Government Gets High Marks From Student Job-Seekers

By Joe Davidson
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Uncle Sam as boss man must be doing something right.

A survey released yesterday by the Partnership for Public Service and Universum USA says that five federal government agencies are among the top 15 "ideal" employers in the view of college students.

The agencies were picked from 260 employers in a survey of 32,000 undergraduates.

The five agencies and their rankings are the State Department (5), Peace Corps (8), NASA (9), CIA (12) and the FBI (14). Google, Walt Disney, Apple Computer and Ernst & Young took the top four spots in that order.

One reason Uncle Sam looks good is the government/public service category was the most popular choice of 46 industry options in the survey.

Coming in second and third were health care and education, both of which have strong public-service components.

If government was a leading category when the survey was completed in April, Sam's popularity probably has only increased because of the application process and eventual election of Barack Obama as boss in chief. The president-elect has focused on public service and vowed to "make government cool again."

But you don't have to go too far below the survey's surface to find issues that hinder the government's recruiting effort.

One is Sam's reputation, including the well-deserved knock for bureaucracy and red tape. "This adversely impacts every agency's ability to recruit," the report says.

That red tape has been known to tie the hiring process in knots. Alan More, a former CIA recruiter who is a professor at George Mason University, said in a panel discussion on the survey that federal hiring is "a long process where it goes into a black hole and [applicants] never hear from it again."

The military does a better job, according to Max Stier, the partnership's president. "The military invests substantial resources in understanding what talent it needs, where to recruit that talent and how to develop and retain it," he said.

"We do not see anywhere close to that investment or understanding for civil servants, even though 700,000 of them work side by side with the military for America's defense."

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