Government Job Site Gets Sweeping Overhaul

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USAjobs.gov redesignThe federal government's centralized job site, USAJobs.gov, is in the final stages of a sweeping overhaul that will reduce a chronic complaint by applicants--the need to re-enter profile data--and give federal manages a better picture of potential candidates.

When it debuts officially October 13, the new version of USAJobs.gov will also represent a significant step forward in data security and integration, according to Angela Bailey, associate director of employee services, at the Office of Personnel Management, which maintains the jobs site.

In order to transition to the new site, OPM plans to shut down the majority of the site just after midnight October 6, and reopen it on a newly-built platform at noon on October 12.

The current website, which serves as a one-stop source for as many as 40,000 federal job openings and manages nearly 20 million resumes, is actually supported by a patchwork of vendors and proprietary data systems, including Monster.com.

OPM has used Monster.com to process government job postings, but that has meant commingling its data with Monster.com's data. When hackers breached Monster.com's system in 2007, for instance, OPM data was affected. While OPM officials made clear, that incident had no connection with its plans to bring its data in house, OPM remains convinced that managing its data on its own dedicated government servers will reduce security risks.

But another problem facing USAJobs--and individual agencies, which rely on the OPM site--is the extent to which the site interacts with an ecosystem of back end service providers and other companies. Companies such as Avue Technologies, for instance, which provides workforce management and development information in the public sector, use proprietary computing systems. That has made it harder for OPM to implement changes to site.

So beginning last summer, Bailey said, OPM embarked on a plan to build a new system "from the ground up" which uses a universally-recognized computing code, Extensible Markup Language, and an open architecture design. Federal agencies are increasingly embracing open architecture, which makes it possible for a wider array of service providers to offer innovative applications to organizations like OPM.

This way, "we don't have a dog in the fight," Bailey said, meaning OPM and USAJobs would no longer be tied to one proprietary system or another as it develops new enhancements in the future.

Government job applicants may not notice a dramatic change in the look of USAJobs.gov when the new site goes live. But Bailey said "USAJobs.gov 3.0" --as it is referred to inside OPM--will largely eliminate one of the biggest complaints it gets from applicants: The need to fill in profile information with every application.

Agency managers will also notice the ability to sift through resumes more efficiently, Bailey said. Human resource specialists will also get access to trending analysis more quickly she said, such as reports that track where in the U.S. applicants with specialized skills are applying for federal jobs. Currently, it can take months to get such reports processed, she said.

OPM is also incorporating other measures to streamline the job application process, as part of Obama Administration hiring reform efforts, which should help applicants as well as agencies.

While the front end changes may ultimately appear minor, the back end transition promises to be monumental. The switchover coming in October will involve moving, validating and testing 5 billion rows of data, Bailey said.

"I"m not aware of something this big being done before," said noted.

In preparation for the transition, OPM has been testing the data transfer with its various service providers since January. OPM officials have also prepared a detailed transition schedule:

  • October 6 (12:01 AM) - USAJobs.gov will be closed to job seekers
  • October 7 (12:01 AM) - USAJobs.gov will be closed to agencies systems
  • October 8 (12.01 AM) - OPM begins data transfer
  • October 11 (12:01 PM) - Data import completed, data integrity testing begins
  • October 12 (12:01 AM) - Final OPM and agency system testing
  • October 12 (12:01 PM) - New USAJobs.gov available to the public

During the transition, the public will still be able to get limited information from USAJobs.gov, Bailey said. But no new jobs will be offered, and no job applications will be processed during the offline period.



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