan goes on the shelf and gets dusty.
It’s amazing that the gov can fund the most ridiculous projects that don’t amount to a row of pins…but yet can’t throw a few “benjamins” to agencies to programs to “hire” folks who are qualified and need the work.
The way the certs to the hiring officials go….are “disabled vets”, “vets”, PPP, military spouse, disabilities…..and joe/jane college student. I may have the order mixed up….but that is the way it is here. If the hiring official wants only 5 candidates to appear on the cert…..do you think the non vet college kid is going to make the cert? Nawww….didn’t think so.
The government needs to get real about hiring. Hiring managers hate the way it is now…because it takes forever. It takes forever because of the “programs” in place. A college kid may get in….but if a vet investigates and makes a stink, that kid is unemployed …out the door in a skinny minute….and HR has some “splanin'” to do.
I know that doesn’t happen in DC….because of all the networking. But on military installations, that is the order of day.
October 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm #180525
Thank you! Thank you! You need to post this at least once a quarter on GovLoop. I’m in DoD and the process is “exactly” as you described!
Is this for “all” government agencies? It sure doesn’t seem like it.
You mentioned the “networking” Facebook. LinkedIn, Twitter. Thanks for that as well. In DoD you may have a FB page for your agency, whatever, but you cannot comment on anything that is written nor read the wonderful articles (in linked form) about your installation because “you are not allowed to be on any social media during your working hours on a “government provided” computer. Is this true for “all” government agencies? It sure doesn’t seem like it.
No streaming of videos, no reading Yahoo news videos (they will not play)….no streaming radio stations….no thumb drives….no linking your Ipad, Ipod, or any other NON approved device to your government computer.
I truly appreciate you bringing this light.
October 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm #180523
Sure. That happens alot. When I came on board as a temp….I had no idea how many DD forms were used and what they were used for. And it was supposed to be automatic that I knew what they were for. I didn’t understand all the password, logging in on the computer (2001) that you had to do before the CAC became law. I didn’t know that everything you did in your job was “scripted” by a regulation/order/policy. And working in your PD is all you are going to do…no more, no less. It doesn’t work with our GS’, because we do not have a bargaining unit. WG’s…if it’s not on the PD they aren’t doing it. It is what it is. No one really knows what to “expect” when hired. No one knows the many regulations/order/policies therein. And yes, we all are aware the job description can be tailored to “who” they have already decided who is going get the job.
October 25, 2013 at 3:09 am #180521
The devil has always been in the details. And, most the people inside the Beltway aren’t fully aware of such, especially the people who set policy. Even outside the beltway, management isn’t aware of the details and very resistant to any laws that tell them who they can and can’t hire (i.e. There is one thing I have been going over and over with one of my service lines concerning qualifications, and they finally just accepted it a couple of weeks ago….that is after the Union rightfully tore into them and the SESer told them to knock it off or find a new job.) One of the jokes I make is “for the perfect fit to be the son of your brother” can’t be a selective placement factor nor can “The daughter of Ms. Jane over in State who is your friend” be a selective placement factor. [Reminder, I worked in the DC area for 3 years, and saw how the system worked there, and gained some good perspectives of what may be some of the issues facing our government on the day to day running basis.] I remember briefing a room full of SESers and GS 15s where I worked in DC and explaining the new Pathways Program. About how the vacancies must be announced on USAJOBS and absolute Veterans Preference would apply. You could tell they were shocked (and worried because of all the “unusual” hiring they had done). They asked why the crackdown all of a sudden, why are the processes being slowed down. I explained how an Agency (located in North Carolina), had blatantly used the FCIP to get around Veterans preference and had committed a combination of cronyism, nepotism, and so many prohibited personnel practices, that when it hit the MSPB, they went ballistic (and referred some of the instances to OSC for prosecution). And how the MSPB demanded that OPM explain why SCEP and STEP was any different than FCIP. [I actually helped one of the Veterans organization write their response when Pathways was posted in the Federal Registry.]
I will also say that the days using “networking” versus “merit” may be on the way out. A good example is the Pathways Program. Veterans Preference is so embedded in it that joe/jane college student may find it hard to sneak in the back door (unless they are a Veteran). And I have firsthand knowledge that a large number of Veterans Organizations are watching the Pathways hiring like a hawk, looking to drag an Agency into court every time Veteran’s Preference is violated (and they will provide the lawyers to do it, free). And the Unions aren’t much farther behind them on that as far as support (they hate the Pathways Program).
In some ways, everyone talks about getting the recent graduates hired. I ask why? Should we get them right out of college, no experience, little real world savvy, and even less government savvy, and try and teach them 10 years of experience in the 3 years. Or, should we let them get some experience and then come in the government. If the drive to serve thy fellow man is so high, after they get some experience, they will come back (and if they don’t, the odds are they wouldn’t have stayed with the government anyway). Also, there is the Peace Corps, and a bunch of other “Corps”, they can serve their fellow man in, gain experience, and then come back and have status to apply for jobs. I have hired 2 Peace Corps types in the last 3 months.
I also ask if it is right to push a new graduate to be a GS 12 or 13 in 2 or 3 years. Will they have the experience and be seasoned enough to handle the level of responsibility required. In DC the vast majority will not have any field experience what so ever. Will have no idea of the ramifications of what they do will have on the field. And, from my meager experiences in the DC, there is very high propensity for that.
The next concern, and almost all the Agencies are deep in this, is projected furloughs, or RIF’s that I see looming on the horizon. I projected the last round of furloughs 9 months before they happened. Yes the Debt Ceiling was raised and a continuation was granted for the government, until January and February. That storm is brewing big on the horizon, and my prediction is there will be no change politically between now and then. I ask, should we hire all the joe/jane college students, with the budget crisis looming just a few months away, and the 2d round of sequestration that has the highest probability of hitting come January? Or should we wait and see what happens. Imagine the taste in the mouths for all the “interns” that were hired in the last few summers, if suddenly they are RIFed in March.
October 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm #180519
So I guess to get the rest of the CSRS’ers out….a VSIP is order. And not the 25K freely given back in the early 90’s. This is what they are waiting for. I heard it from the horse’s mouths. (lol). They will go, if the price is right. Otherwise, they don’t care if they force RIFs on others, because they know they will be staying for the long haul. I really appreciate your knowledge on this subject matter, as most are unaware of how it is “supposed” to work. Do you know “where” in the pecking order, persons with Schedule A disabilities fall …after Vets, Disabled Vets, PPP, military spouse, et al. Specifically a person which Schedule A who is not a vet, college educated in the STEM area?
I find it puzzling on just about every fed blog or site, the mantra is, “young college folks”….come on over to the feds…we need you…we need innovation, fresh blood, new ideas. But the way the hiring is set up…it’s like a door slammed in their faces….so they look elsewhere.
Not sure how it is with other agencies, but in DoD, everything, and I mean everything is tightly controlled by a policy/regulation/order. You cannot come in the door, be innovative and think outside the box….and think the “way things are done”, from procurement to IT are going change. They are not. Those directives come down from “on high”. I believe those coming in with “innovative” ideas will find themselves “stifled” real quick like….as someone will say, “Directive/order/regulation clearly states, this is HOW we will do it.” You cannot circumvent the procedure. It “is” about the “process” in all of DoD.
I believe this is how it is with “hiring” as well. Yes, I see more furloughs on the horizon and possibly RIFs as well. If they (whoever they are) would start at the TOP, it would be obvious that is where the “fat” needs to be cut. But alas, the bottom (where I am) is the first place that gets the axe. How can “anything” be left standing if the “foundation” is ripped out?
October 26, 2013 at 2:31 am #180517
I have seen a lot of that also (people with 25, 30 years of service), waiting until the buyout will be profitable to them. They will run the calculations each time a buyout is offered.
And, depending upon the field, young new bright ideas, well unless it is some sort of a scientific or technical job, there will be no place for bright new ideas. Most of the careers fields are bogged down in regulations (with no leeway what so ever to be imaginative). So why do we push that so hard, other than it sounds good.
Now, let’s go back to why staffing is so rule driven. And part of why it takes so long to hire a person. The vast majority of it is because of the rules of law themselves. Why are there so many rules of laws, doubles checks, etc. Because, we can’t trust managers to do the right thing during the hiring process without them. Without the rules of law, we would return to the spoils system from back in the 1880’s and earlier. At that time, almost the entire civil service changed every 4 to 8 years, as new Presidents came in. Do we want to go back to that?
I remember when the President came out with that 80 day hiring mandate. I looked at it and went, if management selects someone without a security clearance, it’s going to take at least 90 days to get one. So how will I ever make the 80 day model. But, I found ways to keep the numbers down.
Likewise, you can go to the OPM site and review the laws on RIF, and tell exactly where you would sit in the pecking order, and see how many would go before they get to you. As most folks here know, I am a 30% or more Disabled Veteran. I would hate to see a RIF, because once they get rid of all those non-Vets, guess who would be left to pick up the work load.
October 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm #180515
The “rules” exist partly because of the sheer size of the system, and the need to have some sort of parity across it. Otherwise the basis for being hired or promoted in branch A of Agency X could be vastly different than branch B, or Agency Y, or in 2013 vs 2012. Indeed, one of the strongest arguments against any attempt to use performance pay as an incentive in the public sector is that it is typically not applied in the same manner by all managers, according to the same criteria. If nobody talked to anybody else outside their immediate work unit, it might fly, but in the absence of those rather special circumstances, and presence of the opportunity for people to compare how it is used in their unit vs others, it all falls apart.
October 27, 2013 at 8:06 pm #180513
Ok, I’d like to know where Mike Giuffrida, the OP is on this. Mike? you there?
October 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm #180511
Hi Julie, yes, apologies – I am back on deck and have been catching up on the discussion. The response to the posting has been really interesting and very valuable so thank you to all. It was also interesting to see a big article in the Post on Sunday regarding ‘Young workers souring on federal careers’. Such a topical area with varying view points.
In following the discussion however, I do keep coming back around to a question which is….what can we do to make things better, even a little bit better?
From my initial posting, I was hoping to stimulate just this discussion (thank you again) and back it up with some high level points regarding some areas where we may be able to focus on improvement. There are new technologies that have been adopted in the commercial market for some years that are now available within Fed. Traditionally this sector is challenging from a Technology stand point due to many of the complexities in the Federal Hiring process, as has been outlined in this thread. But these new technologies are there now. So can we leverage these new tools in ways we haven’t been able to before?
There is no question there are many challenges at the moment, budget and process constraints being prime examples.
However, understanding and working within the constraints, is there one area we could choose to focus on and improve?
October 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm #180509
Great points Alesia! I agree – workforce planning is really the place where it all begins. Understanding the workforce the agency needs to deliver on their mission in the short and longer term is key. Particularly in the current environment, it certainly feels like that lack of workforce data has been so limiting for so many. The disparate systems, the inability to get access to information makes it so difficult to plan and to introduce new initiatives.
