USAJobs site still leaves something to be desired for users

The federal government’s human resources department fixed many of the problems that led to the troubled launch of USAJobs.gov in 2011, but the agency still wants to fine tune its employment database.

Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta posted an article on her blog last week asking for volunteers to help identify any remaining issues with the site, which helps job seekers find employment opportunities with federal agencies.


(USAJobs.gov)

USAJobs runs more smoothly than it did during its glitch-plaugued inaugural year, but OPM still thinks it can improve the site.

“One request I get each time I talk with students, teachers, federal employees and community leaders is: Please make USAJOBS easier to use,” Archuleta wrote.

The director wants users to participate in testing, brainstorming and focus-group sessions with the site’s development team. “We would need about two hours of your time,” Archuleta said.


OPM Director Katherine Archuleta throws the first pitch at a Nationals game on May 6. (Patrick McDermott/Washington Nationals).

OPM clarified on Wednesday that the director’s solicitation wasn’t prompted by any new bugs in the system, but instead was just part of an effort to make the site as user-friendly as possible.

“OPM is constantly looking at its programs to ensure they are of the highest quality, and that they meet its customers wants and needs,” agency spokesman Edmund Byrnes said in a statement. “The volunteers will help OPM to identify what functionality is most important to its clients and stakeholders.”

Prior to launching USAJobs, the federal government contracted with Monster.com to post employment opportunities and gather applications.

Less than a month after the launch of USAJobs in 2011, former OPM Director John Berry acknowledged that his staff had underestimated the “capacity of the system” and made other missteps that caused it to crash and lose data.

The problems drove frustrated job seekers to vent on social media sites, prompting OPM into action. Berry acknowledged that the agency had “messed up,” and OPM eventually added additional servers and bandwidth to help fix the problems.

The former director also shuffled around the team that oversaw the project, added more customer-service staff and brought in IT specialists to work on some of the issues.

Nonetheless, Berry said the glitches were expected to continue for months as OPM worked out the kinks. Nearly three years later, Archuleta is checking to see what problems remain.

USAJobs cost about $20 million over to develop, according to a Washington Post report. OPM spent $6 million to overhaul the system, and operating it requires about $12 million annually. Monster.com had managed the federal database for about $6 million per year, according to another Post report.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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