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Eye Opener: Will new tool cut federal hiring time?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! The Federal Eye gets mail and hears from plenty of readers. One of the most commonly heard complaints is that the federal job application process is too long and confusing.

But a new set of government databases promises to help federal agencies cut three weeks from the hiring process, potentially making it faster and easier for people to get hired by the government.

The Office of Personnel Management -- essentially the federal government's human resources shop -- has launched "shared registers," or central databases designed to help federal agencies find applicants for the 14-most commonly hired positions, including financial management, information technology, human resources, office support and security.

Twelve of the databases were operational as of Wednesday, OPM said in a memo to agency heads. OPM Director John Berry urged agencies to make use of the databases right away.

"We’ll filter the 100,000-plus certified applicants for the location and grade you’re looking for, determine who meets minimum qualifications, apply veterans preference, and determine who is in the highest category based on their preference status and scores on the assessment," Berry said. "This process takes us only two to three business days."

Per GovExec's Alyssa Rosenberg, Berry last year budgeted for the development of the databases, arguing it made little sense for federal job applicants to file multiple applications for essentially the same job at multiple agencies.

Do you think it will work? How else could the government accelerate the hiring process?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: This week's answers here.

Cabinet and Staff News: President and Mrs. Obama will appear on "American Idol." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praises air marshals. Linda Douglass leaving the Obama administration. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says regulators prevented a "cataclysm" bigger than the Great Depression.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
DOD tries to counter IED surge: With the number of improvised explosive attacks doubling in the past year, the Pentagon team in charge of rooting out the bombs is racing to assemble its response.

Future of U.S. air base in turbulent Kyrgyzstan uncertain: Opposition leaders said they had no immediate plans to close the U.S. air base at Manas International Airport. But they indicated that, at a minimum, Washington would be forced to negotiate fresh terms to maintain the military installation

Inquiry puts spotlight on U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan: A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation into a February raid may shed light on the secretive role of Special Forces, who are said to account for a disproportionate number of civilian deaths.

FDA:
FDA toughens process for radiation equipment: In a letter to manufacturers, the agency said its action was based on a recent analysis of more than 1,000 reports of errors involving these devices that were filed over the last 10 years.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Nuclear summit to alter downtown commute next week: Officials are urging nonessential federal employees who work in downtown Washington to take leave, work from home or work at an alternate site in the suburbs Monday and Tuesday when President Obama's nuclear safety summit is expected to snarl downtown traffic.

Program to let employees work where and when they want takes shape: An OPM official offered new details on the agency's workplace flexibility pilot program during a telework forum in Washington on Thursday.

Regulatory failure? Blame the D.C. Circuit.: So says Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein.

LABOR DEPARTMENT:
Obama to review mine safety rules after West Virginia blast killed 25 miners: He'll meet next week with officials from the Labor Department and Mine Safety and Health Administration to get their assessment of Monday's blast at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, where at least 25 miners were killed.

NASA:
NASA leader says space budget is more boon than bust: The agency wants to spend more than $12 billion over the next five years to develop a rocket engine capable of propelling astronauts into deep space and to fund cutting-edge space technologies, the agency's leader said Thursday.

NTSB:
Pilots in botched takeoff broke rules: Federal crash investigators said Thursday that the pilots of a US Airways Express flight engaged in small talk and violated other basic safety rules before their jet barreled off the end a runway in January during a botched takeoff.

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION:
Smithsonian signs deal with QVC to sell copies of Hope Diamond, other jewelry: It is thought to be the first time anyone has accused QVC of being educational.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 9, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  | Tags:  Business, Federal government, Federal government of the United States, Government, John Berry, Office of Personnel Management, United States, United States Office of Personnel Management  
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Comments

The first step in a sincere effort to streamline the hiring process would be to scrap the USA JOBS application process. Until this awful hurdle is removed, no effort can be taken seriously.

Posted by: fitzge | April 9, 2010 6:49 AM | Report abuse

The first step in a sincere effort to streamline the hiring process would be to scrap the USA JOBS application process. Until this awful hurdle is removed, no effort can be taken seriously.

Posted by: fitzge | April 9, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

My wife has applied for several positions through the USA JOBS website. Her experience is that it takes weeks AFTER the closure of the job announcement before there is even a notification that her application has even been downloaded. Then more many more weeks follow for whatever review process is in place to make the selection. She sent an application 3 months ago and while she did get a notification that she is still in the running after the initial review, there has been nothing happening since.

Improving the database to make it easier to find matching candidates is fine. However, improvements to the tools or even the process doesn't mean a hill of beans if the personnel who work the processes take their own sweet time moving the applications along.