From a high level, I really believe this has to be one of the central starting points. Solve the problem of disparate data so that you can see where you are. Only then can you move forward.
I am encouraged that many of the agencies we speak to very much recognize this, and want to do more. They want to put the fundamentals in place to make better decisions. This will take time, and everyone is already under so much pressure – but you have to get started at some point to get access to real-time metrics.
October 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm #180507
So true – technology is just an enabler – it does not solve the problems altogether. We have seen with one agency, the introduction of the on-boarding tools has meant new starters no longer need to wait 4 weeks after they start to simply get access to the systems they need to do their jobs – they arrive day one, set up and ready to go. That makes a massive difference to productivity and also engagement where a poor on-boarding experience has a direct link to turn-over.
We see as well, although the USAJobs application process can be streamlined, the applicant then gets taken to the agency site to apply, where they can be asked to step through an agency specific online application form that adds more time to the process – we could do more to streamline that I think.
October 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm #180505
Marie – yes the President’s Hiring Reform Memorandum of 2010 was pushing for streamlined processes – however, from what we’ve seen the limitations from a technology stand point have really limited many agencies from implementing some of these changes – I think the time has changed now, new tools have come in to help agencies implement some of their reform ideas.
Agree with you that the content has to be current and accurate. Those fundamentals, along with active communication through the process are important.
One of our very early customers many years ago in the Automotive sector used to say to us…”even if we don’t hire them, we still want them to buy one of our cars”. I think that is a nice way to think about it. Every applicant experience impacts their perception of the Federal Government as a whole.
October 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm #180503
ah, what can “we” do to make it better. The answer is, “We can’t”. It is what it is. The regulations/policies/orders are such that,…”you and I” in the trenches have “NO SAY” on how it goes.
With all the special hiring preferences in place, the young college grad looking into gov work doesn’t stand a chance as the line before him/her is a long one. This is the reality that Earl Rice shared on this topic. Thank you Earl for bringing it to light. Hiring for the fed is not the Facebook, LinkedIn, Social Media, networking that some would have you believe. Social media is useless in the fed hiring process. Being “connected” means absolutely nothing. Innovation and a 4.0 GPA is not going to get you in the door ahead of a vet, ahead of a disabled vet, ahead of a …….name something. With the exception of the CIA and other agencies who have their own “free for all” hiring process. I’m in DoD and it’s a nightmare. The average age of any worker on my installation is 45….and rising. The 55+ CSRSers are waiting for the winning $$$ VSIP “or”, if there is a change from the high 3 to a high 5, they are gone. It really doesn’t matter about technology….because the process is still in place and guided by “so it is written, so let it be done”. And with all the “transparency” going on, “HIRING” has a bullseye on it’s back. Working within the constraints will take forever…..and I know it won’t happen before I retire in 2021. You asked if there is one area we could choose to focus on and improve? Yes, end the “regional” HRO’s and bring them back to the individual installations. The HRO folks “know” the area, they know the people and the “know” the rules/regulations/polices……HRSC Norfolk has no clue what we need at our installation…..the personalization has gone out of the hiring process. You are a number on a file and young people never hear back “hey did I get it, or didn’t I?” And they are waiting…..they are leaving our little burg where our installation is located for greener pastures in the private sector. Truth is truth. You …..down at the bottom of the food chain, have no input on hiring policy. All that is done “on high”. See Earl’s post for specifics. It sucks, but this is what have to work with.
October 29, 2013 at 1:35 am #180501
I hate dealing in staffing with non-staffers (and I detect a bit of that frustration in you also).
Staffing is a very much “so let it be written (5 USC, 38 USC), so, and instead of “let it be done”, “shall it be done” (in the directive sense).
Title 5 USC lays the ground work for a Merit System, with free and open competition. These legal requirements are codified in 5 CFR. And, bluntly every facet of staffing is governed by a rule of law. There is almost no flexibility. (Some small agencies are exempt, like the CIA, Defense Intelligence System, NSA, etc.) So if you think you are going to change the law, try again. Changing the staffing laws, well I am more interested in getting a continuance in January, and a Debt Increase in February (and the odds are higher on them also, and I am of the opinion there will be another shutdown).
In laymen’s term (and there are exceptions) everyone will get their fair shot at applying for a vacancy. By law, any time you open an announce to applicants outside you agency, you MUST post on USAJOBS, end of statement (oh, and allow Veterans to apply).
USA Staffing is used to construct the application you can see on USAJOBS. There is no bottle neck here. And the applicants can apply. After the first application, their documents are stored. After that first one, well it will take less than 10 minutes to apply (vast improvement from the past). There is no backlog here. There was one shift though. It is now the applicants’ responsibility to provide the required documents, rather than the staffer to obtain them from the applicant (after their selection). But, for the applicant, once their documents are stored, they can use them over and over. Still no bottleneck.
Rating the applicants. This is the bottle neck. Partly because of the sheer number of applicants (hundreds). And, partly because of the rules of law governing applicants. Basically, you have to look at each and every document the applicant submits. If the position requires a Bachelor’s degree, and the applicant submits 5 scanned copies of toilet paper, and then 1 real transcript, you have to look at each piece of toilet paper until you get to the real transcript (worse if they label the toilet paper transcripts, and the transcripts as other document). Now thrown into the mix, the Agencies networks, for the most part, are just not designed to handle the bandwidth requirements of USA Staffing and looking at the documents. My Agency’s network, well it will take 4 to 5 minutes to open just one of the applicant’s documents in USA Staffing. I will say, you do the math. 200 applicants times each one submitting 5 to as many as 10 documents, and each document taking from 3 to 5 minutes to open (and don’t forget you have to look at them), well it’s going to take a while. And this is all driven by rules of law. For the IT folks, what I need is a network that will give me more than 256k transfer rate (and more than 2 megs ram in the box). This is the part that causes the frustration. I have 3 generations newer computer and 80 times the network speed at home than I do at work. I have to say IT folks, give me the tools to reduce this bottleneck.
Interviews. For the most part, Agencies are good about this. They will get the interviews done and back within 2 weeks. Then comes the rest of the process. This usually is NOT a bottleneck.
The rest of the story (onboarding). Finger prints and SAC. Physical if one is needed. Background check (at least a NACI). Security clearance. Credentialing for medical folks. Some agencies had a Professional Standards Board to set grade and step (ergo pay). Working above minimum rate approval if that applies. This also become a bottle neck. There is no-one in the hiring process holding these people’s feet to the fire to get this done expeditiously (and they don’t work for HR). This is a bottleneck, but is outside of HR’s control.
And, it is a fact that Veterans have a leg up in this process. For merit promotion announcements Veterans can apply, Schedule A can apply, former Peace Corps and other “Corps” can apply. But not billy/suzy recent college grad. For delegated examination units that can announce to all US Citizens so that billy/suzy recent grad can apply….Veterans will block the lists, end of statement. Priority placement programs will block the list such CTAP/ICTAP for displaced government employees. In DOD you have the spouse programs. OK, let’s go to Pathways, a Veteran that recently graduated will block billy/suzy every time (and a huge number of the GWOT vets are going to college). And, a 30% or more disabled Veteran goes to the top of the list, end of statement. Bluntly you can’t bypass a 30% disabled Veteran without specifically, beyond a showdown of a doubt, proving to the Office of Personnel Management they are incapable of doing the job (and the chances on that are about the same as the survival rate of a snowball in Hades domain). Likewise, my Agency is very metrics driven. They measure everything and anything, with a lot of it never used (wasted bandwidth and FTEE). But, as these analyst pull down data from all over the US, they chew up bandwidth that I could be using to try and reduce the staffing bottleneck. (I was checking today, and the network speed to USA Staffing today was from 256k to maybe 400k, max, and it wasn’t on OPMs side of it).
So, let’s just talk about root cause here. Slow computers on a slower network, trying to harness the advancements of technology (makes me feel like I a driving a 1961 Ford Falcon at the Indy 500). Bluntly, until the government invests some money into rebuilding the networks, the major bottlenecks aren’t going to change. Some say the infrastructure of our country is old and rickety, well so is the networks run by the government. And throw in on top all the new security requirements caused by the Patriot Act.
October 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm #180499
Thanks Julie – well, as you say, the aging baby boomers issue is not going to go away – it is only going to make things worse and make it even more difficult for agencies to deliver on their mission. So something is going to have to change at some point – hopefully sooner rather than later. We will keep pushing.
To your points, these days, you do not necessarily need to have a centralized HRSC model. I have seen hybrid models work quite well, where the processes and reporting are centralized but the services (i.e. staffing) are delivered at a local level – all using the same solutions. And there is no excuse these days for not communicating with applicants. That is just so damaging.
Thanks for all your insights.
October 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm #180497
We have NMCI, the absolute worst of the worst. It seems to me “outsourcing” IT is the dumbest move ever. I can’t “download” anything, I can’t use a thumbdrive…..I can’t send multiple documents because it “won’t go through.” I have asked, “why can’t I send these documents?” Answer, “you may have to send them one at a time, you have limit on what you can send.” Well, “can I have more storage “space”? No, it’s not in the contract…can I have some, whatever, “No, it’s not in the contract”. My supervisor would like everyone, including the WG to have Adobe Pro on their computers. NO….it costs too much and it’s not in the contract. Geez louise, when sending a mundane email becomes a giant boondoggle…don’t the powers that be think we need to revisit “the contract”.
I find it amazing that Amazon.com can have a worldwide website and we can’t even send an email with an attachment. Maybe the President should call Jeff Bezos and see if he can help out with the healthcare website. oh yeah, and that was “outsourced” to a firm in Canada. Yep, the American people are stunned and amazed…..but not surprised. Amazon doesn’t crash on Black Friday, with world wide participation, so he must be doing something right. DoDemall is awful…I avoid it like the plague. I like GSA Advantage for procurement, however, it still has a few bugs to work out. The fed supply system is a joke and should be scrapped immediately. A total waste of time. Oh and if you have an Ability One Skilcraft desk calculator, take a peek on the backside, it reads, “Made in China”. But “we”, “I” can only purchase TAA items. Also, your claw staple remover, from Ability One, or GSA Global….yeah, made in China, right on the box.
IT, don’t get me started. And forget BYOD, it’s not going to happen in DoD. We are loaded to the max with security bloatware that is “installed” by defense IT contractors….go figure. NSA anyone? really now. :o/ My computer drives just like your 1961 Ford Falcon. :oD It hangs up, it freezes and the little blue circle spins round and round. We just got Windows 7 in August and already we are behind the curve.
RE: hiring. It will literally take an “act of Congress”….ha ha….but it seems…well…they aren’t a group fed employees can count on right now.
