Hiring revamp creates jobs for consultants: Federal Diary

Derrick T. Dortch of Diversa Group.
Derrick T. Dortch of Diversa Group. (Courtesy Of Derrick T. Dortch, - Courtesy Of Derrick T. Dortch,)
By Joe Davidson
Thursday, May 27, 2010

What do you do if much of your livelihood is devoted to repairing something that is no longer broken?

That's a question facing consultants who help people navigate a federal hiring process that President Obama and Congress want to fix.

A directive signed by Obama and legislation passed by the Senate, both this month, promise an overhaul of a badly damaged system. Much of what the administration and Congress are planning is designed to make the hiring process easier and faster.

"For far too long, our HR systems have been a hindrance," said John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel, as he announced the presidential memorandum this month.

That hindrance created a market. Application hassles resulted in a demand for assistance in navigating the federal hiring maze.

So, with major changes on the horizon, do consultants fear business disappearing?


In fact, Lily Whiteman, author of "How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job," says she's confident "business will continue to boom." One reason is the theory of supply and demand.

"If I lost only a fraction of the number who ask me for help, I'd still be overloaded," she said. "There's a huge volume of people who want to get into the system, and there's only a handful of people like me, who help people get into the system."

Ironically, previous hiring reforms nourished the cottage industry of federal jobs gurus. After a consent decree abolished the old standard civil service test in the 1980s, federal agencies began using more essay-style questions to help select applicants. In the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration decided to phase out a standard job application form called the SF-171, spurring employees to convert their SF-171s into another optional form or a regular résumé. Both changes created a demand for paid help.

Increased emphasis on résumés (not in a set government style) is a primary feature of the planned reforms. Members of Congress and the White House want to move away from candidates' writing essays, known as KSAs, about their knowledge, skills and abilities, and toward the cover letter/résumé-based system common in the private sector.

"This will save applicants millions of person-hours and money too," Berry predicted.

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