OPM marks progress to hiring reform

The head of the government\'s top personnel office thinks the future looks bright for fixing the hiring process, which has been called broken, in the federal se...

By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

Just one month after President Obama issued orders to federal agencies mandating reform of the hiring process, how are government organizations proceeding on the road to fixing the “broken” procedure for getting federal workers?

Meeting with the federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council yesterday, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) director John Berry says agencies, for the most part, are making good progress towards long-needed hiring reform.

“We are noticing that agencies are moving toward plain English with their job announcements. We no longer have the 70 page job announcements, that’s a good step. We’re getting down to where we need to be, which is two to five pages, instead of 75 pages.”

Berry says there are three areas, specifically, in which agencies seem to be making some early progress toward President Obama’s goal of making it easier for potential feds to land a job.

The first is to move to the world of the resume, again, just simplifying it so our applicants have a fair shot at a job. I suspect we’ll have some leaders and followers, but we’ll continue forward progress until everybody’s on board. The second major thing we’re looking at is hiring and making sure managers are engaged in this process, because you can’t just delegate hiring, you have to have managers involved. And finally we’re looking at the category rating, and making sure people are taking advantage of that, so we have larger pools (of applicants).

Berry was asked what evidence, statistical or anecdotal, OPM has to demonstrate that agencies are, in fact, making the kind of progress he claims. In response, reporters were handed a one page summary of preliminary findings from a sampling of agency Job Opportunity Announcements.

Jeff Sumberg, OPM Associate Director for Merit System Audits and Compliance says that between Fiscal Year 2007 and the first quarter of FY 10, 81 percent of agencies whose announcements were reviewed had job descriptions of more than 5 pages. A significant number also required resumes and additional materials, along with the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) forms.

Compare that with the 3rd quarter of this year. Only 19 percent of the agencies scanned have job announcement of more than five pages, and 32 percent still require the KSA. OPM’s Merit System Auditing and Compliance Office also says, to a lesser degree, federal agencies are making progress when it comes to writing job announcements in plain English, making their applications more simple and advising applicants on the next step in their application process.

Berry also says that this Thursday he’s expected to have a progress report on another key federal hiring reform initiative: the Veterans Hiring Initiative, which was announced a little more than a year ago to enhance the job prospects for returning military veterans now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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