Right now I am planning a retirement for two of my co workers. 30+ years they have invested in gov service. Once they go…..oh well, out goes the knowledge and it will take a year maybe more to get new people in. As a customer service front liner….it really bothers me that I won’t be able to deliver service in an efficient manner because we will be short handed….for however long.
Just a GS5, trying to hang on. Keep posting Earl,till somebody takes off their rose colored glasses and realize that all the “trendy” hiring and connections are worthless. And if indeed the social media hiring is going on when it’s not supposed to….well, some billy/suzy may find themselves unemployed because they were not hired properly.
October 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm #180495
Earl – thanks for all of your input into this discussion. I was shocked to read that it takes you 4 to 5 minutes to open 1 document! I actually did the math and, being nice about the times, that equals 67 hours of what I’ll call ‘down’ time. 1.5 to 2 weeks of work time just *waiting* for documents to open. Even considering your network limitations – you would not have that experience with alternative solutions.
There has been a real paradigm shift in recent years where, to your point, the technology we have at home exceeds the technology we have at work. This is the first time in history where that is the case. We expect more of our systems at work as a result, and on current trends, the gap will continue to widen and continue to erode competitive advantage for those who do not continue to invest in Technology successfully. And it certainly sounds like you have a compelling ROI right there in rating your applicants.
Your messaging around the challenges posed by Veteran’s Preference is coming across clearly. We have introduced a lot of automation to help streamline the management of Vet’s Preference, however this does not take away from the legal requirements that must be met which impact on your outcomes.
Perhaps in the first instance, we need to concentrate on optimizing solutions to significantly minimize the technical down time you are experiencing through your ‘rating the applicants’ process. This in itself would allow you to more than double your output. On your example above it would save you 58 hours in the rating of your applicants for that single vacancy.
Thanks again for you participation in this discussion.
October 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm #180493
Yes, Mike, please keep pushing. You don’t realize what you have until it is gone. And it’s going fast. The hiring freezes (at least where I am) needs to be lifted so we can get some bodies in here and take some of the work off the back of those on the bottom of the food chain like me, who are taking up the slack for the last 3 yrs.
I think it would be more efficient to have HR services delivered locally. Centralized processes at a larger (nearby) installation would bring it closer to home. The communication is basically a blurb on USA JOBS stating that your qualifications did not meet….blah, blah, blah. And who wants to go through the bother of asking…why???? Wouldn’t it be easier to say, “You didn’t make the cert because there were 5 minimally qualified vets ahead of you.” These are things the young grads don’t “KNOW”. They just think if they apply and have a 4.0 GPA and have a stellar resume, they are in like flynn. I have asked about college degrees. On some job announcements that request/require college, there is the blurb “OR”…..credible education courses and experience. So that kinda/sorta makes the BS degree unimportant ….as a disabled vet or vet will have “credible education courses and experience.” You see, I “ask” the questions….and I push until I get the answer. Sometimes the truth hurts. It’s the truth none the less. The sample I gave you is regarding a college grad with 2 degrees in Industrial Eng., & CAD drafting. The kid didn’t get the tech job, it went to 30% vet. As the rules state, it should have. But there are young people that don’t “KNOW” that. And HR isn’t about to tell them the truth because, as they are now, will quit applying altogether. Even though it is said that fed wants new blood, innovative ideas….et al, (I see this on many discussions on GovLoop) they are not going to get it because of the way the hiring system is set up.
Maybe you have some say so, Mike on how to simplify the hiring process or can forward your ideas to whomever. It is a start. I also took note that other than Earl and I, once the “truth” got out about the way things are supposed to be done…..some of the GovLoopers fell off of this discussion. Some will say it’s too “negative” so they stay away or the realization that it’s not an overnight fix. Me, I think it’s the former. GovLoop isn’t know for hard hitting discussions. (my opinion)
October 30, 2013 at 2:17 am #180491
I will give a good example. A vacancy announcement for an and advanced audiologist with special certifications and qualifications. This is a very specialized field, and even more so with the some of the requirements. It took me all morning to rate just 5 applicants. And, I wasn’t goofing around, I had two 8 minute breaks. Luckily there weren’t that many applicants. But with the way the assessment was structured, those that I did get were imminently qualified. I worked on it the rest of the afternoon and stayed late to get it done.
Before our network started having problems back in July, I could have finished it in an hour, hour and a half at the most. And the real ramifications, in the mean time, while doing this, I also had 5 announcements that needed to be posted (got 2 out today…the latency even caused some issues with that), professional standards board packets to review and send to a Regional Board, 3 pay actions to “fix” people’s pay problems, plus a backlog of housekeeping chores because we track staffing progress in 3 different systems, and 4 different shared sites (all affected by the latency). Something happened in July to cause all this mess, and nobody will say what it was. Our OI&T tried to blame the issues on OPM. But OPM came back and specifically told them what IP addresses were causing the problems, and that those addresses were registered to them, not OPM. And from what I can tell, the latency issues caused the entire Agency to miss its goals for staffing times.
October 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm #180489
“Some will say it’s too “negative” so they stay away or the realization that it’s not an overnight fix. Me, I think it’s the former. GovLoop isn’t know for hard hitting discussions.”
You are very perceptive. I don’t think of it as negative. This is reality. There’s a difference. And some folks just aren’t ready for a good dose of reality. As far as Vets Preference, well it isn’t going to go away. Neither political party nor the Whitehouse are going to take this one on. Veterans’ votes have the power to change elections. I know of one Congressman that was told if he didn’t start supporting the Veterans in his district, they would make sure it wasn’t his district anymore. And they were dead serious, and had power behind their promise to make it happen, even if they had to go door to door to make it happen! The problems is very few people outside of HR really understand how the system works, especially the kids right out of college. And, now with the Pathways Program (and I wrote some of the responses for Veterans Groups when there was the solicitation in the Federal Registry for comments….and almost all of the comments ended in the program) have Veterans Preference embedded in it, it is going to be hard for a college grad that isn’t a Veteran to be selected (or at least selected legally). And, we are seeing the GWOT Veterans starting to graduate from college now, looking for jobs, and they know all about Veterans Preference. These guys and gals are far from being stupid (and if they find out they were bypassed to hire a non-Vet, they know exactly who to contacts to start the appeal going).
As far as the government IT side of it. The Government IT has kind of turned into a mess. I know how there are the grand ideas, but they will not go beyond such. I saw the same thing 10 years ago. And regrettably, I haven’t seen my job in HR get any better. Oh it is automated, and the keeping of statistics is great (most of it never used except to justify the gatherer’s job), but at the grass roots level, nothing has changed, if anything it has gotten worse.
Investing money into big data, I would rather see it go to infrastructure.
October 30, 2013 at 6:09 pm #180487
Julie Chase you might consider starting a thread titled Let Us Bash Veterans. If I remember correctly the outstanding college graduate you constantly refer too is a relative. You admit that you have lobbied upper management to by pass federal law and illegally hire him. Upper management where you work has had the good sense not to become involved. That would be a Prohibited Personnel Practice. It would be a career stopped for the official. The old days of evading hiring veterans by using the so called Outstanding Scholar Program are over, most were not outstanding nor scholars. The same goes for the Federal Career Intern Program. That era is over, and it not going to return.
If you are displeased with veteran preference, have the law changed. The First Amendment to the Constitution gives you every right to petition your government. Do so with vigor. I doubt if you will succeed, but it is your right. On the other hand it our right to insist that federal statutes, Code of Federal Regulation, and Executive Orders be followed to the letter, which we do. It is our right to insist that veteran preference be administered in a legally and regulatory correct manner.
There discrimination in the Pathways Program, and it is an attempt to use the Pathways to evade hiring veterans. Those very deliberate attempts to bypass veterans are being pursued in the Merit Systems Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit. They will continued to be pursued until the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit renders a final decision. Please, get some new material.
October 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm #180485
I think the problem is that the supply of veterans is not always assured to synchronize with the demand. The sorts of recruitment surges, and military ventures, that DOD engages in, and which provide that supply, are not intended to mesh with the staffing needs of the civilian side of the PS. And the policies that provide veterans’ preference for all the right ethical reasons are drafted in a completely decontextualized way.
All too often, well-intentioned policies, oozing with face validity for all stakeholders, can run headlong into circumstances the policy did not anticipate.
Exasperating, yes, but whaddya gonna do?
October 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm #180483
My father was a vet…my husband is a vet. I work with vets. You’re perception is wayyyyy off. I have asked questions and lobbied no one. The information I gleaned is exactly as you & Earl describe. However if read you some of tbe blogs…..here on govloop…it is as simple as a Facebook connection…some still don’t know about hiring. To find the pecking order in hiring one has to ask. I bashed no one…least of all vets. You explained the Pathways clearly. I get it. I do not have an OS relatve….my relative is disabled. I hope you feel better now.
October 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm #180481
Mark, I see where you are going, but we are not dealing with policy. We are dealing with federal statute, Code of Federal Regulations, and federal court cases. What we have accomplised in the past 13 years is a result of CAFC and MSPB decisions. These take precedent over any policy. Granting veteran preference cannot be construed as discrimination under the auspices of the many civil rights statute. Stakeholders are not our problem. The correct application of federal staute, Code of Federal Regulations, and federal case law is our only concern, and will remain our concern. The whinners cannot get past it is the law. If they do do not like it change. What we see as discrimination in the Pathways Program is currently being vetted at MSPB an CAFC.
Veteran preference was not intended mesh with civilian needs. Until the law is changed veteran preference will remain as it is now, just that preference confered by statute. If you wish I will provide you a list of cases. Veteran preference has become firmly embedded in federal hire procedure since my case Dean v. OPM, Nov 04, 2010.
The so called Outstanding Scholar Program and the Federal Career Program screwed us from 1987 until 2010. It will take years for us to gain equality with non-veterans insofar as federal hiring is concerned. I returned to school for a PhD. I was a 2013 PMF finalist. I applied for approximately 100 positons. The only response I received was an intend to passover. They just cancelled the job. OPM, other agencies and I are going to have a lengthy conversation this matter.
I am a retired Army Military Police Office and a retired GS-0233-13 in Labor Relations. Most federal managers do not belief bull horns will hook. During my tenure as in labor relations I inquired of a GS-14, ‘baccker chawing, non-veteran, good old boy with a GED why he did not hire veteran, he replied, ” I ain’t got nuthin again vet, but no body ain’t going to tell em who to hire.” Apprantely that concenus has changed in the fedral hiring arena.
October 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm #180479
Well, replace the word “policies” with “statutes” or “laws” in my post, and I think we are on the very same page. I am quite confident that such statutes were planned with the best of intentions, and whomever drafted them certainly didn’t plan for them to screw anybody. But in the absence of the gift of prophecy, or examination of how they might not mesh with civilian staffing, such statutes can often end up doing just that.
