Federal Hiring Reform Marches On

Shorter job announcements and more accessibility to applicants are just two of the goals that are closer to realization thanks to federal hiring reform.

In May 2010, representatives of the United State Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that President Obama had ordered a major overhaul of the federal hiring process. The goal of these reforms was to shorten the hiring process for federal jobs and make these positions accessible to a wider array of candidates.

OPM Director John Berry speaking at the National Press Club in May 2011

In a press release about the reform, OPM Director John Berry stated that the changes were the result of concerns that many qualified applicants were giving up on their chances of getting these government jobs because the system was inefficient. “I understand the frustration of every applicant who previously has had to wade through the arcane Federal hiring process,” he said. “If qualified applicants want to serve our country through the Federal service, then our application process should facilitate that.”

One of the changes included in reform was the elimination of written essays as an initial application requirement. The OPM web site includes tips and information on other forms of assessment. Also, a group of leading providers of assessment tests formed the Alliance for Hiring Reform to address the hiring overhaul.

The alliance’s goals are to provide information and help educate those involved in federal hiring about the value of using objective assessments to make the hiring process more efficient.  Their web site, hiringreform.org, includes a library of HR selection and testing information. The website also contains Performance and Turnover Calculators to assist agencies in accurately estimating the potential gains, in dollars, from improving one’s quality of hire as well as estimating the dollar value of reducing turnover.

According to the government, major progress has already been made as a result of the overhaul. Since the launch of the reforms, OPM has supported federal agencies with 351 training sessions in 66 cities for 17,300 people involved in the hiring process.

The office also reports that, as a result of the initiative, 86 percent of job announcements were in “plain English,” compared with 55 percent in 2009. Also, 92 percent of announcements now allow interested parties to apply with just a resume or cover letter, instead of forcing them to submit complex applications. In 2009, only 39 percent of announcements allowed resume-based applications.

Other changes made as a result of hiring reform include shorter job announcements. OPM reports that 66 percent of job announcements are two to three pages long, compared with 24 percent prior to hiring reform. More progress is likely on the horizon. This year, the government launched the websites USAJobs and USAJobsRecruit to aid both agencies and applicants in the hiring process. Examples of how job announcements have been re-structured and the information included in the announcements can be reviewed on these websites.

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