Obama wants to make federal hiring process faster
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 USAjobs.gov 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.
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