Mar3120099:19 am

Proposal for improvements to the federal hiring process

Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced in the Senate yesterday the Federal Hiring Process Improvement Act (S.736), a bill designed “to help agencies fix the broken recruitment and hiring process in the Federal Government.” Said Mr. Akaka:

The Federal Government is the largest employer in the U.S., but every day talented people interested in Federal service walk away because the hiring process is longer and more complicated than that of other employers. Too many Federal agencies have built entry barriers for new workers, done too little to recruit the right candidates, and invented an evaluation process that discourages qualified candidates.

In the private sector, many employers post job vacancies through a variety of online and other venues and require only a resume and cover letter to apply. Applying to the federal government should be similarly accessible and easy. However, agencies often require substantial essays and other documentation at the initial application stage.

Agencies need to adapt, just as the private sector has, to take advantage of modern technology to boost recruitment efforts and streamline the hiring process to make it more user friendly. Inexpensive outlets such as social networking sites offer agencies an opportunity to expand their profile and post job opportunities without emptying their wallets. It is easier than it was in the past to submit and track application materials during the application process. Agencies should accept candidate-friendly applications such as resumes and cover letters for the initial application and ask for additional information only as needed. Likewise, technology makes it possible to provide automated information to candidates, so candidates should receive timely and informative feedback about the application process.

Timely and informative feedback? Meaning any sort of indication that your application to a federal position was viewed by at least one set of human eyes and didn’t immediately get shuttled into the Internet Black Void of Wasted Time and Energy? What a lovely thing that would be.

I’ve never seriously pursued any federal jobs, but I’ve applied for plenty. The applications were indeed long and arduous and the only one I ever heard back from was a writer/editor position at the Smithsonian—I got a nice rejection letter nearly 9 months after applying. Some improvements to the process would be most welcome.


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3 Responses to “Proposal for improvements to the federal hiring process”

  1. Michelline says:

    Hi Mark!

    I’m trying to catch up on your blog. This is great news. I’ve never seriously pursued a federal job either and always gave up due to the long, complicated process. It was just always easier to whip up a cover letter and send in my resume to a non-profit. I’d love to work for the gov at some point so we’ll see where this bill goes.

    Love the blog. Keep up the great work.


  2. Mark Overmann says:

    Thanks for reading, Michelline! Who knows where this legislation will actually go, but it is certainly an overdue improvement to the federal hiring process. If both of us have abandoned applying for federal jobs because of the terrible application process, I can only imagine there are many, many more job seekers who have as well. I’ll keep you posted when I hear more.

  3. Ed Powell says:

    I’m a retired fed and I now work in industry. There is a simple fix to the government hiring problem — change the civil service to “at will” employment. If you want to make it easy and simple to hire, you need to make it easy and simple to fire.

    Otherwise, you need to treat each and every 2009 hiring decision for what it is… a multi-million dollar purchase with a “No Return” policy!

    Would you purchase a multi-million dollar computer system based on a three-page glossy marketing document or would you demand to see detailed technical specifications and capability descriptions?

    I rest my case!

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