August 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm #109862
While the number of applicants for a given position is typically available, the number referred and the number subsequently interviewed from that referral list is not.
Why is that? If the only information made available were the numbers involved, without any personal identifable information, where is the harm?
Is that policy trying to protect the applicants? Is is trying to protect the process? or something else altogether?
For the purposes of discussion, a simplified outline of the process on seeking a competitive federal position:
- Job Advertised on [Start Date]
- Applications Submitted
- Job Advertisement closes on [End Date]
- The applicant packages processed against qualifications and referral list produced.
- Referral list sent on to the hiring organization.
- That organization selects and interviews candidates from the referral list.
- A decision is made and the candidate selected and hired.
Assume for Job A that 115 people apply, 25 are referred and 5 are interviewed.
For Job B, 10 people apply, 3 are referred and 1 is inteviewd.
115/25/5 and 10/3/1 are just numbers.
What could be lost or exposed by making those numbers publicly available?
If a query is made for this information, the response typically reads as follows:
We are responsible for preparing and issuing announcements, rating and ranking candidates and issuing referral lists. Once the referral list is issued, responsibility for the recruitment action transfers to the selecting official. We are not involved in the selection process.
Once the referral list leaves our office, it is the selecting official’s responsibility to abide by the Merit Systems Principles & Prohibited Personnel Practices.
We are not at liberty to release how many applicants were referred or how the interview and/or selection process was conducted.
Absent knowing the numbers of applicants, referrals and interviews for any given job, how would an applicant ever suspect that one or more of these practices or principles were violated?
Prohibited Personnel Practices
1. Illegally discriminate for or against any employee/applicant.
2. Solicit or consider improper employment recommendations.
3. Coerce an employee’s political activity.
4. Obstruct a person’s right to compete for employment.
5. Influence any person to withdraw from competition for a position.
6. Give unauthorized preference or improper advantage.
7. Employ or promote a relative.
8. Retaliate against a whistleblower, whether an employee or an applicant.
9. Retaliate against employees or applicants for filing an appeal.
10. Unlawfully discriminate for off duty conduct.
11. Knowingly violate veteran’s preference requirements.
12. Violate any law, rule, or regulation which implements or directly concerns the merit principles.
Merit System Principles
1. Recruit, select & advance on merit after fair & open competition.
2. Treat employees & applicants fairly & equitably.
3. Provide equal pay for equal work & reward excellent performance.
4. Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, & concern for the public interest.
5. Manage employees efficiently & effectively.
6. Retain or separate employees on the basis of their performance.
7. Educate & train employees if it will result in better organizational or individual performance.
8. Protect employees from improper political influence.
9. Protect employees against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information in “whistleblower” situations.
September 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm #109866
I don’t know about your system, but in ours (Canadian), the information is often not available, simply because there is no formal system/infrastructure for providing it on anything other than a case-by-case request basis.
Our agency oversees federal staffing and attempts to gather such information by means of manager surveys. We ask them how many applicants there were at the outset, how many qualified people they had at the end, how many positions they were trying to fill, and whether they filled all, some, or none of the positions. That’s more than we used to gather, but that’s about as detailed as it gets (too many other things to ask about!). And believe me, there are a lotta round numbers provided by managers when it comes to how many they started out with. I suspect this is probably because the precise information rests with the HR advisor/s they worked with, and the manager has only a vague recollection. Our approach is to contact managers directly about a single process, via a “cold call”, as opposed to getting HR advisors to hand over data on all the processes they handle. Obviously, we forfeit certain types of precision or information in consulting the one group vs the other, but that’s how we do it.
One of the things we have noticed in our data is that when the number of qualified candidates to positions available gets higher (i.e., the ratio), managers tell us they are more likely to turn to things beyond the stated essential requirements to help make their pick. Which makes perfect sense. If you have exactly as many qualified candidates on your short list as you have jobs, then you don’t have to consider anything beyond what all the testing for essentials dictates. When you have to decide between people, though, you want a “tie-breaker”.
Certainly one of the things we have also learned is that what managers tell us they are selecting for is different than what candidates think they are being selected or rejected for. That gap in understanding concerns me, because it is a breeding ground for perceptions of unfairness. When candidates think that A is more important than B, C, or D, and believe they were rejected because of A, when really the manager placed more emphasis on D, that easily generates jaded views of assessment, and perceptions of rigged selection.
“Transparency” is a construct that I think senior management and officials rarely think through comprehensively. It can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, at a lot of different points in the process.
September 3, 2010 at 1:50 am #109864
Mark – Thanks for the thoughtful response. Hopefully more transparency will close that perception gap between existing between the two sides.
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