Applying for a Federal Job is About to Get Easier

federal jobsOver a year ago, President Obama initiated an overhaul of the federal hiring process that will culminate in critical changes for all current federal employees, anyone who is looking at federal employment, and those who might want to transition from military service into federal employment.

The federal employment maze

"For many years federal applicants needed to develop, write and deliver essays called the KSA -- which stands for Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. Along with the federal résumé, these time-consuming essays were part the federal hiring process. After the essays were completed, applicants would apply normally through USA Jobs and wait many days and even months to hear back about positions," said John M. O'Connor, president of Career Pro Inc. in North Carolina. "Without guidance, these applicants did not know or could not get much feedback about their status and their federal resumes, KSAs or other application processes. In fact, every federal agency seemed to have some of their own spin on what was required."

-- See average salaries for federal government workers.

The Presidential directive

Just last week in the latest major announcement since the hiring directive by President Obama, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director John Berry and U.S. Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients unveiled the major overhaul.

In the announcement, Berry said:

"Federal workers fill crucial roles that defend Americans from terrorism, infectious diseases, food-borne pathogens, forest fires and countless other threats. We can't afford delays in filling these jobs, nor can we rely on a system that causes qualified candidates to give up in frustration. President Obama and I believe that we must cut the red tape clogging the Federal hiring process in order to bring aboard outstanding applicants quickly."

He went on to say that these reforms would save the American taxpayer money and free up scarce resources that will allow federal agencies to better serve our nation.

Added Zients: "The best talent doesn't wait around for 140 days -- they find another job. We need to streamline our hiring process to make it more competitive and candidate-friendly. Across 20 years in the private sector, I've seen that the best performing organizations focus on people as their most important tool for improving performance. It is time for the federal government to start doing the same."

The reform

The new federal hiring procedures will:

  • Dramatically reduce the time between when a job is announced and is filled.
  • Eliminate essays as an initial application requirement. Essays may still be used later in the process. Under the previous system, if an individual applied for five separate federal jobs, he or she often needed to complete five separate sets of lengthy essays.
  • Use shorter, plain-language job announcements.
  • Accept resumes from applicants, instead of requiring them to submit complex applications through outdated systems.
  • Allow hiring managers to choose from among a group of best-qualified candidates, rather than limiting their choice to just three names, through expanded use of "category ratings."
  • Notify applicants in a timely manner (and at four points during the process) – eliminating the "black hole" that applicants often feel they enter when they get no response to their application.

Additional initiatives

The President also directed OPM to:

  • Design a government-wide plan for recruiting and hiring qualified, diverse talent.
  • Review the Federal Career Intern Program and, within 90 days, offer a recommendation to the president on its future and on providing effective pathways into the federal service for college students and graduates.
  • Work with agencies to ensure that best practices are being developed and used throughout government.

OPM is also launching a website intended to guide federal agencies and hiring managers through this change at:

For complete details on hiring reform, including additional measures taken by President Obama and OPM, visit the OPM web site. The webcast of the press conference is below.

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Next:Why You Should Consider a Job With the Federal Government

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