October 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm #180477
Dale M. PosthumusParticipant
I could go after many themes, but I will try one that I believe is not restricted by law — transparency (tell me if I am wrong). As mentioned here, let job seekers know where they are, or you are, in the process. That doesn’t mean every week over the 60, 90, 130, or whatever number of days process. How about every second or third week, more if its includes the length of a background check? I have worked in the private sector for companies who did this well and who did this poorly. I have heard many good and bad hiring process stories from my family, friends, and acquaintences. They had much better opinions about organizations who let them know what was happening, even if it was “still in process”.
October 30, 2013 at 9:11 pm #180475
This has certainly been an active discussion that covered a lot of ground. A few thoughts:
- The Use of Social: Yes Federal opportunities in the competitive service that require public notice are advertised on USAJOBS. However, the use of social sites like Linkedin, Facebook, etc. are good outlets to cast a wider net. Not to mention a good number of small and large federal organizations in the competitive and excepted service have had success attracting candidates via social sites. It should be noted that when a potential applicant views an opportunity on one of these sites they are easily driven back through USAJOBS to continue the apply process, which of course then takes them to the agency talent acquisition system.
- Veteran Hiring: I continue to see folks call out Veterans as “blockers”. It should be noted that if organizations perform a solid job analysis and write assessment questions with the proper selective factors – then the applicants in the highest quality category should be there based on ability regardless of Veteran status. It’s a 2-step process now…right?
- Applicant Management: Use a workflow approach to manage a multi-step process, minimize the sheer volume of applicants that need to be managed by asking better questions, and utilize talent acquisition system capabilities to maintain communications with applicants so they know where they are in the process. Consider SMS updates, e-mail updates, and self-service updates <applicant takes the action to check status>.
I liked how Mike asked “is there one area we could choose to focus on and improve”. That one question could certainly spawn a number of threads – from all of the comments we could consider the following focus areas:
- Use of Social in the context of Federal recruitment and staffing
- Use of technology to create efficiency and minimize process bottlenecks
- Writing assessment questions tied to job-related competencies to ensure that the best applicants are being evaluated using a 2-step application process.
October 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm #180473
Mark I disagree to an extent, here the operatant term is law. Federal law thrumps all others. I would also disagree that there was, or has ever been a intent to mesh federal law with policy. Let us look at some numbers, when I finish my disseration in December I will give you a copy, as of 2009 this country had 23,000,500 living veterans. Of total number of living veterans 17,000,000 were white males. All affirmative action statutes, what ever affirmative action is, specifically exclude hiring a veteran as a ground for any type of discrimination. Fedral officials used the Luvano Agreement, 1987?, to evade veteran hire until Dean v. Agriculture in 2005. The Luvano Agreement was just that a settlement not case law. An agreement was used from 1987? through 2005 to exclude veteran. That was one of my arguements, but the Board overtuned the so called Outstanding Scholar Program on other grounds, and did not rule on that issue.
Hiring officials who pushed affirmative action used both programs to evade veteran hire. President Obama abolished the FCIP on December 27, 2010. That made the playing field more level, but not quite enough. The Recent Graduate aspects of Pathways, and the FCP are currently at MSPB and CAFC. They will rule. All will have to live with the rulings.
The primay group impacted by the two programs were white male veterans. The Department of the Air Force is still attempting to use the FCIP, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission is still attempting to use the Rule of Three. The Consumer Prodect Safe Commission are of the opinion and Executive Order does not apply to them, but they are an executive agency. Those issues are being discussed.
We will see what happens. Answere should be final in less than two years.
President Obama has been good for veteran. Of course we are a huge voting bloc.
October 31, 2013 at 2:40 am #180471
I have added the references from 5 USC and 5 CFR for those that are not recruiters/staffers.
This is rather long, but bear with the Rules of Law for the Federal HR Staffing Process:
Response to 1. I would like to know which agencies post their vacancies on Facebook, Linkedin, etc.?
Casting a wider net? Anyone that wants a job in the Federal Government already knows USAJOBS is the place to go. Why add more burden to an already overburdened system? As I have stated over and over, having a highly qualified applicant pool is not a problem. And bluntly, we are not losing applicants to the private sector because they aren’t hiring either. Oh, they may be posting announcements to increase their resume pools, but actual hiring is very limited at best (they are all scarred about what will happen in January and February, it is just not the time for major expansions in the private sector). And, the goal of the hiring reforms in 2010 was to have one place (not 2 or 3), where applicants could go and search for jobs. Note: Historically, before the President directed the changes in the hiring processes 3 years ago, each Agency had their own hiring system, none of which were compatible, or even in the same formatting (ie. if you applied for an Army job, it was one format, Air Force had another, Navy had DONAR, Interior had their own and Park Service another, on and on, and each wanted a slightly different formatting of the application, and all were very tedious to apply for a job). I ask, is Joe I. Wantafederal job, going to go to each Facebook page, for each facility, in each Agency, to look for a job, when they can go to USAJOBS, and in one place see them all? When I was looking for a promotion, I didn’t just suddenly wake up one morning and decide I wanted to work at NOA over in Spring Hills and go to their Facebook page or wake up and decide to work for Census in over in Suitland. I went to USA JOBS and looked for the all the potential jobs and decided which ones I was interested in and which ones I weren’t. I am also very leery of Linkoden. They are a non-governmental agency, and their security is not noted for being the best (ergo, they have been hacked a lot). Linkoden may be good for the private sector, even for contractors, for building networks (maybe), but I question it’s use for the Federal Civil Service. As a Staffing Specialist, I would have to vote no on Facebook and Linkoden. Linkoden is good for building networks (as is Govloop), but when it comes to the hiring processes, how big you Linkoden network is has no influence on making a certificate of eligables or not. And, if a HR Specialist gets caught allowing the information on Linkoden or Facebook to influence them, they will be at least end up with a written reprimand if not an unpaid vacation for a couple of weeks at home.
Response to 2. Veteran hiring:
Preference eligables include Veterans, displaced government employees, widows of Veterans, Former Peace Corps, etc. In short, disabled Veterans automatically go into the top Category and you cannot bypass a preference eligible (Veteran) to select a non-preference eligible [non-Veteran]. Disabled Veterans will automatically go to the top of the list in order of their score, even if their score is 70 (meet basic eligibility qualifications) I could go into further, and prove this in 5 USC and 5 CFR, but to bypass a 30% or more Disabled Veteran to get to a non-Veteran, requires OPM approval. You must prove to OPM that the disabled Veteran is not physically capable of doing the work of the position with reasonable accommodations (this is very difficult to prove), even if their ranking score is a 70, which means they meet basic eligibility requirements only.
For light reading:
5 CFR 302.303
(d) Order of entry. An agency shall enter the names of all applicants rated eligible under § 302.302 on the appropriate list (priority reemployment, reemployment, or regular employment) in the following order:
(1) When candidates have been rated only for basic eligibility under § 302.302(a).
(i) Preference eligibles having a compensable, service-connected disability of 10 percent or more (designated as “CP”) unless the list will be used to fill professional positions [in this context it is like engineers in 800 series career field] at the GS-9 level or above, or equivalent;
(ii) All other candidates eligible for 10-point veteran preference;
(iii) All candidates eligible for 5-point veteran preference; and
(iv) Qualified candidates not eligible for veteran preference.
(5) Unranked order. When numerical scores are not assigned, the agency may consider applicants who have received eligible ratings for positions not covered by paragraph (b)(4) of this section [ergo, scientific positions] in either of the following orders:
(i) By preference status. Under this method, preference eligibles having a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more are considered first, followed, second, by other 10-point preference eligibles, third, by 5-point preference eligibles, and, last, by nonpreference eligibles. Within each category, applicants from the reemployment list will be placed ahead of applicants from the regular employment list
Category Ranking and Rating
Title 5 USC, PART III, Subpart B, Chapter 33, Subchapter 1, 3319,
(a) The Office, in exercising its authority under section 3304, or an agency to which the Office has delegated examining authority under section 1104 (a)(2), may establish category rating systems for evaluating applicants for positions in the competitive service, under 2 or more quality categories based on merit consistent with regulations prescribed by the Office of Personnel Management, rather than assigned individual numerical ratings.
(b) Within each quality category established under subsection (a), preference-eligibles shall be listed ahead of individuals who are not preference eligibles. For other than scientific and professional positions at GS–9 of the General Schedule (equivalent or higher), qualified preference-eligibles who have a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more shall be listed in the highest quality category.
3. Applicant Management: OPM requires a very complicated system to ensure that the occupational assessment in USA Staffing is tied directly to the requirements of the job. This process includes management. You are limited to what is in the position description and the qualification standards. If it isn’t in the position description, or the OPM qualifications standards (or like documents in other Merit Systems), you can’t ask for it on the occupational or eligability assessments. This limitation is from a Civil Rights Case that went before the Supreme Court back in the 60’s (I can look it up to provide the details if needed). Further, the occupational assessment does not determine qualified, but how well qualified. The eligibility assessment, now that is a different animal. It will ask question like can you type, do you have the degrees required by the OPM (or other like Agency) qualifications standards, are you a US Citizen, will you submit to a background investigation, etc. If the qualification standards do not require a degree, then you can’t require a degree. If a disabled Veteran passes through all the basic eligibility requirements, they are given a 70 and go to the top of the list. They can’t be bypassed without an exception to policy (which requires proving that they can’t physically do the job, with reasonable accommodations, which is hard to do for almost all white collar jobs, ergo “office conditions and predominantly sedimentary”). (This does not apply to Internal Merit Promotion announcements, but non-status people can’t apply for them anyway, so this process is also a moot point in this context.)
Notification in USA Staffing. There are certain touch points required by OPM and built into USA Staffing. When an applicant applies for a job in USAJOBS, USA Staffing will send an e-mail that the application has been received (required by law). When the applicants are rated out, those that make the certificate and are referred and those that don’t are notified (required by law). Then the interview stage, which naturally, those that are interviewed know it. Once a selection is made, those that weren’t interviewed or were interviewed but weren’t selected, are notified (required by law). Statistically, this later part takes the longest period of time (though, with Vet preference, the selection is limited within the confines of Veterans Preference, but management will still sit on the certificate of eligables for weeks, hoping the Vets will just magically go away, which they won’t).
Where to improve the process:
- Applicant rating, and this is tied to how fast your computer is and how fast the network is. Regrettably, everyone I have talked to in my Agency and others, state that the network connections and the ram/cpu speed of their computers are the culprits here that are creating the bottle neck. To eliminate this bottle neck will require infrastructure upgrades, which just aren’t in the budgets right now (and probably won’t be for a long while as we face another shutdown come January as well as phase 2 of sequestration…our elected officials just can’t seem to agree to anything). I don’t know why [in absolute frustration], but when it comes to upgrading computers, leadership decides that HR is always dead last to get the upgrades. Reducing the number of applicants artificially by shortening the period of the announcement, manipulation of the announcement, etc., is counterproductive to getting the best applicant pool. And to fix this is way beyond the pay grade of anyone here. We can talk about it, make lists of what should be done, but until the senior leadership at appointed levels make this a priority, it just isn’t going to happen. [Like I will just hop onto a plain to DC, and waltz into “The” Secretary’s office, and tell them what needs to be done.]
