The Washington Post

Deadlines extended for federal job seekers as USAJobs site malfunctions

The government’s personnel chief said Wednesday that his staff is working “around the clock” to fix bugs in the government’s revamped job search Web site, which has been blocking visitors and has a faulty search system. In the meantime, he added, the application deadline has been extended by three weeks for job seekers interested in non-emergency positions.

“We’re not going to rest until we work through these problems,” Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said in the morning, adding that the site is now blocking just 6 percent of incoming visitors.

But hours later, a contractor hired to test the new version of USAJobs.gov — which has been plagued by software and hardware glitches since it relaunched Oct. 11 — revealed an 86 percent failure rate.

Officials with Avue Technologies said they tried 358 searches during a five-hour period Wednesday afternoon. Users were either locked out or their queries for job postings were unsuccessful, a company official said.

Angela Bailey, the associate director overseeing the USAJobs project, later disputed the high failure rate of Wednesday’s tests.

OPM officials said the problems are the result of an unexpected volume of users who have overwhelmed the system in the past eight days, although Berry said it was unclear whether these are new job seekers or not.

“Any new site has a certain curiosity level to it — maybe that’s it,” he said.

As it became clear that the problems were still unresolved, Berry announced the deadline change for job applicants.

Also Wednesday, Monster.com, the jobs site that lost the contract to host the USAJobs site 18 months ago, said it will offer free job postings to federal agencies over the next 30 days.

“We see a need in the government right now to address these issues,” said Steve Cooker, executive vice president of Monster Government Solutions, a division of Monster.com.

Bailey, however, said, “Though kind, it may be more confusing than helpful to both agencies and applicants.”

Asked why the agency did not have software in place to handle high volumes before the new site went live last week, Berry said that his staff “did try to look ahead” but that the traffic still blindsided them.

Frustrated applicants have vented on Facebook — and are still at it.

“The ‘new’ USAJOBS 3.0 is a complete mess. Literally,” Kelly Antonio Lawson posted on the social network Wednesday afternoon.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, 141,289 applications had been submitted on the new site, “so we know the system is working for a lot of people,” Berry said.

The revamp is supposed to improve the experience of applying for a federal job, with fewer forms to fill out and easier searches.

OPM spent 18 months overhauling the site after ending a contract with Monster.com, which had managed it for between $5 million and $6 million a year. Berry said that the government paid “almost double that” last year to keep the site going during the overhaul but predicted that the costs of managing it in-house would fall over five years.

He declined to say how much the fixes are costing.

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

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