New USAJobs database should help agencies easily share qualified candidates

A new “talent pools” portal on USAJobs will compile a database of agencies’ already-qualified job applicants, which other agencies can then consider hirin...

Agencies should now have an easier way to access job candidates who have already been vetted in the early steps of the recruitment process.

A new “talent pools” portal on USAJobs will compile a database of agencies’ already-qualified job applicants, which other agencies can then consider hiring.

The USAJobs portal is one way the Office of Personnel Management is aiming to make it easier for agencies to take advantage of an increasingly popular recruitment strategy: sharing certificates.

With shared certificates, agencies that make a hire can then give their list of un-hired candidates, already determined to be qualified for a position, to another agency.

By skipping some early steps in recruitment, the second agency in theory has an easier time finding a high-quality match for a similar position.

The process is beneficial to job applicants too, said Veronica Hinton, OPM’s associate director for workforce policy and innovation.

“Pooled hiring reduces applicant burden by allowing job seekers to apply once and be considered by multiple agencies for selection,” Hinton said in a Dec. 1 memo to federal HR directors. “It also speeds time-to-hire for agencies who can fill vacancies from the shared certificate of candidates who have already completed rigorous assessments and been found qualified.”

Hinton added that pooled hiring often leads to more candidates getting hired from one certificate, which reduces agencies’ need to post the same job announcement multiple times.

Prior to the new USAJobs portal, hiring managers have had to reach out directly to other agencies to get their hands on shared certificates. By placing all the certificates in one place and making them searchable, OPM’s goal is to streamline the federal hiring tactic.

Jenny Mattingley, vice president of government affairs at the Partnership for Public Service, said the new talent pools portal on USAJobs should help the recruitment process in more ways than one.

“It’s a one-stop shop for finding shared certificates and finding talent,” Mattingley said in an interview.

On the other hand, “applicants can apply once and be considered multiple times,” she said. “When an agency posts a shared certificate, they’re telling the applicants, ‘Here are the other agencies that might be selecting off this certificate’ — that helps the applicant get excited about what other opportunities are there.”

Although agencies first received the authority to use shared certificates in hiring back in 2015, they’ve only become popular in just the past couple of years.

The strategy of using shared certificates can also reach quite broadly. In certain cases, OPM will initiate governmentwide pooled hiring actions, which let any agency hiring for a particular role select candidates off the same list of qualified candidates. OPM has used pooled hiring actions to help agencies hire for many positions under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Of course, sharing certificates doesn’t make sense for every position in government. But Mattingley said they can be particularly useful, for example, when hiring for roles that are senior-level or require a lot of technical skills.

“If you’re thinking about some of your customer experience, data science, IT, cyber and AI folks, you’re going to want to make sure they have certain skills,” she said. “If agencies are already running these rigorous assessments, using subject matter experts and a lot of time and resources, that’s a perfect time to use a shared certificate. You do all this work, you get great talent who’s qualified, and then you make sure you don’t leave them on the table.”

There are still certain requirements in the process of sharing certificates. For example, when applying for a position on USAJobs, applicants must opt into having their resumes shared with other agencies beyond the one they submitted their application to.

Additionally, the original hiring agency must close out and audit the certificate before sharing it as well as remove names of applicants who didn’t opt into the process.

On the receiving end, agencies must verify that the shared certificate is applicable for their opening and notify candidates on the list that they’re being considered for another position.

The USAJobs talent pools portal also sets a point of contact for both the receiving agency and the hosting agency sharing certificates, which Mattingley said should improve communication among agencies.

“It’s helpful that this is short and to the point,” Mattingley said. “It gives folks in HR a roadmap and a lot of links to help centers and emails to reach out to. I think it’s a step in the right direction of OPM saying, ‘Here’s what we’re expecting you to do in this space and here’s how we can help you do it.’”

OPM laid out more requirements for sharing certificates in the agency’s Dec. 1 memo.

“Talent pools give your agency access to qualified candidates who are already on a hiring certificate and interested in similar jobs at any agency,” OPM said. “You can quickly review their resumes and speed up the hiring process if the hiring certificate matches your positions.”

For the talent pools portal on USAJobs to actually be successful, though, OPM said agencies will still have to upload and share certificates whenever it makes sense.

“Please consider opportunities for sharing your certificates to help other agencies fill their critical vacancies,” OPM said.

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