- The use of Social Network is counter productive to a Merit System. Writing better assessment questions is a moot point if disabled Veterans apply. You can have the absolute perfect occupational questionnaire, but if you get an eligible disabled Vet, all they have to do is put down the know nothing about the job, and still go to the top of the list and can only be bypassed by an exception to policy granted by OPM. [Personally, I think this is rightly so, they have already paid for this privilege ten times over.]
So here we have it. The realities are the need for allocation of major resources by people way beyond our pay grades, that very well may be gone in a couple of years (or may just give up and resign before such) during a time of limited budgets and unknown funding past January. This is not an easy fix, and to think that putting together a short list to fix it is, is naive at best.
October 31, 2013 at 9:34 pm #180469
Again Earl, thank you for points #2 in the first section and #2 in the second section. Should a vet apply for a STEM position, say an engineering tech. He/she is graded, fills out the assessment questions and one of the questions is “Do you have education or experience using AutoCad or engineering drawing programs.” As you have said, and David will concur…… if the vet checks “I do not have any experience with this”….the non vet with a 4.0 and even they possess full engineering degree will not make the cert. With that said, the vet does have vast experience in his/her military career with some experience on systems “similar” to CAD, that is a leg up for sure, but not a disqualifier.
I know this, because “I asked”. This is the reality. It is the law.
To talk to young people and tell them, “come on, we need you, we need innovation….” is doing them a genuine disservice. Tell the truth. Should a vet not apply for a position, you may have a chance.
There is no amount of demming method or TQM, or meeting of the minds or whatever feel good, let everyone have an opinion/suggestion that is going to policy/regulation/statute or law.
As you pointed out Earl with limited budgets major cuts…it’s not a overnight miracle. For example: the 303 series at a GS4-6 are a dime a dozen….but most young people and yes, even vets aren’t looking in that grade or series and wouldn’t even consider it. Or even a WG 4 or 5. Is it pride? or maybe some don’t realize it’s a foot in the door. Something to consider.
October 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm #180467
Julie your opinions, and that is what they are, do not have a basis in fact, government wide regulation, or statute to support your position. Tim’s posting above you is an exellent discription of federal hire. You vent about us, you insult us, and you openly display your bare hatred for us. Of course I realize your opinions will not affect veteran hire in the least. Your whole vendetta againist veterans is because your relative cannot find a federal job. Veterans apply for Schedule A jobs, and when they apply your relative stays at the back of the line.
Have you ever considered working to get the law changed. The US Supreme Court, the President of the United States, the Senate, the House of Represntatives, and most important the Court of Appeals for the Federal Service and the Merit Systems Protection agree with us concerning veterans hiring in the federal government.
You have a right to attempt to abolish veterans preference, go for it. Venting about us in a public forum may make you feel better, but does not help your cause.
October 31, 2013 at 11:25 pm #180465
I started my Civil Service Career ten years ago as a GS5. A bit humbling to go from Commanding Companies, Detachments, etc. [BTW I was an E7 before I became an Officer] to being a clerk. And worked myself up from there. Now that I am a GS12, I really don’t want to go any higher. Between the military retirement (O3E with 26), and GS 12 pay, all an increase in pay will do for me is throw me into another tax bracket, which pretty much doesn’t make it worth. I am also one of those CPX’s (30% or disabled Veterans). Maybe the next step would be to talk about RIF processes. That get’s even more fun (not). I have heard stories of non-Vet GS15’s bringing guns to work to shoot another GS15 that was a CPX with Veterans Preference for RIF. Everyone knows that my crystal ball states that thing are going to get real ugly come January. Luckily, I am the only “30%’er” in my office with Vet Pref for RIF, the disabilities were caused “by instrumentalities of war”. Most don’t know that a retiree, with 30% or more disabilities caused by instrumentalities of was do get Veterans Preference for RIF (as long as they aren’t a Major or above). This changed about 6 years ago, when DOD redefined what “instrumentalities of war” meant.
October 31, 2013 at 11:31 pm #180463
I don’t know you, but apparently you have an axe to grind with me. I am “agreement” with you, if that matters any. I “know” what the rules are. I am not going to change them, as if. However, at the start…I “didn’t” know about vet preference. I have read extensively about you. I have read other blogs over the years. David, I get it. Really I do. David, it is what it is. Have I not stated that? Yeah, I did. Yes, vets apply for Schedule A. I am also chaptered and versed on Schedule A. I guess I should have asked “you” first….because no one in my agency would tell me anything….I had to find it out piece by piece. There are many others who thought vet preference went away, when really it didn’t. People being people were doing work arounds until they were caught….by and large, by you. I know the chawin’ managers you speak of….they want to continue the “good ol” boy network and it refreshing to see that come to and end. As a union delegate and steward, my husband was actively involved in the discovery of who got promoted and who didn’t. Some managers went as far to say that military experience doesn’t count as experience in the civilian world if the jobs are the similar.
My point is…..why do fed networking sites, blogs, and even fed news articles practically go begging for “young college grad, innovative thinking” hires? What is the point in that? Why say it, when they don’t have a snowballs chance in Hades of even making a cert? Do you get it now?
You spend a lot of time on Fed Soup, Fed News Daily, Govexec and Fed Times…..I am not the disgruntled college student who clogs the blogs with anti-vet rants. I know who you are referring to and that isn’t me.
My husband got his fed job because of vet preference. Do you really think I want to change that? Come on now, be real. I have no cause….only in your mind. I would hate to think your cause has made you paranoid.
October 31, 2013 at 11:33 pm #180461
Changed after I retired from federal civil service. I am glad the federal got around to doing the right thing. Glad you are happy my brother.
October 31, 2013 at 11:48 pm #180459
This is the only blog I post on. I posted on the PMF blog for 2013. Really poked a pin into the swelled heads of some recent graduates. Many veterans have won cases. For whatever reason I have become the person to hate by vet bashers. I find it amusing the things that are posted about me. In fact I love it. I am not the only vet that has fought for change. I will not be the last. If it is not posted under David Dean, I did not post it.
One stalker attempts to follow me around and rant about the FCIP hirees I could not get fired. The damn fool does not seem to realized I have roughly nine years in federal labor relations, and began with a three years Army Internship. There was not anyway those people were going to be fired. I did manage to stir up the babble.
The fool has never hear of PHSYOPS.
November 1, 2013 at 1:36 am #180457
You will still run into hundreds of HR Specialist that say if you are retired, you don’t get Veterans Preference for RIF, end of statement. Department of the Army had a crack down on this, and scrubbed the records to set this straight. In my “new” Agency, an inspector from Washington, DC, stated that retirees don’t get Veterans Preference for RIF, end of statement. Took me about 30 minutes to dig out the laws and show it to my boss where he was wrong (interesting was she stated that she knew he was wrong, just didn’t say anything to make sure the inspection results didn’t get skewed downward). And, in training just a month later, the instructor (also working under the DC HQ) stated she always thought it was that way to, until one of her folks came up and showed the changes to her, and she agreed that disabled retirees can get Veterans Preference for RIF. (It’s not that Title 5 changed that much, just the definition of instrumentality of war, and war and simulated like conditions changed dramatically).
There are numerous HR Specialist that haven’t necessarily kept up with changes as they have come out (especially if there were no big bulletins, and the Agency force corrective action).
I also am concerned with all “we want the best and brightest college graduates” to come into the Government. I saw an article where CGI Federal and Quality Software Services Inc. were hammered for hiring “kids” straight out of college (the best and brightest) with very little experience to put the web site together. Sure didn’t work very well for them to hire the “best and brightest” young college grads. Supposedly, they are calling in experienced experts now to fix it. I ask, why didn’t they do that to start with? There are advantages to having experienced people doing things.
November 1, 2013 at 11:59 am #180455
From this morning’s news reports —
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government says it hired the highest percentage of military veterans in more than two decades in fiscal year 2012, with veterans making up about 29 percent of the 195,000 new employees.
If veterans made up 29%, it is a fairly safe assumption the other 71% were not veterans. So at a time when the federal government is making a concerted effort to give preference to veterans, 138,450 non veterans still manged to make it through the process and become new federal employees.
Maybe, just maybe, staffing personnel may want to put more effort into attracting highly qualified applicants regardless of vetran status since it does appear likely that even with veterans preference, a fairly high percentage of new hires will come from outside the former milatary community.
And maybe those who blame their failure to make it through the selection process on veterens preference might want to spend more time emulating the 138,450 nonvets who managed to get hired and less time complaining about a biased system.
November 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm #180453
At this point one aspect of the Pathways program was placed in the hands of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit yesterday. Three appeals are at the MSPB. One appeal is on point taking the Recent Graduate provision of Pathways head to head. Two others address the continued use of the rule of three instead of the category rating procedure. Your guess is as good as mine as to the final outcome.
The Merit Selection, avoiding veteran preference in internal hiring, is at the Supreme Court. A group of old flower children at Stanford Law School is handing that pro bono. Might be some guilt regarding spiting on us, throwing urine and feces on us as we came through the ‘Frisco Airport returning from the deNam. What ever it is greatly appreciated. It does not matter why they have taken our case.
Two appeals involving the Department of the Air Force and the Consumer Product Safety Commission continued use of the FCIP are awaiting Administrative Judge’s decision. Within a year we should have the final rulings from the MSPB and th CAFC. Two at most.
The so called Outstanding Scholars program continued for approximately 26 years simply because veterans did not challenge the application. The FCIP was the same. We will see what will result.
I own a young combat veteran. He was in the sand box at 18 YOA. Two full tours. He has three combat patches, his most prized is the 82nd Airborne Division. He will start college in January 2014. Oh, he calls me Gram’pa.
November 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm #180451
Agree with you Dale. The applicant communication is so very important. These days we do have a 2-way integration with USAJOBS where status updates in the staffing solutions automatically synchronize with the applicant status in USAJOBS. However, more personalized communication is also very simple these days so should be a standard.
November 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm #180449
Interesting – the article also states that the 29% number is actually up from 26% in 2009. So initiatives to drive further placements of Vets in Government jobs are moving in the right direction. However, as you say, there are still many non-vets getting hired in the Federal Government…
November 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm #180447
Dale M. PosthumusParticipant
I don’t think your intent is to bash hiring college students, but it comes across that way. The issue of young programmers on contracts such as the insurance exchange is as much a procurement problem. Too many agencies want level 4 and 5 experience, but only want to pay level 2 and 3 salaries. Budget pressures, yes, but, you get what you pay for. At the same time, you don’t role out a project that is not ready. Experience is good, but so is new blood, fresh ideas, different outlooks. Afterall, if you don’t hire new, you will eventually lose everybody.
