Yesterday I wrote about the government's efforts to increase the numbers of federal employees who telework, inspired at least in part by its desire to recruit more younger workers to replace the large numbers of older employees expected to retire over the next few years. Though it may take some time to overcome agencies' longstanding resistance to telework, President Obama is introducing a plan with some simpler fixes in government hiring that should make it easier to get applicants on the job.
As The Washington Post reports, the government will drop its requirement for potential hires to write essays about their knowledge, skills and abilities and instead submit resumes and fill out standard applications, much as they do when applying for private-sector jobs. Departments within agencies will also use "category hiring," a system that speeds the hiring process by allowing departments to hire candidates already screened by other departments rather than requiring them to undergo the entire screening process again.
According to the article, the goal is to get workers on the job within 80 days of an announced vacancy, an improvement over the current 140 days or more it often takes to fill a job. Other aspects of the plan include getting managers more involved in the selection process, rather than leaving the final approval to an agency's personnel office, and requiring agencies to tell applicants their status at four key points in the process: when their application is received, when the applicant is deemed qualified or not, when the applicant is referred for an interview or not, and when the person is selected or not.
Making the process less labyrinthine hopefully will attract younger workers who may have been discouraged by what David T. Ellwood, dean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, describes as a "19th-century hiring system." The article mentions a 30-year-old Philadelphia resident who got job offers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a national security agency, but not until long after she had accepted a position with a private institute.
The Government Accountability Office called hiring a high-risk area in a 2001 report and followed it up two years later with a study criticizing "inefficient or ineffective practices, including . . . unclear job announcements, the quality of certain applicant assessment tools [and] time-consuming panels to evaluate applicants."
John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, and Jeffrey Zients, the administration's chief performance officer, will lead the overhaul, which is expected to take six months.