The IRS took more than five months to hire some of its new employees from outside the federal government in 2009.

The agency’s lengthy timelines led to difficulty attracting highly qualified candidates, who could often find work faster in the private sector.

But the agency is placing new workers faster these days, according to a report released by the agency’s inspector general on Wednesday.

An audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that some IRS divisions are on track to meet the federal government’s goal of 80 days for completing hiring processes.

The agency’s information technology division, for example, cut its hiring timeline to an average of 90 days in 2012, a reduction of nearly 60 percent since 2009, according to the findings.

The improvements resulted in part from automating certain hiring steps and alerting managers when the interview and selection processes take longer than the standard time, the report said.

Another IRS department that is on track to meet the government’s 80-day goal, the wages and investment division, saw progress in part because “the current economic climate has increased the number of applicants applying for positions,” according to the report.

Like the IT division, wage and investment automated some of its hiring steps and started alerting managers when processes were taking an unusually long time, according to the inspector general.

The IRS needs to quickly hire and train a relatively large number of employees each year to ramp up for tax-filing season, the report said. In 2011, the agency hired about 19,000 workers, according to the audit.

One caveat: The inspector general noted that the IRS has been under a hiring freeze for most positions since 2009, so the hiring numbers have been lower than usual, even though they may sound high.

The inspector general’s report noted that one IRS department, the small business and self-employment division, trains large waves of new employees, a process that could take up to 200 days for bringing new hires on board, and therefore would not meet federal goals.

Despite the largely improved hiring timelines, the inspector general discovered that the IRS’s hiring data was incorrect for a substantial portion of hires — 38 percent for the IT division.

The report recommended that the agency provide guidance to employment offices on proper data-entry procedures and correct problems with computer programming to correct the issue with data entry.

The IRS agreed with the recommendations.

President Obama and the Office of Personnel Management in recent years have issued directives requiring federal agencies to improve their hiring timelines.

The president released a memorandum in May 2010 telling agencies to substantially reduce the time it takes to hire mission-critical and commonly filled positions, measure the speed of the hiring process, analyze the causes of agency hiring problems, and identify actions that will be taken to reduce them.

The government’s 80-day goal comes from OPM’s 2008 “End-to-End Hiring Roadmap.”

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