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KSAs out, TalentLink in at Homeland Security

KSAs out, TalentLink in at Homeland Security

Suzanne Kubota | Senior Internet Editor |

When the Office of Management and Budget’s Peter Orszag put out a memo in June saying “the Federal hiring process needs to be reformed. The current process is lengthy and encumbered by burdensome requirements and outdated technology systems,” DHS was listening.

Read the OMB memo here

Homeland Security is well on its way to hiring as many as 1,000 cybersecurity experts, thanks to efforts to reform those two things. Sharie Bourbeau, Deputy Under Secretary for Management at DHS, told FederalNewsRadio, the largest non-military department in the federal government is doing away with the KSA, the dreaded Knowledge, Skills and Abilities portion of their job application.

In order to “compete in this labor market with private industry to ensure that we get the top talent,” said Bourbeau, DHS is taking two immediate steps.

We need to streamline the hiring process and make it more applicant friendly and less labor intensive, similar to what you would expect from the private sector. To that end, we are specifically moving to elimate the requirement for the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities essay-like questions and requesting less information and documentation right up front. We actually did this at headquarters about a year ago.

In addition, said Bourbeau, the Department is working to write all job announcement in plain language “to move away from the federal speak.”

The second step DHS is taking is to implement a new IT platform across the Department. The goal here, Bourbeau told The Federal Drive, is to make more of an “assertive effort to go after the passive applicant.”

We need to follow up with those applicants that we meet at job fairs or other venues to invite them to apply for our jobs, so to that end, one of the things that we are getting ready to deploy is a tool called TalentLink. Basically it’s where applicants post their preferences for certain types of jobs that they fell that their skill sets are well-aligned to. They post that, and we go out and we can scan across the mulitiple venues and actually touch these applicants and invite them to compete for our jobs.

TalentLink has been in use for “about the past year” at DHS headquarters and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The new tool, said Bourbeau, has some significant differences from what applicant may be used to finding on

It’s more like, where I can go on as a potential applicant, post my resume across multiple venues where I’m interested. If I’m interested in IT, if I’m interested in HR, if I’m interested in fill-in-the-blank – contracting, that I can post my resume, if you will, my application, my resume, my documentation. And then what we will be able to do is do a search across those competencies and pull down applicants to see if we have a good – quote – marriage, and then we do the outreach. It’s not a guarantee that those potential candidates will be hired, but we will indeed do an outreach to invite them to participate and compete for our positions that we have available.

Bourbeau said that after some additional testing, the Department hopes to “have TalentLink operational by the end of this year.”

Be sure to check out Federal News Radio’s 5 Fallacies of Government Series. Tomorrow we examine the slow hiring process and discover if it has to be that way. For a link to the series, click here.

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