Web site makeover designed to make federal hiring process easier

By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Uncle Sam is trying to make it easier for people to work for the government by improving his hiring Web site.

USAjobs.gov, like the rest of the federal hiring process, has had a reputation for being impersonal, confusing and complicated, as Christine Griffin, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, acknowledged during a news conference Monday.

"Once you applied for a job, your application disappeared into a black hole," she said.

The OPM says that's a thing of the past. The revitalized Web site features a "top-to-bottom makeover" focused on making it painless for applicants, Griffin said. If it works as advertised, its launch comes not a minute too soon.

Last year, the Obama administration said it expected the government to hire several hundred thousand new civilian employees in the next four years. Many of them will become very frustrated with the hiring process unless there are more changes like the Web site improvement.

A key new feature of the revitalized site is that it lets users create accounts and follow the status of their applications. A demonstration showed an easily navigated site that allows job hopefuls to search for jobs by location and other characteristics, including occupation, agency and salary. USAjobs.gov gets about 120 million hits per year.

The reworked site is a "critical part of hiring reform," said Kim Bauhs, assistant OPM director for recruitment and diversity.

She would not, however, discuss the status of the larger effort to reform hiring practices. OPM Director John Berry did not meet his self-imposed deadline of delivering a hiring-reform package last month, a deadline that probably was overly optimistic given the size of the task. Congress also is considering hiring-reform legislation.

The Obama administration has put some high-level muscle behind its efforts to change the hiring process. In June, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag gave agencies six months to complete four tasks to begin reform:

-- Mapping an agency's current hiring process, from the point when a manager identifies a need to hire someone until the selected person starts working.

-- Producing job announcements in easy-to-understand language for an agency's top 10 positions, and limiting those announcements to five pages.

-- Notifying applicants about where they stand at four points: when the application is received; when the applicant's qualifications are assessed; when the applicant is referred, or not, to a selecting official; and when the applicant is selected or rejected.

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