I'm not sure what the internal processes of the OPM/hiring agencies are like, but there appear to be too many levels from the outside looking in from the OPM level down to the hiring agency. It seems as if from the outside looking in that the personnel responsible for reviewing candidate applications are doing this as an afterthought to their real job. Multiply that by the number of levels/people to go through in the hiring processes and you see where the delays come from.

Posted by: sauron | April 9, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

My wife is a contractor for the feds. 23 years of experience and top 1 percent of her field worldwide. She earns way more than she could ever make as a fed. But, she wants to enter public service. She values it (I'm a fed). With regard to the federal agency she's working for (as a contractor), she wrote the regs that the feds in that agency use to do their jobs. She recently applied for a GS-14 there (she's way overqualified for that grade; arguably could be SES) and was not even rated best qualified. Unbelievable at first until you realize that HR types, dumping grounds in many agencies, are the ones reviewing apps. Many of these people have no business doing this, UNLESS they are experts in the field they are reviewing (rare; not in my agency). My wife should be leading this agency (she's more qualified than the director) but can't even score high enough to make the cert. Incompetence, pure and simple. How do you fix this?

Posted by: RB1019 | April 9, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Who is the Fed kidding? The application process was deliberately stovepiped so they could create even more jobs for people to sit on their butts. 99% of all federal hiring is done by checking the box. Veteran? Check. Hispanic female? check - this used to be african american female but the AA community was more concerned with shooting each other instead of reproducing so now the Hispanics are the #1 minority, but after one more generation white people will be the #1 minority, then we will be able to check the box. Keep hope alive!

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | April 9, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Director of OPM John Berry deserves credit for tackling tough issues such as the Federal Hiring Process. His database idea, as well as other uses of technology to streamline the hiring process, will ultimately save money for the taxpayer and ensure a more effective government. He might be the most revolutionary OPM director in years, and I hope his efforts prove successful!

Posted by: stshafer | April 9, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

How much confidence will agencies have in OPM's ability to provide certified candidates, when more than 50% of OPM's own staff do not have a positive opinion on OPM's ability to recruit staff for OPM itself? (FHCS 2009)

How is cutting 21 days out of an average 140 day process a significant improvement?

How fresh are the candidate pools in each of the databases?

How many are in the databases through the self-assessment process?

How are candidates screened for cultural fit for the employing agencies, when 22% of all federal first year hires already decide to leave within 12 months due to poor cultural fit when agencies' attract and hire them directly?

I dare not ask about the rules for veterans in the category ranking methodology, nor OPM's ATS (USAStaffing) inability to follow 5CFR 337.101 for candidate quality control and eligibility ratings.

And what about talent record data transfer to agencies for succession planning and workforce planning needs?

I'd like to see it work, but have major reservations.

Posted by: WaltzingMatilda | April 9, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

What is being done here is not really new at all. This was the way positions formerly were filled. Surprising no one remembers, but likely anyone that would is either retired or left Government Service. Don't remember when process changed but likely was under Cater or Reagan Administration. Back then, system might have been more manageable with fewer applicants and smaller pool to choose from. Glad to see "old" system back. However, it won't work unless all stakeholders, applicants included understand it, and there is sufficient oversight provided by OPM.

Posted by: outthere | April 9, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Until we see REAl results from this operation, I say it won't work for most agencies (ie. DoD) because you have the old-school manager mentality throughout. If you aren't part of the good ole' boy society, the chances of landing a decent position anywhere is slim and nil! If upper management doesn't realize this, investigate this and fix it... NOTHING will change... no matter how many bells and whistles you put on the process. Remember the saying about lipstick on a pig?

I am 30+ year fed accountant w/ DoD... do you think I can easily apply and get hired? Nope! I even get the "did not rate highly qualified" on so many announcements. Why? Because the biggest mistake the feds initiated is the computer resumix program. It scans the resume for key words and phrases. If you hit those, you'll get a shot and maybe step 2 of the 30 step process!

How should this process be fixed? Establish a REAL oversight entity of every announcement. Records the results, the abuses and the players... Then clean it up and fix it! There is TOO MUCH hidden stuff in every process. When I was a manager and I need to hire a secretary, even I wasn't allowed to know the process which brought me 15 resumes. Most weren't worth my time. Many moved on to other jobs since it took 4 weeks to get me those resumes/applicants. And 4 weeks was suppose to be fast.

Each and every HR office operates within their own realm... until there is oversight and strict enforcement of the processes and abuses... it will never get fixed!

And that's the truth!

Posted by: darbyohara | April 9, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Fire everyone and start over.

Posted by: jiji1 | April 9, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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