OPM seeks more millennials, female vets

The Office of Personnel Management is overhauling the government’s recruiting tools to attract tech-savvy twentysomethings who might not be charmed, exactly, by stuffy job descriptions or bureaucratic websites.

The new strategy includes revamping the federal hiring portal USAJOBS, enhancing the Pathways internship program for students and recent graduates, and a greater reliance on social networking sites like LinkedIn to advertise job openings, said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. OPM is trying to use “plain language” and be funny, too.

“We need to create the buzz about federal jobs. This generation wants to work at places that are trending, where they can innovate and make their marks,” she said.

To showcase her agency’s hip-quotient, she held a virtual town hall to celebrate her first year in what she called “the best job of my life.” While OPM invited questions from all federal employees through various social media, much of the discussion focused on millennials, who make up about 16 percent of the workforce. They tend to stay in federal jobs just four years, according to OPM’s analysis of the most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

But the next version of USAJobs, dubbed 2.0, seeks to address a wider complaint: that the federal hiring process takes too long. OPM is applying the Lean Six Sigma method of detecting trouble spots in programs to all of the steps in the online recruitment process, Archuleta said.

“Let’s take a look at the language that we’re using. Let’s make sure that we don’t have redundant questions and that our descriptions are succinct and clear,” she said. “We’re looking at USAJobs from beginning to end to make sure that it’s just what our applicants need and our hiring managers find helpful.”

Archuleta did not say when the new version would launch.

Among other hiring tools, OPM has five pilot programs looking at various ways to use data as a recruitment tool. A recent datapalooza focused on technology like heatmaps to show recruiters where they might find students who were interested in specific topics or schools with strengths in particular disciplines.

“Data is going to change how we do our recruiting strategy,” Archuleta said. “We can be strategic and go deep. That means you save your resources for where you can find success.”

Defending veterans’ hiring preference

There has been a growing backlash against the government’s emphasis on hiring veterans, spurred by a Merit Systems Protection Board report showing a growing perception that agencies favor veterans over other employees. Veterans made up nearly a third of new federal hires in 2013.

“Why is it so hard for civilians to get jobs in Fed Govt nowadays? Vets block all the positions civilians need jobs too,” tweeted someone with the handle @DvineMrsM.

“I think that’s a real misconception,” said Archuleta, who described herself as a “very, very strong proponent of veterans’ preference” in recognition of the service the military provides the country.

Veterans’ preference lets agencies consider “a richness of talent and experience that adds to the many applicants that we have,” Archuleta said. “That mixture of the talents they bring along with all the other applicants is an opportunity for the federal government.”

Female veterans still are underrepresented in government, she said. Archuleta co-chairs an interagency council on veterans’ employment. It is now studying possible measures the government could take to recruit more female vets. A report is coming in January, she said.

There were many more questions that Archuleta did not address in the town hall meeting. Below, we’ve resurrected a few.

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