(Editor’s Note: This is Part II of the article on "The Perfect Storm." Click here to read Part 1.)
Building, or re-building, credibility with Federal employees will require a long-term effort by agency management, so I will take the easy way out and focus here on what OPM and the other agencies might be able to do to improve the application process. They may want to start by going “Back to the Future.” By that I mean that many agencies were doing a good job of developing vacancy announcements, identifying relevant knowledges, skills and abilities (KSAs) and devising crediting plans before USAJobs was a glimmer in the eye of its creator(s).
Instead of putting applicants through the current torturous application process, agencies should once again focus on creating accurate, concise vacancy announcements and should only ask candidates to provide the information that is most critical to successful performance in the position being filled.
Timothy Cannon’s article talked about a seven-page vacancy announcement, with applicants having to sift through a ton of extraneous information before finding out what the job is about and what skills the agency is seeking. I ran across several vacancy announcements that were nine pages long, so I don’t think his example is overstated at all. And in terms of extraneous information, I would cite the following lead paragraph under “Job Summary” in a recent vacancy announcement: “Take a journey to challenge your mind and develop your career. The quality of our lives, shapes of our communities, and productivity of our Nation’s economy depend on our transportation systems. We recognize and value the importance of our workforce and the diversity of backgrounds and ideas that each employee brings. So we invite you to join us in shaping the future of our organization and meeting the challenges of the 21st Century, while advancing the best transportation system in the world.” Say what???
With job summaries like this one, is it any wonder candidates are confused and dismayed? Lots of employers provide similar esoteric sidebars in an effort to pique the interest of applicants, but, as an old-fashioned HR-type, I believe that the job summary section should focus on summarizing the job to be filled.
In the not-too-distant past, agencies would often issue vacancy announcements that consisted of two pages, printed back-to-back on a single document. That kind of space limitation forced agencies to be concise, and to refer applicants to other sources, such as OPM.gov, for more specific information about qualification requirements, etc. Today’s lengthier electronic vacancy announcements are obviously designed to be self-contained, but it is too much of a good thing for many applicants. I would like to see Federal agencies trim those announcements down to “minimalist” levels, preferably no more than two pages. They could provide a link for those applicants who wanted more information about the position, the agency, etc., along with a reference to OPM.gov for more general information about qualifications, classification, pay, etc.
To illustrate my point I will make up an HR Officer vacancy at the regional level. I would start with the following job summary: