Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stands on the balcony outside of her office on Thursday April 18, 2013. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

As federal leaders know all too well, budgets are tight and federal hiring is limited. But this doesn't mean that agencies should simply throw in the towel and abandon efforts to attract high quality talent.

Even in these tough times, agencies need to be building and refining their brands as one way of attracting top applicants when openings occur.

By a brand, I'm not referring to just an appealing slogan or tagline. According to my Partnership for Public Service colleague and federal hiring expert Tim McManus, your brand is “the essence of who you are, who you want to be and how you want people—in this case potential job seekers—to view you.”

He notes that it is important to communicate the appeal of particular projects, the work environment and the caliber of employees in your organization as you seek to build that positive impression.

In addition, it's essential to articulate your mission and work in a way that resonates with potential job candidates. The mission can be a powerful magnet ,since many people aspire to serve their nation and want to make a difference in the lives of others.

Here are some more tips from McManus to keep your agency in the recruitment game:

Be proactive. In this era of instant communication and social media, it is imperative to define your agency rather than let others do so for you. This means building your own story and spreading the word through a variety of channels about why individuals would find a career at your agency an exciting prospect. Remember, your employees and past job applicants also are shaping the image of your agency, whether it is online or in casual conversations with friends and acquaintances.

Make full use of social media. While you need to sell your agency through your Web site, job fairs and other various recruitment efforts, social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are also a powerful mechanism for communicating your brand. Social media is where job seekers go to find out about openings and the culture of an agency.

Go to college campuses. Make visits to colleges and universities where your recruiters can have personal contact, explain the agency’s needs, answer questions and engage potential job candidates in ways that a static job posting never could. Ultimately, the jobs and your brand have to come alive for potential job seekers, and this will pay off when openings are available.

Make it real. While you can build a great public relations effort and create a positive image through branding, your sales pitch and message needs to reflect reality. For effective branding, your agency needs to deliver on your promise and live up to the marketing.

Do you have any suggestions for building an agency brand? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or you can email me at

Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership, is vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. He also heads the Partnership’s Center for Government Leadership.

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Hiring tips for federal leaders

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