Strategies for hiring a more diverse workforce

Federal hiring doesn't have to be onerous and slow. In fact, federal managers have more than 100 hiring authorities to help them get the right talent fast. If s...

Margot Conrad, director of education and outreach, Partnership for Public Service

Agencies struggling to attract the talent and diversity they’re seeking in a workforce need to learn more about the hiring authorities available to them. They may have options available to them that they don’t even realize.

“Over the years, agencies have consistently gone to OPM or Congress to ask for special authorities that they think they need to attract different types of talent to their workforce,” Margot Conrad, director of education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service, told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “And the reality is, agencies don’t often know about the authorities they already have, let alone know how to use them.”

Conrad said that according to a GAO report, 20 of the total 105 hiring authorities are used in most circumstances, with competitive examining the most frequently used at 25 percent of the time.  Other authorities that made the top 20 are veterans hiring, agency specific and the Pathways program.


“I think lack of knowledge is a big part of it,” Conrad said.

She did say that the Office of Personnel Management deserves kudos for its 2016 hiring campaign, where OPM personnel have gone on the road, traveling around the country to sit down with human resources professionals and explain how to use all the authorities and flexibilities available to them.

The Partnership is currently conducting a similar campaign, Conrad said, in partnership with the Interior Department.

One of the suggestions Conrad has for OPM is to collect a database of individuals eligible for special hiring authorities. For example, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps Vista volunteers have one year of noncompetitive eligibility after their volunteer period is over, Conrad said. These are individuals, she pointed out, that have a background in service and commitment to working on behalf of the government.

Another group Conrad said has special authorities for hiring are interns, recent graduates and Presidential Management Fellows. The Pathways program gives them conversion authority, meaning that agencies could easily hire them if they only knew they existed.

“OPM is doing a lot of work in this area,” Conrad said. “I think there’s more steps they could take; if they could create a database of interns across the federal govt eligible for conversion, that would be something agencies would be able to take advantage of.”

The State Department already maintains such a database of its own interns, Conrad said. Anyone in government could potentially hire them.

But Conrad said agencies also need to understand that it’s not as simple as just posting an opening on USAJobs. Agencies should be building relationships with organizations, special interest groups, colleges and universities in order to engage talent early. They also need to be examining or developing hiring strategies.

“It’s not just about which authority you use; it’s about how you use it,” Conrad said. “It goes all the way back to looking at workforce planning, thinking about the hiring you need to be doing, how quickly do you need to do it, and look at your hiring data. What is the best authority that you could use to be able to get the talent you need?”

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