About one year ago, President Obama ordered improvements to federal recruitment and hiring processes. So how much progress have agencies made?
First, some good news:
• Many agencies have eliminated those odious KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) essay questions from job applications.
• Agencies now hire 42 percent of new employees within the 80-day time limit imposed by Obama.
• Many agencies are posting shorter and clearer job applications.
• A program for increasing the hiring of veterans was created.
Now, some bad news: Much room for improvement remains, say many current job-seekers.
Obama’s May 11, 2010, memo directed hiring managers to become more involved in hiring processes. It would benefit hiring managers, other senior managers and the Office of Personnel Management to address these deficiencies.
What’s more, a bad hire may ultimately cost the hiring agency hundreds of thousands of dollars — in addition to intangibles, like resulting damage to office morale. The better screening processes are, the more likely they are to produce successful hires.
A sample of remaining problems in hiring practices:
Pre-selection. This practice perpetuates the perception that it is useless to apply for federal jobs because hiring decisions are rigged.
Pre-selection could be addressed by:
• Building more promotion potential into jobs. This improvement would enable a manager to promote a worthy employee above his current promotion potential without falsely advertising his current job — as is commonly done solely to satisfy advertising requirements.
• Requiring hiring decisions to be reviewed by independent panels that have no stake in the outcomes of such decisions.
* Requiring OPM to review openings that are pulled before they are filled and then re-advertised, or that specify unnecessary requirements that could only be fulfilled by one or two people.
Inaccurate job descriptions: Many vacancy announcements contain job descriptions that don’t match job responsibilities. Hiring managers should be required to take the time to realistically define the requirements for openings instead of recycling used job descriptions.
Technical glitches: These include the corruption or disappearance of attachments required of applicants after these documents are electronically sent to hiring agencies.
A current job-seeker described to me another common glitch: “After spending three days meticulously rewriting my résumé for USAJobs and then submitting it for an opening, USAJobs threw hot grease in my face. No matter what I did, the system still did not show that I had submitted my résumé — even though I correctly attempted to submit it almost 200 times.”
What’s more, many applications contain contradictory directions about required attachments. For example, a single application may state, in one place, that applicants must submit documents, such as college transcripts, and then elsewhere state that no attachments are required.
Electronic moats that block access to substantive application questions: In many cases, simply to view application questions about credentials demanded by an opening — so that applicants can determine whether it is worthwhile for them to apply for the opening — applicants must answer pages and pages of irrelevant questions, such as their contact information, veterans preference and employment histories.
This could be addressed by requiring hiring managers to fill out applications themselves to eliminate unnecessary obstacles that may discourage qualified professionals from applying.
Unreasonable character limits: Many vacancy announcements require applicants to address dozens of qualifications. But they impose character limits on résumés that are too restrictive to possibly accommodate descriptions of all required credentials.
Faulty contact information: Many announcements exclude reference to a contact person who can answer questions, provide contact information for unreachable people, or provide information phone numbers that are connected to anonymous voice mail systems that are never answered by people and never lead to return calls.