Back to topic. I will agree that solutions to the biggest problems require longer-term actions. But, that is not a reason to throw up our hands and say “can’t do it”.
November 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm #180445
Federal hiring is a lot easier than most us want to or actually do believe it to be. The existing law, and the regulations – which have been cited and quoted throughout this discussion, are just fine.
The root problem, as I see it, begin with our respective understandings of it and the terms used to describe it, and in how to apply them all properly through the federal ATS’ we use to recruit and manage the two-step process.
The two-step process in the federal competitive service is not dissimilar to the process of recruiting in the private sector.
Under the federal recruitment laws and regs, agencies are first required to identify the pool of eligible candidates from all the applicants. And then secondly, via the examination process, rate the candidates who are the better qualified for the role, and of those, rank them for selection.
Whether agencies use the “Rule of Three” or “Category Ranking” methods, it’s important to understand that the rating of eligible candidates may only take place during the examination process. It is the examination process that determines who is “qualified” for the role. It’s also important to understand that the examination process includes any proctored test scores and/or all the ratings giving to eligible candidates during any interviews. And once all results are in and the scores equitably calibrated, that pool of eligible candidates can be short-listed to a list of those who then become qualified for the role. It is then and only then, after all rating scores are in, that preferences (if a qualified candidate is eligible to receive preferences) are allocated and the candidates are then ranked for selection. This is all pretty easy to do, and agencies’ federal ATS systems need to track the process for any required audit.
In the Rule of Three method, anyone who meets the basic eligibility for the role gets a score of 70. Even if scoring zero is a “pass” in any subsequent proctored tests and interviews during the examination process, the most these “less qualified” or “unqualified” people may score is an 80 – and only if they are eligible for a 10 points preference under the code an regs for preferencing. Respectfully, federal recruiters need to manage how to ensure that the best qualified within the list of eligibles are identified and rated (via examination) and ranked for selection. Here recruiters need to find no more than three “qualified” for the role. It’s really not hard at all. But if they don’t, they should start over until they find three qualified applicants. (Practice makes perfect?)
And it’s even easier to do this within the Category Rating method. In it, agencies may set their own basic levels for eligibility, and set their own levels that earn an applicant a “qualified” status – following the examination process. So long as you can find three candidates who at least fall into one of the top two quality categories, agencies can set the level of acceptance of qualified as high as say, greater than 98%, and greater than 99% for the top two categories. And again, only then can the candidates who have a “preference eligible” status, and who are within these categories of qualified applicants, get the appropriate preferencing status, and ranked for selection.
Both the above federal recruitment methods of merit selection, if done properly, produce very qualified candidates for selection.
In my humble opinion, if an unqualified “preference-eligible” lands on the final cert, it is not due to any fault of the law or the regs. When this happens, the fault is with the recruiter and his or her understanding of the federal recruitment laws and regs. But at the same time, when a qualified “preference-eligible” does land on a cert while observing the laws and regs appropriately, they should be hired – and immediately.
I find federal recruiters to be “spooked” by who they think these “preference-eligibles” are, and what they think they might do if they don’t list them on a cert. But while putting aside the damage recruiters do to their agency by listing unqualified preference-eligibles onto a cert for hire, remember this:… giving preferences to candidates prior to being qualified via the examination process is equally challengeable in court by a qualified non-preference-eligible as it is for a preference eligible to challenge in court not being awarded the preferences that he or she may be eligible for when they have been qualified. And I submit, of the above two offences, the former occurs far more frequently which puts the agency at a greater legal risk.
Mike: thanks for initiating this discussion. When pursued seriously, the areas you identify warranting federal agency attention and improvement for the applicant experience in will undoubtedly help bring it in-line with the private sector. And I hope my comments above can help drive clarity in one of these big areas warranting attention.
November 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm #180443
Don’t get me wrong, I am for hiring the best applicants available, however I am also going to enforce the Veteran Preference Laws vigorously.
I would be very leery about citing FY12 data. FY 12 still had the influences of the FCIP, STEP, and SCEP programs There were several Agencies that used these programs to account for over 50% of their hiring in FY12), and was before the VA was directed by the MSPB to use normal Veterans Preference for their allied health positions (Hybrid Title 38 positions). For the Hybrid positions Veterans Preference has been used as a tie breaker if all things were equal, but MSPB stated no, you will use absolute traditional Veterans Preference. They had been issuing unranked lists which would allow management to pick anyone on the list they wanted, bur that change in January 2013. Also, the government “Research Labs” (i.e. Army. Air Force, DOD, Navy Research Facilities, etc.) are under demonstration projects and authorized direct hire authority (non competitive appointments). I also know many agencies made wild dashes to get as many FCIPS, STEPS, and SCEPS hired as the could before the programs y went defunct and the Pathways Program came out. I also question the 139k new employees and how they came up with that. I have discovered that many Agencies are counting the employees coming to them from other agencies as new appointments. Likewise, they also are counting “conversion to a new appointment” as a new appointments. I have learned to ask questions before I start basing facts on what an article or release might say. What I am waiting for is the 2013 and 2014 data to come out and see how the changes are reflected. Reminds me of this one Secretary announcing in a speech that he wanted to hire 45k Veterans that year. I was thinking, Mr. Secretary, has anyone told you your agency has been under a hiring freeze for 5 months, and projected to be under one for quite a few more…this was during the time when the Agencies had to get their end strength down to comply with sequestration levels, which they couldn’t and the furloughs came out as the only way to balance the payroll books).
Now, on the finding high caliber applicants, the best technique I have experienced was to place adds in the professional journals concurrently with the announcement. I was able to get very high quality scientists (top 5% in the world type applicants), but they were the equivalent of GS 15s or higher, which is a whole different class of recruiting. On the entry level (GS 5 and GS7) there was no need to advertise on other than USAJOBS, because quality applicants pools could be obtained without it. And, the sad part is that some Agencies do very good at hiring Vets, and others don’t. I know of an Agency in the greater DC area that only hired 2 Veterans the entire year. Yes, only 2! But that was because they outsourced to contractors all the entry level positions that would normally be filled by Vets (and then pushed the FCIP, SCEP, and STEP, to convert them to government positions using non-competitive appointments to get around Veterans Preference…that was in 2012). So, the 2013 and 2014 data should be very interesting to see, now that the loop holes have been closed.
November 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm #180441
Actually, you have this slightly wrong, or were mis-informed about 5USC and 5 CFR.
First all applicants are reviewed to see if they make minimum eligibility by an HR Staffing Specialist. During this phase Veteran status is also determined.
Then, based upon the qualification standard, the same (usually anyway for consistency) HR Specialist will review those eligible applicants to determine the numerical order. [Agencies do this different, some will use the score as is without modification, other will not even use the score and provide what is called an unranked list, some will modify the score based upon the resume, just depends on the Agency].
After this is done, then the same HR Specialist (consistency) will construct a Certificate of Eligibles. 10% or more disabled Veterans will automatically go to the top of the list, end of statement (check 5 USC and 5 CFR), 10 point and 5 point Veterans will have the points added to their score. So now you have a Certificate, that lists the 10% or more disabled Veterans at the top, then everyone else by score order with augmented Vet points added.
This Certificate of Eligibles is then sent to the hiring Managers to interview and select the best candidate(s). Traditionally, if you have more than 4 or 5 Vets on the list, you don’t even send the “others” over on the Certificate, since the odds of being able to get a “bypass” on all of them is astronomical. And, yes HR Specialist are very cautious during this phase. Not providing a Veteran the preference they deserve (or more appropriately, have earned) is a career ender, maybe an employment ender. Surprisingly, I have yet to have a total washout on a certificate with Veterans. There has always seemed to be an imminently qualified applicant in the Veterans group. Further, and many managers view it this way, Veterans do bring a special confidence and experience level to the job, often with new ideas that work.
There are a coupled of twists, like with category ranking and rating, but the 10% or more disabled Vets still go to the top of the top category, and all they have to do is make basic eligibility and qualification standards. As a twist, under the VA’s Title 38 systems, the HR Specialist are restricted from making anything but basic eligibility/minimum qualifications standards determinations. With the pure Title 38 fields, this is no problem, because Vet Preference is used as a tie breaker. With the Hybrid title 38, and traditional Veterans Preference, well Vets must go to the top of the list because it is an unranked list.
Often, I ask why even bother to announce a position to all US Citizens, when all it takes if a couple of Veterans to block the list and you can’t get to non-status candidates anyway. Just go ahead and announce it to all Status Candidates, where Veterans Preference allows Vets to apply but nothing special after that, and the manager can choose anyone from the list of status candidates provided. I have also had very good luck with this approach. And you get very seasoned/experienced employees this way also (that also bring new ideas to the table).
November 1, 2013 at 9:14 pm #180439
President Obama abolished the Rule of Three on May 11, 2010.
November 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm #180437
Earl, clear as mud. lol RE: the last paragraph and David Dean, please add what you know. What do mean when you say,
“Just go ahead and announce it to all Status Candidates, where Veterans Preference allows Vets to apply but nothing special after that, and the manager can choose anyone from the list of status candidates provided.”
How can a manager “choose anyone”. I really want to understand the “how” as well as the “why”. Are there ever times when a job is announced and there are no vet applicants…does this hold true for GS6’s and below?
And David, or Earl…is there a simple list of what status goes where? What is meant by “minimal qualifications”? This was a term given to me when I asked questions.
Example: the following people apply for the same job posting
30%+ disabled vet
Vet not disabled, college degree
vet Schedule A
non vet, no college
non vet, college degree
non vet, Schedule A no college
non vet, Schedule A college degree
I am so glad this thread is here. For once and for all, the correct information is getting out there.
November 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm #180435
I re-read you comment again. I am glad I don’t work for your Agency. The place I work had some issues with properly applying Veterans Preference back in 2005. All I will say is the minimum was 2 weeks suspension without pay, 3 resigned facing 75 action, and 2 were referred to OSC for prosecution. Many places can slick things through, until the get caught, then OPM and OSC come in like the Red Army invading Berlin.
November 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm #180433
He didn’t exactly abolish it, the laws are still on the books and can be used, he just strongly recommended that it not be used. Of course, the old Outstanding Scholar laws are still on the books also (no body bothered to rescind them). Kind of like the laws that when entering a town with a horseless carriage, you have to stop one mile outside of town and fire a gun 3 times so the people know a horseless carriage is coming into town.
