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Obama issues hiring reform memo

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama is ordering federal agencies to make changes to how they recruit and hire new employees, stating in a memo to agency bosses that the complexities and inefficiencies of the federal hiring process have deterred qualified applicants from joining the federal payroll.

The memo, signed by Obama on Tuesday morning, requires agencies to "eliminate any requirement that applicants respond to essay-style questions when submitting their initial application materials for any Federal job."

The new orders allow applicants to apply for jobs by submitting resumes and cover letters or by "completing simple, plain language applications," the memo said. It also adopts a "category rating" approach that allows agencies to screen several candidates, instead of a pool of the three highest-scoring applicants.

Federal managers will have to be "more fully involved in the hiring process" and will be held accountable for current and future employment needs. Managers also will be expected to conduct many of the applicant interviews.

The memo also instructs top management and personnel aides to conduct a 90-day review of the Federal Career Internship Program, which many agencies use to bypass the traditional hiring process. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 170,000 federal workers, first filed suit in 2007, arguing the program unfairly benefits program participants.

Review the full memo below and leave your thoughts in the comments section.


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 11, 2010

May 11, 2010


SUBJECT: Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process

To deliver the quality services and results the American people expect and deserve, the Federal Government must recruit and hire highly qualified employees, and public service should be a career of choice for the most talented Americans. Yet the complexity and inefficiency of today's Federal hiring process deters many highly qualified individuals from seeking and obtaining jobs in the Federal Government.

I therefore call on executive departments and agencies (agencies) to overhaul the way they recruit and hire our civilian workforce. Americans must be able to apply for Federal jobs through a commonsense hiring process and agencies must be able to select high-quality candidates efficiently and quickly. Moreover, agency managers and supervisors must assume a leadership role in recruiting and selecting employees from all segments of our society. Human resource offices must provide critical support for these efforts. The ability of agencies to perform their missions effectively and efficiently depends on a talented and engaged workforce, and we must reform our hiring system to further strengthen that workforce.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 3301 of title 5, United States Code, I hereby direct the following:
Section 1. Directions to Agencies. Agency heads shall take the following actions no later than November 1, 2010:

(a) consistent with merit system principles and other requirements of title 5, United States Code, and subject to guidance to be issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), adopt hiring procedures that:

(1) eliminate any requirement that applicants respond to essay-style questions when submitting their initial application materials for any Federal job;

(2) allow individuals to apply for Federal employment by submitting resumes and cover letters or completing simple, plain language applications, and assess applicants using valid, reliable tools; and

(3) provide for selection from among a larger number of qualified applicants by using the "category rating" approach (as authorized by section 3319 of title 5, United States Code), rather than the "rule of 3" approach, under which managers may only select from among the three highest scoring applicants;

(b) require that managers and supervisors with responsibility for hiring are:

(1) more fully involved in the hiring process, including planning current and future workforce requirements, identifying the skills required for the job, and engaging actively in the recruitment and, when applicable, the interviewing process; and

(2) accountable for recruiting and hiring highly qualified employees and supporting their successful transition into Federal service, beginning with the first performance review cycle starting after November 1, 2010;

(c) provide the OPM and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) timelines and targets to:

(1) improve the quality and speed of agency hiring by:

(i) reducing substantially the time it takes to hire mission-critical and commonly filled

(ii) measuring the quality and speed of the hiring process; and

(iii) analyzing the causes of agency hiring problems and actions that will be taken to
reduce them; and

(2) provide every agency hiring manager training on effective, efficient, and timely ways to recruit and hire well-qualified individuals;

(d) notify individuals applying for Federal employment through USAJOBS, an OPM-approved Federal web-based employment search portal, about the status of their application at key stages of the application process; and

(e) identify a senior official accountable for leading agency implementation of this memorandum.
Sec. 2. Directions to the OPM. The OPM shall take the following actions no later than 90 days after the date of this memorandum:

(a) establish a Government-wide performance review and improvement process for hiring reform actions described in section 1 of this memorandum, including:

(1) a timeline, benchmarks, and indicators of progress;

(2) a goal-focused, data-driven system for holding agencies accountable for improving the quality and speed of agency hiring, achieving agency hiring reform targets, and satisfying merit system principles and veterans' preference requirements; and

(b) develop a plan to promote diversity in the Federal workforce, consistent with the merit system principle (codified at 5 U.S.C. 2301(b)(1)) that the Federal Government should endeavor to achieve a workforce from all segments of society;

(c) evaluate the Federal Career Intern Program established by Executive Order 13162 of July 6, 2000, provide recommendations concerning the future of that program, and propose a framework for providing effective pathways into the Federal Government for college students and recent college graduates;

(d) provide guidance or propose regulations, as appropriate, to streamline and improve the quality of job announcements for Federal employment to make sure they are easily understood by applicants;

(e) evaluate the effectiveness of shared registers used in filling positions common across multiple agencies and develop a strategy for improving agencies' use of these shared registers for commonly filled Government-wide positions;

(f) develop a plan to increase the capacity of USAJOBS to provide applicants, hiring managers, and human resource professionals with information to improve the recruitment and hiring processes; and

(g) take such further administrative action as appropriate to implement sections 1 and 2 of this memorandum.
Sec. 3. Senior Administration Officials. Agency heads and other senior administration officials visiting university or college campuses on official business are encouraged to discuss career opportunities in the Federal Government with students.

