Overwhelming response at hiring fair demonstrates a job in federal IT is in demand

The CIO Council’s first-ever governmentwide hiring fair had 30-plus agencies participate to fill cyber and IT positions.

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The CIO Council’s first-ever governmentwide hiring fair brought in more than 1,800 job hunters, 3,500 applicants and agencies made 50 on-the-spot job offers.

The human resource and IT executives doing the interviews were busy from the time the fair opened.

“We have various IT positions that we are looking for, some with cybersecurity, some with program management, system administrators and people who do some coding. We have about 30 vacant positions. We aren’t looking to hire all of those, but hire a number of people,” said Chris Hoggan, an HR specialist at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in the Homeland Security Department on Ask the CIO. “We’ve mostly been looking for positions at the GS-12 to 15 so it takes a little more experience for those particular applicants to start on the job. All of them will be in Washington, D.C.”

Hoggan said during the first half-day of the event, USCIS talked to more than 200 interested attendees.

“It’s been really nice to have the focus because the people who are here are looking for IT positions. We brought the hiring managers that are looking to fill the positions and they have been pleased with the people they’ve been able to talk to,” he said. “They are not encountering tons of people that don’t have the experience they are looking for.”

Hoggan said the human resources staff work directly with the IT department and pre-vets the applicants based on their experience or interest and then sets up interviews with the hiring managers.

Dr. Ray Letteer, the chief of the Marine Corps’ cybersecurity division, echoed Hoggan’s feelings about the quality and number of candidates coming through the fair.

Letteer said the Marines Corps was looking to fill about five civilian cybersecurity positions.

“Right now, we’ve seen over 120 people. We’ve scanned through some of the resumes and talked with them quite a bit. We’ve even had college students just looking to learn what to do and we’ve given then some advice,” he said. “I’m looking for a cybersecurity architecture — someone who really understands the network architecture and how to protect it. Another I have is an individual who will be part of the assessment team, blue team and white team methodology and penetration work. Then I have risk management framework and policy people. But these are five people we desperately need to bring up our capabilities.”

He said the fair is giving him the opportunity to take a longer look at resumes and figure out where they could fit best within the Marines Corps.

Like all agencies, the Marines have the direct hire authority for cybersecurity and Lateer said if the person is the best fit, he didn’t hesitate to use it.

Beth Killoran, the chief information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services and co-chairwoman of the CIO Council’s workforce committee, said her agency also made a few hires on that first day and planned on making several more over the next week or two.

“We’ve had lines at the civic center all day to talk to the department level and at our operating divisions,” she said. “We’ve had people who are very skilled down to folks who are trying to change careers and are figuring out how to get into government.”

Killoran said HHS has more than 100 openings, ranging from cyber to programmatic to operational jobs, and would like to fill at least 20 percent of those through the hiring fair. It still may take days or weeks to get an applicant on board, depending on the security clearance and other on-boarding timelines. But making the offer quickly is an important first step that this fair was designed to address.

“What makes this event different is we’ve been at hiring events before, but it’s just been us, and then there is this lag. So having a commitment from the Office of Personnel Management and with our human resources is really making a difference,” she said. “We have been [with our HR executives] meeting ever since the beginning of this and they want to make sure it’s as successful as we do.”

Killoran said HHS had so much interest and such a big need it rented space at a nearby hotel to set up interviews with pre-cleared candidates.

“We actually have our HR folks on-site at that location so if those folks pan out, we go immediately to a tentative offer,” she said. “For folks showing up here today, we are having conversations, looking and scanning at their resumes, validating that they actually have applied for a particular position. If they have not, we have HR folks here to help them apply through USAJobs.gov. Once we get them pre-qualified, we plan on doing those additional interviews.”

In all, agencies have about 500 openings they hoped to fill over this two-day event.

“As citizens expect better services and as cybersecurity threats increase, we know we have the imperative to modernize. To do that, we need engineers, data scientists, developers, cyber specialist and executives in this realm. We hope to achieve attracting top talent from across the country,” said Acting Federal CIO Margie Graves.

Graves said the council will release an after-action report looking at metrics and lessons-learned focused on the number of hires and the hiring process. The report likely will be out in the January timeframe.

Killoran said among the hiring fair’s biggest goals is reducing the time to hire, from about 15 weeks on average to less than eight weeks, and increasing the pool of candidates.

She said through the traditional approach too often agencies get the same pool of candidates.

“By going through this mechanism, we get a bigger aperture. Then we also want to be able to direct the candidates to the right position very quickly because as you go through the traditional process, it’s one position, one applicant. But opening the aperture, we actually already are seeing that even though an applicant came in for cyber, they may be a better fit for something else and we quickly get them to the other hiring manager,” Killoran said.

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