Massive Federal Hiring Binge for America’s Future? Federal Hiring System is Broken Say Readers

Those who work for the federal government don’t think much of the process of hiring new employees. While Uncle Sam may be in the process of hiring hundreds of thousands of new federal employees, those currently working in federal agencies don’t hold out much hope for attracting, hiring and retaining good employees.

While the federal government may need to go on a "massive hiring binge" to quote from one report posted on the FedSmith website today, those working for the government don’t think that the existing system for hiring new employees is working.

In fact, if the survey results are to be believed, hiring 270,000 new federal employees will result in a massive problem for the government as it takes a long time to hire new employees and many that are hired are not competent. As the government takes on more responsibility in a variety of areas, the hiring process may prove to be an even bigger problem that it is today.

A report that the process could be fixed by spending $40 million or so has been getting publicity recently. But, even if this were to be done and the changes result in a system that is faster and results in hiring more qualified people, there is little doubt that tens or even hundreds of thousands of new employees will have been hired under the existing system.

How would you rate the overall performance of your agency in the federal hiring process?

In a survey on the federal hiring process taken in the past few days, 54.9% of readers said that their agency’s overall performance in the hiring of new employees was "poor" while 29.3% rated the performance as "mediocre." 3.2% said their agency’s performance was outstanding and 11.2% said it was very good.

How would you rate the overall performance of the Office of Personnel Management in the federal hiring process?

The Office of Personnel Management fared a little better. Only 44.5% of readers rated OPM’s performance in the hiring process as "poor" while 35.3% said it was mediocre. 1.5% rated OPM’s performance as "outstanding" and 9.4% said it was "very good."

On the question of "How would you rate the hiring process in your agency in hiring well qualified employees?" 40.2% rated the process as "poor." Only 2% said it was "outstanding" and 7.8% said it was "very good." 21.6% went along with "mediocre."

How would you rate the timeliness of bringing new employees into your agency?

This question generated the most negative response. 66.3% said the process takes too long and 21.6% rates the results as "mediocre."

Should OPM implement a validated standardized federal service entrance exam when hiring new federal employees?

While such a test may result in a more objective way to hire new federal employees, most don’t think this will happen. 38.9% said it "would create too many issues" and another 26.4% went along with "Don’t bother, they would never get it validated."  25.4% thought a new version of the entrance exam was a good idea.

Not surprisingly, readers had a number of comments on the hiring process. Here are a few representative samples.

