“To attract talented and highly-skilled applicants to public service, the application process should apprise job seekers (within applicable limits) and enable them to make informed decisions, rather than deter them from pursuing Federal career opportunities,” said the memo, dated Tuesday and released Wednesday.
OPM officials have long acknowledged that the feeling of abandonment once an application is filed is a major frustration for applicants, most of whom start the process at the USAJOBS.gov portal.
“The importance of applicant notification has been amplified by multiple Members of Congress,” including in a recent Senate hearing, it added. “The concerns expressed at this hearing and in other forums are supported by reporting from applicants. Based on data from a USAJOBS applicant survey, the majority of applicants indicate that they are notified when their application is received; however, later notifications at key touch points of the process are not provided as consistently.”
While OPM, the central personnel agency, operates the USAJOBS site, in almost all cases the individual agencies with the job openings are responsible for everything after a job seeker hits “send.”
“Maintaining communication with applicants about where they stand in the hiring process helps provide transparency about the process and can contribute to a positive impression and reputation of the hiring organization,” OPM told them. “Regular communication and notification to applicants are also key to maintaining the engagement and interest of applicants, particularly in cases where the hiring process involves multiple steps or when there is a risk of losing the applicant to a competing employment offer.”
The memo is the latest of multiple initiatives aimed at making the federal hiring process faster, simpler and more transparent for applicants. One of those, a 2010 Obama administration directive, had used similar language in telling agencies to keep candidates appraised of “the status of their application at key stages of the application process.”
Following that memo, the OPM issued guidance designed to achieve an 80-day average from the posting of a job announcement on USAJOBS to a hiring decision. However, an official said at the Senate hearing that the average has increased each year since 2012, when it was 87 days, to 106 days last year.
OPM also has made a number of changes to that site designed to better explain the complex rules of government hiring and make it easier for users to manage their accounts.