Sec. 4. Reporting. (a) The OPM, in coordination with the OMB and in consultation with other agencies, shall develop a public human resources website to:

(1) track key human resource data, including progress on hiring reform implementation; and

(2) assist senior agency leaders, hiring managers, and human resource professionals with identifying and replicating best practices within the Federal Government for improving new employee quality and the hiring process.

(b) Each agency shall regularly review its key human resource performance and work with the OPM and the OMB to achieve timelines and targets for correcting agency hiring problems.

(c) The OPM shall submit to the President an annual report on the impact of hiring initiatives set forth in this memorandum, including its recommendations for further improving the Federal Government's hiring process.
Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Except as expressly stated herein, nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(1) authority granted by law or Executive Order to an agency, or the head thereof; or

(2) functions of the Director of the OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) The Director of the OPM, in consultation with the OMB, may grant an exception to any of the requirements set forth in section 1 of this memorandum to an agency that demonstrates that exceptional circumstances prevent it from complying with that requirement.

Sec. 6. Publication. The Director of the OPM is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


By Ed O'Keefe  | May 11, 2010; 11:08 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Salazar to split MMS into two agencies
Next: Chat with The Eye: Obama's federal hiring reforms; Elena Kagan's nomination


Keep up the good work Sir. ANYTHING to speed of the process would be appreciated. I know we are sometimes frustrated with the pace of change but you seem to be doing it better than anyone before you, AND making the repulicans look really bad in the process.

Posted by: keedrow | May 11, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

This is a great move and long overdue. I looked at several Federal jobs. Why would qualified applicants go through the current laborious process for a job that likely pays less anyway?
I took my MBA to the private sector instead.

Posted by: cinthecity | May 11, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Yeaaa, we're all gonna work for the government now!!! They create, produce and manufacture nothing yet they're the only ones hiring.

And this is progress? Yeah right, tell that to Greece.

Posted by: savethepcbs | May 11, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

This is long overdue. The current process for hiring in the federal government was established during a time when candidates expected things to move slowly and had plenty of time to take a couple of hours a day to apply for one job. Most ambitious job seekers have probably been lost to the private sector thanks to the painful process that the feds have in place. I hope this change increases the number of skilled and highly competitive employees in the federal workforce.

Posted by: mbacapitalist | May 11, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. President! I have been trying to get into the federal government for years! I think a lot of us will welcome the change thru all this red tape of getting a federal government job!

Posted by: Eager4dailynews | May 11, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. President, this is a long time coming. The process is so long and drawn out that even returning fed employees, like myself, have found the process to be totally and completely out of date, very subjective, slow, burdensome, and discouraging. I hope and pray that this move prove helpful to many of us.

Posted by: blessed7 | May 11, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The federal and state governments base much of their hiring on race. That is a fact well known to anyone who works in or near civil servants. Agencies have their "minority of the month" directives and blatantly follow them. In the late 1990's Asian-Americans were a hot ticket to employment, especially at Patent and Trademark, and African-American females are always on the pole position for hiring.
This is done mainly at lower levels of employment and for the most part the upper level positions are held for Whites.
Such practices are cynical and doubly racist and result in a system in which education and skills only matter at the top. This is race and gender payback that impedes the running of government, dis-serves all applicants and perpetuates itself. It is shameful.
President Obama's memo does not change this and his open, honest dialog about race will never come.

Posted by: blindeye | May 11, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: BurtReynolds | May 11, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

O.K., great. Now what about retention and promotion? The federal personnel system and its implementing HR staffers do a flat out lousy job because they do not base actions on actual performance of actual duties, but rather some out-of-date work plan and x-118 standards drummed up by some OPM classifier and their agency counterparts. The next things to get rid if we are serious about retaining skilled people are classifying and "grading" 21st century jobs using 19th century Civil Service standards. How a Budget Analyst and a Fraud Investigator both working for EOUSA can be paid the same grade & salary for the complexities of their respective jobs is a mystery, if not a travesty, but that's how the government compensates its employees. It paints the wrong picture, sends the wrong message, and, to one's surprise, fails the taxpayer. Stop with the "human capital" nonsense and THINK.

Posted by: pookiecat | May 11, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Look at all these Fed workers commenting during the work day.

You should all be fired - or held up as prototypical Fed workers - overpaid and under-worked.

Posted by: b1978367 | May 11, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree with pookiecat! It is not fair that I attend a college degree to be qualified to be accountant, but budget analyst don't need squat... but are usually graded higher than me. Same for engineers and attorneys... or any other professional series that require degrees. FIX THAT OBAMA!!!!

@ b1978367 why not ST FU! go back to your wasteful life in the private sector and be a nobody as you are... and btw... what in your cubicle at this time of the day?

Posted by: darbyohara | May 12, 2010 6:39 AM | Report abuse

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