NSA builds hiring website for intelligence community

The National Security Agency this fall will launch the intelligence community’s answer to the federal hiring portal USAJobs.gov.

NSA Human Resources Director Kathy Hutson described it as “a brand-new applicant gateway,” during a recent interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

“This is going to be such an amazing tool,” she said.

Initial partners include the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, she said.

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Kathy Hutson of NSA (Federal News Radio)

The web portal will include a job-exploration tool and diagnostic tests for candidates. On the back end, the site will process information from unclassified settings and send it to the agencies’ classified networks.

With the site, NSA is attempting to leverage lessons that it has learned through its own efforts to improve hiring and retention.

“We have a saying at work, ‘Keep them for five, keep them for a career,” said Hutson.  “It takes a while for our employees to come in and develop the skills they need to execute the tradecraft of our incredible mission. To think that employees would come in and be out the door in two to three years, it will not serve them well and it probably won’t serve our mission well.”

The new website’s diagnostic tests stem from NSA’s efforts to incorporate data into its own hiring and training processes. The data has improved the quality of applicants selected for interviews and saved NSA’s hiring managers time, said Nick Vasilopoulos, the agency’s chief of personnel assessment research and development.

When applying for NSA jobs, candidates must provide their biographical information, such as their education, training, and military service. If they want roles in certain fields like computer networking, they have to take proctored exams. Intelligence and language analysts take unproctored tests so the agency can evaluate their writing and inductive-reasoning skills.

“We’re leveling the playing field for everyone to have the same opportunity to provide the same information about themselves up front,” he said.

With the results, Vasilopoulous’ office generates reports that hiring managers and recruiters use to sort through the stacks of resumes they receive.

Both the biographical information forms and the unproctored exams are “designed to be generalizable” across the intelligence community, Vasilopoulos said.

More broadly, Adm. Mike Rogers, NSA’s director, has assembled 12 groups to study workforce issues, including training and retention, said Hutson.

The agency wants to make sure its employees stay ahead of adversaries, take on challenges and–if they leave for academia or industry–eventually return to NSA, Hutson said.

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