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The federal hiring reform initiative

Sunday, February 20, 2011; 8:54 AM

A Simpler Process for Landing a Government Job

If you have ever applied for a federal job or know someone who has, chances are you are familiar with the federal government's lamentable hiring process. Infamous for being unwieldy, archaic and incredibly slow, the process has recently been updated at the urging of the Obama administration. The administration recognized that the antiquated system in place was no match for the number of new federal hires needed. The intent is to create a process for job seekers that is more streamlined, easier to navigate, and ultimately, a great deal faster.

On May 11, 2010, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director John Berry announced the launch of President Obama's hiring reform initiative. He called the initiative the "biggest step toward fixing Federal hiring in over three decades." Berry went on to note, "This initiative is about simplicity, flexibility and efficiency. It will substantially reduce the time and aggravation it takes to find and hire the best." OPM estimates that the changes, which are mandated across all government agencies, will speed up the hiring process by three to five weeks.

The deadline for hiring reform to be implemented in each agency was Nov. 1, 2010. How this will ultimately play out remains to be seen, but even skeptics grant that with the weight of the White House behind this effort, it's got a decent chance at making the application and hiring process easier for jobseekers pursuing a government position.

WHAT CHANGES CAN JOB SEEKERS EXPECT NOW WHEN APPLYING FOR A FEDERAL POSITION?

Elimination of Written Essays (KSAs)

The reform marks a huge departure from the previous system that relied on the time-consuming Knowledge, Skills and Abilities essays (KSAs) as an initial requirement. (Take note, however, that contenders for a position may still be required to fill out essay-type questionnaires or KSAs further along in the process.)

Resume & Cover Letter

Applicants will be allowed to submit resumes and cover letters or complete simple, plain language applications.

Category Rating

Agencies are also being instructed to phase out the "rule of three"--a system in which managers are only given a choice of the top three candidates. The new category rating system will enable managers to view the full range of qualified applicants, giving a larger number of job seekers a better chance to be considered.

Manager Accountability and Involvement

Hiring managers are becoming more involved in the hiring process. Until now, the hiring process typically fell to human resources staff┬┐the majority of program managers were hands-off during hiring. With the new system, managers will have more control over hiring and will actively engage in recruitment and interviews.

Quality and Speed of Hiring

The reform demands substantial reduction in hiring time for mission-critical and commonly filled positions.

Applicant Notification

OPM has been instructed to notify applicants about the status of their applications at key stages in the process. Anyone whose application has ever disappeared into a black hole will appreciate the intent behind this effort.

This special advertising section was written by Stacey McLaughlin, a freelance writer, in conjunction with The Washington Post Custom Content Department. The production of this supplement did not involve The Washington Post news or editorial staff.

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