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Obama wants to make federal hiring process faster

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! Those of you eager to apply for a job with the federal government can breathe easy: The process is about to get faster and maybe a bit easier.

President Obama plans to instruct federal agencies to radically overhaul the process now used to hire government workers, The Eye and colleague Joe Davidson report in Tuesday's Post. The change is expected to cut in half the time it takes to fill vacancies and allow the government to better compete with the private sector for top talent.

Federal applicants currently find jobs through and must write lengthy essays -- known as KSAs -- that assess their knowledge, skills and abilities. Once KSAs are submitted, a response from an agency can take months, if applicants get one at all.

Government auditors, good government groups, lawmakers and everyday applicants dislike the byzantine nature of the process, with its mounds of paperwork, endless rounds of interviews and no clear sense if an application has progressed.

But the changes ordered by Obama kill off KSAs in favor of a résumé-based system, similar to the private sector. Some other key points:

• Agencies will switch to a new system known as “category hiring.” Under this plan, after the Army screened candidates and hired an accountant, for example, the Navy also could hire from the Army’s list. Administration officials hope to extend "category hiring" across departmental lines -- meaning agencies may one day bid for the same qualified applicants, forcing them to act quickly to fill positions. But such a move would require legislation, according to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry.

• Agencies also will be required to tell applicants where they stand at four points in the process: when their application is received, when the applicant is deemed qualified or not, when the applicant is referred for an interview or not, and when the person is selected or not. This should be a welcome relief to applicants eager to learn if they should hold out or move on.

• Agencies must make the changes in the next six months -- lightning fast by Washington standards. Administration officials insist several agencies are ready to quickly make changes.

• Applicants in the KSA system who want to switch to the new system may be SOL, according to Berry. "It's going to be awfully complicated to try to switch," from KSAs to the new system, he said. "So for jobs that they've already applied for, they need to keep going." But Berry admitted some applicants may reapply under the new system, believing their resumes are stronger than KSA submissions.

• If this works, it's a big win for Obama, Berry and OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients. Berry has pushed for the changes for more than a year and Zients -- who also serves as the government's chief performance officer -- considers the move critical to his work of adapting private sector practices to the government. In the words of Joe, this is an un-sexy, below the radar policy change that could make it much easier for more Americans to join public service, and help extend Obama's long-term legacy.

Read our full report, vote below and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Chat With The Eye: Your queries about the new federal hiring reforms, the Elena Kagan Supreme Court pick, Bob Bennett's demise and other political and government news answered at 11 a.m. ET today. Submit your questions here.

Question of the Week: How will the federal base realignment and closing plans affect your commute, if at all? Will it make your ride to work longer or shorter? E-mail your answers to and please include your full name, home town and the agency for which you work. We might include your response in Friday's Washington Post.

Cabinet and Staff News: Tons of reaction to the Elena Kagan SCOTUS pick, who is profiled by The Post here. The Senate confirms Gen. Keith Alexander to head the new U.S. Cyber Command. President Obama and Vice President Biden meet separately today with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry then Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and Defense Secretary of Robert Gates. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate briefs White House reporters today on the ongoing federal response to the Tennessee floods.

Crimes prompt Census Bureau to issue worker identification guidelines: Workers carry white badges with a Commerce Department watermark and blue writing. Legitimate census workers also will be carrying black canvas shoulder bags with the words "U.S. Census Bureau" written in white ink.

More Americans moved in '09, but not far: The mover rate, which is the percentage of people who reported a move last year, increased to 12.5% from 11.9% in 2008, according to Census data.

Labor launches video contest to create job visability: The department wants to create greater visibility for certain occupations in order to get more people interested in those career fields.

NHTSA opens new Toyota investigation over steering system defects: The probe comes after federal regulators fined the automaker $16.4 million for waiting at least four months before notifying safety officials about vehicles with a "sticky pedal" defect.

SEC asks stock exchanges to revisit trading rules: The agency has asked U.S. stock exchanges to come up with new rules to decide when to stop or slow trading in a stock that is falling sharply and take several other measures to avoid a repeat of Thursday's violent swings.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 11, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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