Working Toward a New Federal Hiring Process

There has been no shortage of complaints about the federal hiring process. An OPM initiative and a presidential memo on the subject intend to change how the system works.

Complaints about the federal hiring process are not new. Since the elimination of a uniform testing procedure based on complaints and lawsuits that the test was culturally biased, anyone who could figure out how the hiring process actually worked would have had to visit each agency to see how that agency actually went about hiring new employees.

Numerous articles on this site about the hiring process inevitably lead to a rash of comments about the "good old boy" network used for hiring and promotions in the federal government.

But, whether you liked the federal hiring process or not, there is no doubt that the process was not easy to decipher. Applicants routinely applied for a federal job and often forget they applied as they never heard back from the agency with the vacancy.

The director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry, has been pledging to change the process. That has now been done with the issuing of a presidential memorandum entitled "Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process."

OPM is asking agencies to submit their hiring and recruitment plans to OPM by August 1, and to meet the requirements of the president’s memo by November 1.

The primary goal of the changes is to reduce the time between a job announcement and when the job is filled. Under the current system, many jobs take six months or more to be filled. The expectation is that jobs will be filled within 80 days under the new, improved hiring system.

Another big change: elimination of KSAs. The presidential memo says: " "eliminate any requirement that applicants respond to essay-style questions when submitting their initial application materials for any Federal job."

Other federal job application streamlining changes announced by OPM include:

  • Use of shorter, plain-language job announcements.
  • Accepting resumes from applicants, instead of requiring them to submit complex applications.
  • Allow hiring managers to choose from among a group of best qualified candidates, rather than limiting their choice to just three names, through expanded use of "category ratings."
  • Notifying applicants in a timely manner (and at four points in the process) through and eliminating the "black hole" that applicants often feel they when they get no response to their application.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47