OPM Tries to Fix Federal Hiring Process, Again

The Office of Personnel Management announced recently that it would be making changes to the USAJobs website to help job seekers with getting federal jobs. How likely are these changes to improve the overall hiring process for federal jobs?

In late February OPM put out a memo entitled “OPM Unveils New USAJOBS Features for Federal Job Seekers”. In the memo, it described the changes they had made and would continue to make through the end of 2016 to the USAJOBS website millions of applicants use to try and find federal employment.

Forgive those who might read this with caution about potential “streamlining” by the government on hiring, especially those who have been through the site personally. The federal hiring process is just not easy and there has been talk to change it for years.

In just the research via online searches for this article, I found instances dated July 2009, May 2010, December 2014 and all the way back in November 2002 where news articles, FedSmith included, discussed either bills in Congress or leaders of OPM and other agencies saying they were going to change things for the better. Will this time be different?

One area of concern that suggests there is a long way to go are the specific changes to the online application process listed in the memo. Here they are taken directly from it:

  • Track progress of an application on USAJOBS
  • Check on required documents for a position without leaving the application process
  • Save progress on a pending application
  • Add, build, view or delete a resume
  • Attach, view or delete resumes and other required documents
  • Review the final application on USAJOBS before official submission to an agency

What is difficult to understand about this is, say you are a lifelong private sector employee, or alternatively a young college graduate considering federal employment. Your world consists of emailed PDFs, recruiters, Google Docs and LinkedIn, and your potential employer puts out a memo in 2016 saying they just recently updated their system to allow you to attach a resume to your submission and to review the application before submitting it?

For those out there who don’t already understand the tremendous employee benefits available through the government, which make whatever hiring process they require entirely worth it, they might stop right there. Millions of smart people aren’t aware of the benefits and do just that.

There is a difference between quantity of federal employees and attracting the quality candidates. That seems to be where it becomes a political issue.

It wouldn’t seem very logical for anyone in government to fight against taking steps to streamline hiring practices and increase recruiting. But there are enormous and very well-known fights going on regarding quantity of employees and spending in general, and those will continue to occur.

Since 1962, which is the earliest date OPM posts it, federal employment has continually been reduced. There are fewer federal workers today than there were that year. In 1962, there were 5.354 million federal employees and in 2014 there were 4.185 million.

Over that same time period, the act of operating the government has become much more complicated, and we have added about 140 million people to the population according to the census data.

Politics aside though, somehow the issue of quantity has to be separated from the steps necessary to find quality. Many of those currently there are quality; I personally can attest to that. They work hard, make a contribution and are proud of what they do. But with the workforce aging, change has to happen faster to allow the next generation of leaders to step in to public service.

About the Author

Brian Kuhn CFP® is a financial planner at psgclarity.com in Maple Lawn, MD. He has been working with families since 2001 with a niche of federal employees. He is the author of The Personal Finance Handbook, a Guide to the Most Common Personal Finance Questions. Securities offered through Triad Advisors, Member FINRA / SIPC. Advisory Services offered through Planning Solutions Group, LLC. Planning Solutions Group, LLC is not affiliated with Triad Advisors. PSG Clarity is a division of Planning Solutions Group, LLC