How many times have you seen a position on USAJOBS that catches your attention?

When you get to the qualifications section, you see something like this: “You must have met the one-year Specialized Experience requirement and at least 52 weeks time in grade equivalent to the GS-13 level in the federal service as described in the qualifications section by the closing date of this announcement.”

By this time you’re scratching your head because you have no idea what all that means.

Then you read it again. At some point you start you wonder if you are qualified, and even if you figure out that you are, you’re wondering whether you should even bother to apply.

On May 11, 2010, President Obama signed a memorandum on “Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process,” which required agencies to allow individuals to apply for federal jobs by submitting resumes and cover letters or completing simple, plain-language applications. Then in October there was the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires agencies to put into practice, by October 2011, clear communication that the public can understand. Both are positive developments.

What the law does not do, however, is specifically state that job vacancy announcements are covered, but I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt because the law says all “Covered Documents” should be written in plain language.

The Office of Personnel Management has released its site on “Plain Language at OPM,” where it says it’s in support of the initiative to make federal documents easier to read. Other agencies are also beginning to move toward plain language; you can find out more about the initiatives at

Now that laws and memorandums are in place and an updated version of USAJOBS is in the works, the momentum is there for real change. Let’s hope that means vacancy announcements everywhere will really get a good scrubbing.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s website shows that the CIA is a good example of an agency that does a good job on clearly written announcements. Since the CIA is an excepted service agency that does not have to follow OPM’s guidelines, it has taken its own path on the issue.

I think it’s the right one.

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