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Post-Job Fair, Agencies Seek Hundreds of IT, Cyber Pros

If all goes as planned, Beth Killoran could have new IT hires reporting to work at the Health and Human Services Department by Dec. 25. The HHS Chief Information Officer used an unconventional approach for hiring this time around — one that represents a first for the federal IT community.

Killoran and her team made on-the-spot initial offers during the federal government’s massive, two-day hiring fair in Montgomery County, Maryland, this month. The first-of-its-kind event brought together more than 1,800 job seekers from 40 states and hiring managers from 33 federal agencies, including five from the intelligence community.

The ultimate goal is to fill 500 IT and cybersecurity positions governmentwide, said Margie Graves, Acting Federal CIO and Chair of the CIO Council. When the event kicked off Nov. 6, organizers expected to make about 50 job offers that week, with significantly more offers being made post-event. The fair was a joint effort by the CIO Council, Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget.

It’s still too soon to say, but if the hiring numbers are strong the government would consider hosting similar events in different parts of the country, as well as at major events like RSA’s annual security conference.

“We anticipate the after-action report metrics will be published in the coming weeks (likely in January) and will be posted to CIO.gov so that agencies have time to continue reviewing the registers and attendees they met with during the event,” said Trey Kennedy with the CIO Council.

Prior to the event, applicants registered online, submitted their resumes via USAJobs and were invited to take an assessment. From there, they were rated and ranked to determine their job qualifications, and their names were submitted to agencies for review. Agencies were granted direct hire authority to expedite hiring for cybersecurity positions.

Hiring at HHS and Education

Similar to other hiring managers at the fair, Killoran and her team made tentative job offers on site. HHS rented space at a nearby hotel to conduct interviews with pre-qualified candidates, and human resources staff were on hand to help move the hiring process forward.

A final offer will come after candidates’ skills are validated and they undergo the background investigation process. “We are working to try to make that as short as possible,” Killoran said. It could take anywhere from days to weeks, depending on the level of security clearance that employees need to do their jobs.

Jason Gary, CIO at the Education Department, met with applicants from Florida, Texas and California who have backgrounds in education. One job seeker, in particular, was motivated to join the department after experiencing a ransomware attack, Gary said. The individual wants to protect other education institutions against similar incidents.

But the time period between recruiting applicants and their official start dates can be a long road in government. For example, in a 2017 State of Federal IT report, many CIOs said that they had identified well-qualified candidates for cybersecurity positions, but those candidates ended up taking other jobs — often in the private sector. CIOs attributed this to multiple issues with the federal hiring environment, including the process taking too long and applicants having to navigate a confusing website and application process. The hope is hiring times will be reduced through events like the tech/cyber fair.

Agencies also had to grapple with budget uncertainties and self-imposed hiring freezes, both of which impact hiring. The hiring event was intentionally delayed until after the start of fiscal 2018 to ensure maximum agency participation, Gary said.

What’s next?

For candidates who didn’t receive an interview or a conditional offer at the hiring and recruiting fair, they can still be considered for future opportunities post-event. As of early November, the number of job applicants for IT and cyber jobs has topped 3,500.

Today is the first of a long road, said Veronica Villalobos, OPM's Principal Deputy Associate Director. “We expect that this is going to be a place where we will draw talent for months to come,” Villalobos said.

If you didn't make it to the hiring fair and are interested in applying for a job, Graves said hiring activity will continue well after the recent fair (so check out USAJobs.gov). As time progresses there may be positions that open up, and agencies can reach back to the talent pool of hiring fair participants.

“That is the whole point of building the pipeline,” Graves said.

(Photo Credit: Tim Grant, OPM)

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