Obama's federal hiring reform efforts 'moving in right direction, OPM director says

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 1, 2010; 8:09 PM

It was one of those uniquely Washington moments.

A beauty queen led a toast Monday to improvements in the federal hiring process. Let's hail the new and bid farewell to the old, said Jen Corey, Miss D.C. 2009.

In a statement issued before the toast, John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, explained the reason that government geeks and those who want to be one are celebrating.

"Today is an important milestone for the hiring reform we need to best serve and protect the American people," he said. "Six months ago, President Obama directed all agencies to hire based on resumes, eliminate KSA essays, and reduce time to hire. We've made substantial progress, and we're making sure everyone knows that there's no turning back."

Berry is almost always a cheerleader. Nonetheless, his view that government hiring is better than it was a few months ago is shared by many inside and outside of government, although no one claims the job is done.

That includes Berry, who said Uncle Sam has not yet reached his goal of a hiring process that takes 80 days, instead of the 200 that was sometimes the case.

"We're not hitting it yet," he said after the toast and during a reception sponsored by the Center for Human Capital Innovation. "But we're moving in the right direction."

The General Services Administration, for example, has reduced its average hiring period from 141 days, at the end of 2009, to 89 days now, according to Gail Lovelace, the agency's chief human capital officer.

"What you measure, people pay attention to," she said at an Excellence in Government conference at the Ronald Reagan Building before the reception.

GSA recently had a "hiring blitz" during which it needed to sign up 200 people in two months, "and we did it," Lovelace said with pride.

Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, gave the conference some indication of the government's overall progress. About 81 percent of the government's job descriptions are now short, he said; only 19 percent were before the overhaul. Previously, announcements might exceed 100 pages.

More than two-thirds of the agencies do not now require essays as part of the initial application, according to Zients. About 60 percent had that requirement.

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