A federal website gets it right!

“New and improved!” Those two words, along with “29 cents off!” move product in the U. S. of A. now just as surely as they did back when you could buy a bottle of bluing at the A&P.

What, for instance, was last week’s Apple shindig out on the coast but an elaborate “new and improved!” recital? (And cents, or dollars, off the price of the old models).

Government plays the “new and improved” game too, as it moves ever deeper into the online, digital services model. So even though I’m not looking for a federal job, I did check out USAJobs.gov after the Office of Personnel Management rolled out new features on the occasion of the site’s 20th anniversary.

That site has always been something of a whipping-boy, er, person. Early on it was barely functional. Plus it was a convenient proxy for the whole federal hiring process, which has been mostly impervious to change.

I found USAJobs.gov looking pretty good. As in, two clicks to lists of jobs in your general area of expertise, starting the “explore opportunities” tab.

OPM should consider putting “new and improved” on its site, in a triangle art directors used to call a “Nabisco corner.”

Although OPM announced it as an aside, the USAJobs app is gone. It’s rendered the new website much more device responsive. Mobile is still fairly difficult to get right, app or website. My quick tryout of the site on my iPhone 6  shows they got it right — clean and fast, and rendered in a readable way. It’s definitely vertically oriented so it takes a lot of thumb action. But to me, it compares favorably with a hip, retail site I use regularly, created by the entrepreneurial types of which government has become so enamored.

My quibble with the site is the large amount of space devoted to hiring authorities for favored groups — veterans, people with disabilities and so on. A lot of otherwise talented people will see that and likely proceed no further, thinking they haven’t got a chance.

This isn’t just an OPM-getting-it-right matter, although the agency kinda could use  a win. In the larger sense, if the administration and the hiring managers all over want to really get the top candidates and compete with industry for people, they can’t do it with a crummy website.

As for the hiring process itself, a website can’t fix the problems of resumes going into black holes, people not hearing back from an agency interviewer for weeks or months or never. Tesla has a nice website too, but it doesn’t alter the fact that you’re afraid to drive the darn thing to Philadelphia because the battery might die in Wilmington.

Still, for a government that talks about improving the customer experience, USAJobs.gov is a nice upgrade.

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