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Officials Pledge to Fix Federal Hiring Process

Officials Pledge to Fix Federal Hiring Process

Steve Vogel | The Washington Post via YellowBrix

September 07, 2009

Applying for a job with the federal government can be a miserable experience. Announcements of vacancies are often written in arcane, incomprehensible jargon; applications can stretch for dozens of pages; one branch of an agency might not have any idea of the hiring needs of a second branch.

This is not the opinion of jilted job-seekers. Instead, it was the frank assessment offered Thursday by top human resources managers at three major agencies, who said the federal government needs to streamline the hiring process if it is to attract the talented people it needs in coming years.

The officials spoke at a forum marking the official release of a government-wide survey by the Partnership for Public Service. The 2009 “Where the Jobs Are” report projects that the government will need to hire nearly 273,000 people for “mission-critical” jobs in the next three years, fueled by an expected wave of retirements among the aging federal workforce as well as new government programs.

While acknowledging shortcomings in federal hiring, the officials said reforms are underway to address the problems. One of the first areas where reform is needed in how jobs are posted, they said.

“When you look at federal job announcements, sometimes they look like they’re written in code,” said Mari Barr Santangelo, chief human capital officer for the Justice Department, who added that the department is working to shorten and clarify job postings. “We’re trying to put them in plain English, not code.”

“If it takes you two hours to read a vacancy announcement, that’s not good,” added Jeff Neal, the chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

The applications are often even longer. Neal, whose department is projected to make more than 65,000 hires by the fall of 2012, spoke of routinely receiving job applications stretching for 15, even 25 pages. He recalled one that stretched 500 pages and had to be delivered in a copy-paper box.

An initiative undertaken by the Office of Personnel and Management will limit job applications to three to five pages, Nancy Kichak, the office’s associate director for strategic human resource policy, said after the forum.

Kichak said OPM is sending teams to the agencies to help them deal with the surge in hiring. “The bigger agencies have a lot of work cut out for them,” she said.

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