  • The hiring process is so convoluted that it is amazing that anyone gets hired. On the other hand there are times that it seems like passerbys get hired with no qualifications immediately. Go figure!!
  • It takes way too long for well qualified employees to wait between applying for and being notified if accepted or not to federal employment. Process needs to be drastically streamlined.
  • The entire process is convoluted. It should not take 6-12 months to hire someone!
  • KSA’s are ridiculous! Applications read by inept screeners with no idea what hiring supervisor really is looking for. A college degree for someone in their fifties has no bearing on his/her experience, expertise, talent, etc. I assume he does, but if Neil Armstrong never had a college degree, he wouldn’t get by the first screening level, even with all his attributes. Need to have a twenty word max synopsis that the hiring manager can use to separate into yes, maybe, and no piles – then turn it over to screeners.
  • The VA does not even tell you who got the position and does not notify you even if you was not selected. It is very rude to the person applying. I wouldn’t waste my time with them
  • The Fed hiring process is on par with the balance of the Gov’s processes; the 20% of people who will work have 80% of the work dumped on them and then don’t qualify for promotions.  Perhaps the motto for those of us who keep the Gov running should be what it is for those who couldn’t care less about the mission: Send the checks every two weeks, complain of being over-worked and receive promotions for being insolent, inefficient and boisterous.
  • In the old days, clerical/support staff took an exam. Today’s support staff do not and you can tell the difference. In SSA, we have many new clerks who can’t get the work done correctly and don’t care.
  • Ridiculous! People without any or minimal experience are brought in simply because of their formal education. Experience no longer is significant and the resultant training suffers.
  • The Agency where I work has brought in more family members than I have ever seen before. Also, when some minority employees tried to suggest hiring minorities there were no slots available. Finally, it is unfortunate that they Agency is overlooking well qualified people who are over 55 years old. (sons, daughters-in-laws, daughters are hired. I’ve never seen anything like it before in the Federal Government where I’ve worked the past 39 years.
  • Why is so difficult? The private sector uses resumes and they do a wonderful job. Why would some one want to fill 40-50 pages of application and then set around for months waiting to hear something? When I was hired from the day I sent the paper work in, it was 9 months.
  • Bring back the "Outstanding Scholar" program with direct hiring authority. Get rid of the multi-page questionnaire. Gen Y hates it!
  • It seems that the general process is geared, in certain cases, to providing warm bodies as opposed to competent minds. Moreover, the fiscal conservatism of hiring personnel without the careful analysis of personality, personal habits, metal acuity, and performance potential in certain positions can often lead to albatrosses coming in to the system who require disproportionately higher attention and training time, This burdens more competent personnel with carrying a greater work load to make up for those individuals who cannot make the grade in a timely manner.
  • Remember, we used to have a validated standardized exam. People still complained about the timeliness and quality of the process, and the exam was challenged in court on the basis of adverse impact. The Government has a propensity for jumping back to the old when the current doesn’t work. How about trying something new, instead?
  • Problems with Federal hiring lie primarily with inept agencies. In over 30 years of my experience there were very few times that an OPM rule or reg was the source of interference. Instead the agency’s implementing instructions were invariably the impediment. But let’s not forget, at the heart of the Fed system is merit – mass hiring into the competitive service with a wink-and-nod to the quality and qualifications for expediency fails first principles. My process reviews show from beginning to end, it takes a minimum of approx 100 days to put things through the proper competitive hoops….
  • The entire process is broken and does not attract qualified candidates.
  • The process is confusing and not transparent. It is still about who you know. My command hires and promotes people under suspicious circumstances. Management keeps everything secret.
  • The Federal hiring process is well equipped, but takes entirely too long to hire a new employee. The average wait for an interview is 2 months, when it should be at least 3 to 4 weeks. I am sure that many more people would appy for a Federal job, without the long wait period.
  • Getting ANYTHING done in a timely manner through OPM and especially ASC is ABSOLUTELY impossible ! Having watched the devolution of the hiring process for 15 years, I can say that it has gone from very poor to impossibly frustrating and ineffectual.
  • The process takes far too long. Favortism and rewarding current employees for longevity instead of performance is rampant.
  • I was in the last big group of replacements. 1969. Replacing the WWII hires. I took the FSEE and passed….It worked. It was determined not-valid and tossed out. Replaced with another exam which was challenged as not valid. Now is the time to get that Validated Entrance Exam while Mr. Obama is our President and can make it happen.
  • The government employees hired under the old PACE exam were of a higher quality.
  • I am a 32 year career employee with federal government. My daughter, a recent honors college graduate applied,via USAJOBS.COM, for a grade 5 clerk position, which she was over qualified for, and received notice that she wasn’t qualified for the job. When I contacted HR about this, I was told they don’t consider the applicant’s college transcript during the initial screening. They only consider the answers to the online 50 questions. This is ridiculous. The federal government is missing out on many outstanding applicants by not considering their college achievements.
  • I think a return to a civil service examination would be helpful in reestablishing a sense that we have a merit-based civil service and that our jobs and requirements are not like the jobs and requirements in the private sector. We’ve lost a sense of being public servants with unique moral and ethical obligations brought about by our taking an Oath of Office and being appointed to a public office when we work for the federal government.
  • The current batch of employees in HR seems to be making up their own rules – such as in a recent case I am aware of determining on their own that the regulations and policy found at 5 CFR 332 and OPM guidlines concerning the use of Veterans Preference is "open to interpretation", guess that’s not how I read it. But that’s just an example of # 3 and 4 above- the younger folks in these positions have never had adequate training and donot realize that unless you are employed at OGC the CFR regulations are not subject to arbitrary change.
  • It boggles my mind that our Agency (and possibly many more) hires people for key positions based solely on an online questionaire or written KSA’s. In this age of technology, why we arent utilizing video interviews, etc to make these selections. The results are that we too often get individuals that do not live up to their written expectations. In a live interview you usually get an instinct about the person and can then check their credentials. Despite KSA’s being a burden to some, I think it’s better than the online system of applying.
  • Stop blaming HR for the delays due to security clearance issues. My agency averages ONLY 45 days for new hires (the HR process) but the clearance process doesn’t start until the hiring decision is made and then may delay actual start dates for several months.
  • The Federal hiring process is BROKEN. It has been broken for many years and I do not see anyone trying to fix it. Computer programs are outdated and nepotism is alive and well.

For those who may be wondering, "Why didn’t you include any favorable comments that were submitted on the hiring process?" the answer is simple. Out of the hundreds of comments that were sent in, we did not find one favorable comment. We have included some of the comments that were less negative than others.

Our thanks to our readers who took the time to vote in this survey and to send in their opinion on this issue.