5 Ways to Improve Federal Hiring Process

Originally posted to GovLoop.

I had the opportunity to attend The Brookings Institute Reforming the Federal Hiring Process and Promoting Public Service to America’s Youth Event on September 28th. The event was developed to address many issues regarding the federal hiring process. As many of you know, within the next few years, the federal government will need to hire over 200,000 employees. With the government needing to hire a new crop of workers to lead the federal workforce, numerous changes need to be made how the Federal government is attracting talent, retaining talent. The panel I attended was titled: Forward Looking Ideas and included the following speakers:

  • Moderator: William A. Galston, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies
  • Elaine C. Kamarck, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Max Stier, President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service
  • Jackson A. Nickerson, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies
  • Dave Uejio, Special Assistant to the Director, NIH Office of Human Resources, President, Young Government Leaders

The opening panel provided a background of challenges to reforming the federal hiring process, how to improve the current system and concluded by offering some potential solutions. The four key challenges that were identified were barriers to entry, public perception and the current fiscal climate. In terms of barriers to entry, we heard of many stories of the challenges people have had applying to federal jobs. Simplifying the process is an absolute necessity to attract more talent to the federal workforce, and not loose talent to competitors in the private sector and not-for-profit sectors. Throughout the panel discussion, I jotted down some notes about potential solutions to reforming the federal hiring process.  

1. Collect Quality Information on Hires.

The process to apply for a federal job is slow, difficult, and applications often fall into a black box. Panelist argued that sometimes there is little information to know if agencies are actually hiring the best canidates for the position.  Panelist talked about the importance of using management and employee satisfaction surveys. More surveys from employees would help agencies improve their management strategies and help to hire the best candidates for job openings. These insights would for sure lead to an improved hiring process.

2. Convert More Interns to Full Time Employees

An internship is a great trial period to see if an intern is good fit for the agency and a way for agencies to retain talent. By using this trial period, agencies will know if the intern will be a good fit for full time employee. Many of the panelist argued that an internship is the best fit to see if full time employment will work out, much better than any other process currently used.

3. Capitalize On Public Service Energy

People are energetic to serve, many people do not realize that job functions they do in the non-profit sector can be replicated in the Federal government. Federal government needs to improve the public perception of what it means to be a federal employee and work towards telling the stories of all the great work feds do

4. Compensation Reform

To retain talent and attract new talent to the federal workforce, compensation needs to be more market oriented, the current system is antiquated and in desperate need of reform. Technology is changing quickly, the type of federal worker and the skills required are much different than they have been in the past. Agencies need to be more selective on the skills they are looking for and make sure they fit the organizations needs. One panelist argued that we need a more agile workforce. It is also to important how well educated the federal workforce is and the myriad of positions a person can obtain. Scientist, lawyers, physcist, all are needed to perform government functions. In order to compete with other sectors, federal government needs to improve how workers are compensated.

5. Remove Barriers to Entry

The goal here was to attract talent by making the application process easier and faster. Thankfully, much of this is on the way with the re-launch of USAJOBs this fall. Once hired, the Federal government needs to keep talent people – develop trainings, mentorship programs and help advanced talented employees career to keep them in the federal workforce.

Any comments these 5 solutions? What are some other ideas you have to improve the federal hiring process?

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