November 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm #180431
Back to the basics, what I need to do my job as a staffer is:
1. An up to date desktop/laptop I don’t care. Something with more than 2 megs of ram, and a 1.2 gig processor.
2. A network connection faster than 564k.
3. Managers to stop gripping because who they have predetermined they want to see on the list isn’t there (ergo stop pre-selection, cronyism, and thinly veiled nepotism).
With these 3 things, I can clear most of the bottlenecks and provide high quality applicants.
(And today, I found out that there are a bunch of “head hunter” sites that are posting Government jobs. What shocked me was, they had somehow got the link for an internal facility announcement, and it was plastered all over the internet. This I didn’t need. Gave a false illusion to people outside the facility that they could apply. The only way to apply was to have the link to the announcement which they provided, it’s not showing on USAJOBS searches. Don’t know how they did it, but wish someone would stop them.)
November 1, 2013 at 10:31 pm #180429
President Obama said in the EO (will) can not get more clear than will.
November 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm #180427
Julie, a veteran can apply for any job that is announced. The federal government does not set aside jobs. Veterans are the only protected class that has a route to file an appeal if they are not put on the list, passed over, or in some way veteran preference is circumvented. Very few federal jobs are restricted to education only.
There is nothing special about a Shedule A appointment. Veteran preference applies. Some federal jobs allow education only, that is being contested in the Pathways Program, a combination of education, training and experience, or experience. It does not matter the method of qualification is used, veteran preference still applies.
People on these web sites ramble on and on about qualifications. Under the Rule of Three all a veteran had to make was a 70. Then either five or ten points were added. If a non veteran scored 100, the veteran still went ahead. When you talke about qualification it is revelant, revelant to what? On the Category Rating system a a 10 points compensable veteran will go into Category 1, a 10 points non compensable can go to Category 1, but a 10 points compensable veteran will still go to the head of the list. If management wants to passover the 10 points compensable veteran the manager has to request OPM to allow a passover, the veteran has to be notified and given 30 days to contest the passover, and if the veteran is passed over the veteran files with DOLVETS, DOLVETS has never found an appeal by a veteran has merit, then the veteran goes to the MSPB, if the passover is up held in the MSPB a veteran can appeal to the full board or go straight to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This Honorable Court is the progemy Article III of the Constitution,i.e., a Federal Court. Thye next stop is the US Supreme Court.
The list you have posted above is out of context and meaningless. I do not any other way to explain.
NASA posted a so called Schedule A world nation wide job announce. Just for the hell of it I applied as a 30% or more, 10 points compensable disabled veteran. The announcement was open until 2014, within 30 days the announcement was closed.
November 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm #180425
There are two types of announcements.
One is Merit Promotion, which you can allow status candidates to apply. They get no special placement because of Veterans Preference, but they do get to compete with Government Employees (Schedule A also falls into this category). Now, if an Agency announces a position to people in the Government, but outside their Agency, they must allow Veterans to apply (part of VEOA). The intent was for Veterans to have opportunities that they would not normally have to apply for government jobs. Some Agencies will issue one list, others will issue two, with the Veterans on a list of their own. The key to a Merit Promotion announcement is the Vets get to apply, even though they may not get preference. Or, if you look at it this way, by having Veterans Preference, they get to apply.
Then you have what is commonly called a DEU Announcement to all US Citizens. On this list, Veterans Preference does apply. On these qualified 10% or more qualified disabled Veterans go to the top of the list, end of statement. To bypass a 30% disabled Vet requires an exception to policy from OPM. To bypass a 10-20% disabled Vet requires approval at the Agency Secretary level (who use the same criteria as OPM, so in reality there isn’t much difference). So on a DEU list first we have all the qualified disabled Vets at the top. Now the rest of the list can be set up one of 3 ways. If it is an unranked list, qualified 10% or more Disabled Vets are on the top, the next is the 10 point Vets, followed by the 5 point Vets, then everyone else. If you are using the rule of 3, still on the books, but not used that much anymore, the 10 point Vets and the 5 point Vets have the points added to their score, but you can’t bypass a disabled Veteran without going through the bypass process. Then you have category ranking and rating. 10% or more disabled vets still go to the top of the top category (most training will just gloss over this part), and all other applicants broke down by the raw score, placed in the categories (usually 3, but doesn’t have to be, but must be at least 2). Then the points are added. Non-disabled Veterans don’t go to the top of their category, but you can’t hire a non-Vet from the top Category when Vets area available(most training will gloss over this also ). So now, in the top category, will be at the top qualified 10% or more disabled Vets, followed by the everyone else in score order. But, if there are any Vets in the top category, you can’t hire a Non-Vet as long as there are Vets available in that category. What a lot of managers don’t realize is that a if a disabled Vet meets minimum qualifications, then they are qualified, end of statement, and go to the top of the list. One commenter stated that this is only after interviews and Subject Matter Expert Reviews, etc.. 5 USC and 5 CFR are very specific that Veteran preference is applied before the certification is prepared, not after it. We are not talking about best qualified, for the disabled Vets, we are talking qualified, and qualified is qualified. And qualified is based upon the approved qualification standards, not some idea the manager may have about qualifications. This is a glass ball that you don’t want to break. As I stated, where I work, back in 2005, they got hammered by OPM for violating Veterans preference , many got 2 week suspensions, 3 resigned under 75 actions, 2 were referred to OSC for prosecution, and they lost all staffing capability for 18 months, while what was left was retrained. The OPM view is that a qualified applicant can do the job, end of statement. And, the disabled Veterans wouldn’t be on the list if they didn’t meet minimum qualifications to start with. The catch to qualified is experience, such as 1 year at the next lower grade. There are substitutions where education can be used to substitute for experience. In this DEU situation, they will not allow management to send in a team of subject matter experts to tell them who meets minimum qualifications. They used to do that for the IT jobs, but enough HR Specialist have experience now in IT, that really isn’t needed anymore. The analogy to letting management determine who is meets qualification standards before the certificate is issued is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Likewise, someone said a non-Vet could contest a decision just as easy as a Vet. Well, that isn’t exactly accurate. A Veteran has numerous appeals process (with an open court room being only one). They can appeal through the Department of Labor, they can Appeal directly to the MSPB, or they can go the court route. The only way a non-Vet can appeal is to jump directly to court and they have to show that EEO rights were violated (which is difficult at best since the HR Specialist has no idea about race, religion, etc.). Also of note, numerous Veterans Organization are now providing free legal representation in situations where Veterans preference has been violated. This is a new phenomenon. I believe David mentioned a bunch of actions that are pending, many of which could set HR upside depending upon the decision.
November 2, 2013 at 1:46 am #180423
Hi Earl. I must say this has been such an informative discussion. It’s led me to read up on Category Rating and the application of Veterans Preference. I found this OPM link to be useful: http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/human-capital-management/hiring-reform/reference/hrspecialisttraining.pdf
One question, I’ve noticed the word “eligible” or “eligibility” as it relates to an applicant. All of the discussion about Vets floating automatically to the top based on their disability rating- don’t they have to be basically eligible? If you could help me out with a scenario it might clear things up for me. I personally did 2 tours in Iraq. Once as a young paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne during Desert Storm then in OIF 2 as an old NCO. On my last tour soldiers went through the process of getting their VA rating. A number of my soldiers received ratings of over 30% due to injuries. So, one of them visits USAJOBS and finds a 0622 Medical Supply Tech job. While they may have helped the supply sergeant out on occasion they don’t have the necessary qualifications- does he still float to the top of highest quality category since he is a CPS Vet?
Ok, that’s Vet pref. on to Social Media. A few users of LinkedIn include VA, specifically VHA:
http://www.linkedin.com/company/department-of-veterans-affairs/careers I’ve seen IRS, CFPB, and others use as well.
Here’s the thing about USAJOBS, yes it’s the central jobs portal for most (not all) federal jobs- but there is a downside. OPM doesn’t have millions of dollars to advertise the site and drive “traffic”. Typically the visitors to USAJOBS are those that “know” to go there. Even OPM has talked about the need for agencies to consider “alternate sourcing” to reach a broader pool of potential applicants.
I’ll jump back in later, but my iPad is about to run out of juice. Thanks for your work at VA helping our nations Veterans get high quality care!
November 2, 2013 at 2:19 am #180421
Veterans as a whole are becoming more knowledgeable and more apt to file an appeal. As the chances of winning a veteran’s case more lawyers are becoming involved. Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, if a lawyer substantially wins the case (win only one part) the lawyer will be compensated by the taxpayer at the going hourly rate for the area, plus the lawyer will receive a third of what the lawyer wins for the veteran.
The case we have won have been pro se. The two that I have won have been pro se. Hopefully more lawyers will become more involved in veterans hire in the federal government. Meanwhile we continue to file cases on our own. At least it is apparent that most federal managers are aware of the adverse consequences that can occur when they knowlingly, or unkowingly, violate our rights.
It has taken us approximately 15 years to arrive where we are. No stopping now.
We were in the wilderness from 1987 until 2010. It finally begin to hit home with these officials yes federal law applies to hiring veterans and you opinion does not matter.
November 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm #180419
yes, David paragraph 3. My husband told me the “exact” same thing. Thank you for the insight. I have been getting bits and pieces of this and so far you and Earl have put it together correctly.
It makes sense when I read an “education” paragraph requesting a degree and the next paragraph OR combination of education and experience. I have also read some blogs that “experience” and./or education while active duty doesn’t count in the civilian world. My husband told me that is wrong information. He gained his education and experience refitting F4’s and C130’s in the Air Force. (yes we are old people). He told me that the staffing has got away with putting over educated non vets in supervisory positions that they have no clue that the military is a place where education and experience count. When he was at Chanute (sp)….there were intensive classes on “metals”….while I don’t know all the science of it….he told me it wasn’t like, “here is a piece of metal for a plane, take this rivet gun and put into place”. There were a lot of math classes involved as well.
I hope you continue to get all this straight. I apologize if I have seemed to you as bashing vets. I want to get the “right” information. From what I read on various networking gov blogs….vet preference is NOT mentioned. It seems to be…just network with someone you know, find a headhunter website, check Facebook and LinkedIn…and there you go. None if this, I see is right, so the next question is….how do you stop this incorrect information?
And thank you for letting me know the list is meaningless…this is what I was told….when enquiring.
RE: the NASA announcement. Happens all the time. As one poster said, announcements are “tailored” to who they want….and if that person doesn’t appear on the cert, the job is suddenly closed. I have seen job open for 24 hours. I smell a rat.
Do you offer any advice for young college grads who want to work as a civil servant? I am thinking, patience is a virtue.
November 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm #180417
As a recruitment communications professional that has been working with many agencies for the better part of a decade I am both hesitant to comment but compelled to do so based on some of the comments in this thread and my comments are my own and not that of my agency which is very focused in supporting many of the agencies mentioned here. In regards to the value of social media for talent acquisition and the need to address Veteran outreach the facts support the need and the market conditions warrant that hiring reform is indeed a work in progress. But I would like to add something for your consideration.
