Federal hiring process the target of much-needed reform

There is a push for much-needed reform in the federal government’s hiring processes:

THE FEDERAL government faces unprecedented challenges over the next few years. An aging workforce, more than one-third of which will be eligible to retire within five years, must tackle a bewildering array of issues. Given the federal government’s need for 600,000 new employees over the course of the present administration alone, a sometimes yearlong hiring process that 45 percent of federal job applicants polled found difficult to navigate is more than an annoyance: It is a hazard. U.S. government workers stand on the front lines of many of today’s key issues. It is crucial that they be up to the task.

Talking about this problem isn’t new, but action is rare. So a June 11 memo from the Office of Management and Budget is noteworthy. In it, OMB Director Peter Orszag outlines four clear benchmarks for improving the federal hiring process, requiring agencies to meet them in the next six months and demonstrate progress in their annual budget proposals. Such prominent placement of this directive demonstrates a laudable administration commitment to the cause of hiring reform.

They aren’t there yet.  I am in the process of deciding what my next career move will be–a “safe” job or a bricolage of consulting and teaching opportunities–and among my 200+ job opportunities in the field are half a dozen government positions for which I would be a very good fit.  Unfortunately, the hiring process is so arcane and tedious that I will not be applying for any of them.

I had a long conversation with a dear friend at Schiphol during a layover recently, someone who contracts with the federal government but has no interest in coming on-board with them.  The friend allowed that waiting a year to 18 months to get into a job with lower pay and more hassles doesn’t appeal to most people.  I shared my own experience from several years ago of applying for a government job, then taking a private sector role less than a month later.  Nine months into my new job, an agency HR person called to schedule an interview with me.  I told the person that I had been working for another organization for nine months.  She replied that that was happening with almost all of her good candidates.  Go figure.

In the time it would take to complete one application for a government job–many of which must be mailed in hard copy x4–I can reach half a dozen CEOs at companies who are hiring now.  As an aside, I am seeing hiring for my sort of expertise being up dramatically over this time last year.  With many other, easier opportunities out there, government may have a record number of applicants, but there are surely great numbers of candidates who would rather have a job now.

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