The Psychographics and Media Habits of a New Audience
Both a new generation of veterans and the general public have a changing perception of what it means to be an American. The unquestioning patriotism of the “Greatest Generation” is giving way to an emphasis on “social fairness” in a world of increasing digital connectedness. In other words, “It’s the right thing to do.” More and more, the dividing line in American society lies across media haves and have-nots. Consider that at your own agency VA and the myriad of non-profit organizations have been providing tablets and computers for veterans. Meanwhile, Cellphones for Soldiers (http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/), founded by two Massachusetts tweens in 2004, has provided 192 million minutes of free talk time. All of these programs have a common denominator: to connect the veteran to the pulse of American life requires the right technological equipment.
The Psyhcographics and Media Habits of the Traditional Audience
Appealing to a new audience while retaining an old (and larger) audience is a tricky proposition. Veterans, in particular those who are ill or injured, are held in great esteem by most Americans, and a significant percentage are more than willing to support an organizations they can trust to “keep its promises” to veterans. Digital revolution aside, this audience is still best reached through traditional mediums like television and radio. But there is a reason why Wounded Warrior Project, and groups like IAVA invest so heavily in these areas, and often in my opinion at the risk of vesting too much into marketing and not enough into the actual delivery of services – but social media offers a more level playing field in giving a voice to the disenfranchised, the general public, and cash strapped agencies that need more than ever an alternative to broadcasting with direct feedback loops, insight into the morale of the workforce or even in a more personal and authentic way what it means to be dedicated to making a difference. Human resources in the public sector requires being both a doctor and lawyer these days, the discussions here are evidence of that but to put your head in the sand and say” it is what it is” well I am sorry Julie that is just not good enough anymore and an attitude that the American public is quite frankly fed up with pardon the pub. I for one am not going to accept that premise and if change and innovation do not become the tipping point I would assert that agencies cannot afford to ignore digital connections from emerging media any longer.
“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” In the Washingtonian article recently published“Ask Not”: The Shift in Public Service Since JFK’s Famous Appeal By Hannah Seligson
An interesting statistic caught my eye that gives me pause but is not surprising “only 8 percent of the Federal workforce are millennial, compared with 25 percent of the private sector’s workers. Given that fact that the digital landscape has changed, as well as candidate behavior, so to the need to “fish where the fish are”. The spirit of the discussion thread here or at least the take away for me is that agencies need to do more with less and begin to consider how best to align operational goals and priorities related to talent acquisition, workforce planning, and career development with new tools that are readily available and are more cost efficient and effective period.
I would add however that one part of the discussion I haven’t heard much about is that if we are talking about Veterans preference, diversity outreach or the Pathways Program one thing is clear and that is that Employer brand management is one area that ties much of these threads together and serves as one of the few ways that most agencies even have the chance to tell their organizational story. If done right – in a relevant way that express the ‘total package” of benefits derived from public service beyond just a paycheck. The discussion thread here not only illuminates the need to continue hiring reform efforts but that human resource professionals and your respective agency leadership need to consider what it is you want to say and the employer brand and ability to differentiate your organizational culture and workforce attributes within your outreach and message. An important ways that an agency can seek to align the corporate mission through the development of an employer brand is to portray accurately the benefits or brand attributes it aspires to but that it also can and does deliver. To articulate this while aligning messaging and outreach to your Employee value proposition ((EVP) e.g. the combination of self expressive, economic, functional, and psychological value that you as an employee share with the mission of your agency) is an important first step. In doing so I think we can help more lesser known agencies to attract the best and brightest millennial talent whose notion of public service and mission align to the aspirations of leadership in a way that not only the American public will find important and worth funding, but that candidates and public service as individuals can relate to the work that they dedicate themselves to day in and day out back to that mission.
Perhaps we are defined by what we do and I would say to those in the public HR community take pride in knowing that you are making a difference – to your agency and to those that seek to gainful employment and desire to join your ranks and opt-in to answer the call for public service. That is why social media is so important to talent acquisition and in the public sector more so now than ever– it is more than just one of the arrows you need to have in your quiver- it is frankly an opportunity that should be taken advantage of. In that social media gives the agency the opportunity to express that unique employee value proposition, so too can our Federal workforce feel connected to that mission and ultimately serve as brand ambassadors to help attract like-minded new recruits and create a can-do spirit that we saw in my fathers’ generation when civil rights leaders and our executive branch inspired a whole generation.
Program managers that oversee outreach and recruitment want to reach a broad base of the American public of which search engine marketing, mobile, social technologies are the enablers that we have seen to do this and at the lowest cost per hire. Coming at a time when just a third of Americans have a favorable opinion of the federal government, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll, the lowest rating in the 15 years Pew has tracked it. Satisfaction and commitment among federal employees have also sunk to their lowest since 2003, says a report by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service—to 60.8 on a 100-point scale. That’s 3.2 points below 2011’s measure, the largest drop ever. (Private-sector employee satisfaction remained constant last year, at 70.) If agencies don’t define who they are in the social space, then others will do it for you and I for one have grown weary of the tea-bag toting naysayers that can’t accept the status quo but offer no real solutions to address the challenges that we as a nation are facing.
So to those in talent management keep fighting the good fight as change no matter how painful is still the only constant and one that warrants our focus into begging the question “why not”.
November 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm #180415
It seems there are 3 discussions going on at once here with people talking past each other at times.
1. How can Federal agencies compete with the private sector to recruit the best available talent.
2. How can young people interested in a career with the federal government get in?
3. What exactly are the regulations and should they be changed?
The questions are related but not identical.
1. Federal agencies can best compete with the private sector for the best available talent by clearly understanding and articulating their staffing needs in a transparent easy to understand process. Let people know up front exactly what you need and exactly how the selection process works. It would also be a good idea to focus on vets. By and large, they ARE millennials, with superior training, experience, demonstrated expertise and social media skills equal to or better than their generational counterparts. Many of them already have security clearances and have proven they can get the job done under enormous pressure. Realistically, these applicants are highly likely to be at the top of any selection list with or without additional preference.
2. Young people interested in a career with the federal government should start with the Military, Peace Corps or VISTA. Successful completion of a single tour of duty with any of these (and the latter two do not have physical restrictions on applicants) allows individuals to apply for federal employment through the Status Employees lists rather than the all US list. The commitment periods are relatively short (although not to an impatient 20 something) and they have great educational benefits as well. I have been consistently amazed at the people who spend 3-8 years complaining about the preferences in the federal hiring system. If they had spent the same time with any of these programs, two of which do not have physical requirements, these same individuals would be part of the privileged group they complain about.
3. Yes the regulations are broken. No we cannot change them at this time. Idealism is nice but many shortfalls of the current system are embedded in black letter law. They can only be corrected through legislative action by Congress and the President. In the current environment, progress is unlikely. Even mechanical issues such as limited IT support will be difficult to address for the next few years. These issues will be addressed and corrected in time. The world will not end in the interim. Well run federal agencies and wise applicants will keep their chins up and carry on.
November 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm #180413
The recruitment process you describe there only deals with the applicants who meet the minimum eligibility. The process you describe seems not to qualify any of those applicants via any proctored tests or interviews. You are skipping or ignoring the examination process entirely. It’s no wonder you are frustrated with unqualified preference-eligibles polluting your certs!
Meeting the minimum eligibility does not qualify anyone for the role.
Meeting the minimum eligibility only qualifies an applicant to go thru the examination process.
Preferencing and ranking begins only when you have assessed who is qualified via examination.
The “Certificate of Eligibles” is the final list of rated and ranked qualified applicants eligible to be hired.
November 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm #180411
You got me wrong, I have never had a problem with having non-qualified or poorly qualified Veterans “poluting” the top of the list. Much to the contrary, I have always had highly qualified Veterans in the best qualified. That is as long as best qualfied isn’t defined as the daughter of a current employee, or the son of a neighbor (i.e. cronyism, nepotism, etc.). Now I have had problems with the huge volume of applicants, and it would be very cubersom to administer testing to 300 or 400 hundred applicants. The administration of testing reminds me of the old Civil Service Commission. I remember hearing of one very small Agency in DC, that did the initial cut, then ask for a writing sample, then asked for a work example, then asked for…..which all takes time, and basically the really good applicants will find a job someplace else while they did all the additional steps (probably just as well since they were sliced and diced up last year with sequestration and re-allingments). I have never been with an Agency (I have served in 3) that administered tests. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if OPM even administers tests anymore. I haven’t observed anything that would show that they do. Doing the interviews before the construction of the certificate, that is something I have to question if it would stand up under legal review. I sure wouldn’t feel comfortable with and probably would NOT work with an agency that does things that way. It is completely contrary to the DEU handbook. I could see getting by with it for Merit Promotion, but I sure wouldn’t do it for a DEU All US Citizen announcement. But, as I have stated over and over, problems finding immenently qualified applicants is not an issue. Probelms with technology allowing to me function most efficiently has been. As stated, I also truly believe that Veterans have already paid for their right to be at the top of the list, especially disabled Veterans. And, any attempt to circumvent that, is contrary to the the spirit of the Laws.
November 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm #180409
Thanks for your insights John. Quite a compelling statistic there that I had not seen before regarding the % of millenials employed in the Federal sector compared to those in the Private Sector. Simply put this is completely unsustainable, and will have an enormous impact on an agencies ability to deliver on their mission in the future.
Personally, I think one of the challenges here is in getting the simplest information to the decision makers regarding the demographic dynamics at play for *their* agency. We are continuing to review this point with people we are speaking with, and find the response is overwhelmingly positive. If we can set up the framework to provide on-going real time delivery of information about their people, we then have a basis to implement new initiatives with specific measurable outcomes.
It’s a fundamental (albeit challenging) starting point, but a starting point that becomes a platform for a lot more.
November 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm #180407
Before I close the discussion, I wanted to say thank you to all who participated. It was excellent to see the response, and I think for me personally, it enabled me to gain an even further insight into the all important application of veteran’s preference. This is obviously a very important area that people are rightly very passionate about, but it also does feel like there is complexity here that makes it very difficult for people to understand at times. Thank you to the subject matter experts that provide information here.
One point that is clear is that the average age of the Federal workforce is increasing, baby boomers are increasingly approaching retirement, and our % of younger workers in the Federal space is very low compared to the private sector. So, with regards to ongoing delivery of the agency missions, something is going to have to give. Being an HR technologist, and thinking about this from a technology point of view – I think technology has a big role to play here in highlighting these issues in a more consolidated way. This is something we will continue to focus on in our discussions.
Given the 5 points above introduced in this discussion triggered a number of branches of debate, I think that it would be interesting to focus in on one or maybe 2 areas in future posts. See if we can really zero in on some positive changes that we can make.
Thanks again to all.
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