USA — Obama Calls for Federal Government Hiring Reform

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed a mem­o­ran­dum today call­ing for a sweep­ing over­haul of fed­er­al gov­ern­ment recruit­ment and hir­ing prac­tices and cre­at­ing a “his­toric oppor­tu­ni­ty” for the Defense Depart­ment to revamp its out­dat­ed hir­ing sys­tem, a defense offi­cial said.

“To deliv­er the qual­i­ty ser­vices and results the Amer­i­can peo­ple expect and deserve, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment must recruit and hire high­ly qual­i­fied employ­ees, and pub­lic ser­vice should be a career of choice for the most tal­ent­ed Amer­i­cans,” Oba­ma said in the memo. “Yet the com­plex­i­ty and inef­fi­cien­cy of today’s fed­er­al hir­ing process deters many high­ly qual­i­fied indi­vid­u­als from seek­ing and obtain­ing jobs in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.”

The mem­o­ran­dum calls for, in part, the elim­i­na­tion of lengthy appli­ca­tion process­es, includ­ing essay-style ques­tions for ini­tial appli­cants; a reduc­tion in the time it takes to hire mis­sion-crit­i­cal and com­mon­ly filled posi­tions; and a greater involve­ment by man­agers in the hir­ing process.

“Amer­i­cans must be able to apply for fed­er­al jobs through a com­mon-sense hir­ing process, and agen­cies must be able to select high-qual­i­ty can­di­dates effi­cient­ly and quick­ly,” the pres­i­dent wrote. “The abil­i­ty of agen­cies to per­form their mis­sions effec­tive­ly and effi­cient­ly depends on a tal­ent­ed and engaged work force, and we must reform our hir­ing sys­tem to fur­ther strength­en that work force.”

Clif­ford L. Stan­ley, under­sec­re­tary of defense for per­son­nel and readi­ness, rep­re­sent­ed the Defense Depart­ment at an Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment news con­fer­ence today where the details for the new ini­tia­tive were announced, includ­ing the wide­spread impact on the depart­ment.

The hir­ing reform is a “his­toric oppor­tu­ni­ty” for the depart­ment to elim­i­nate an out­dat­ed, bureau­crat­ic hir­ing sys­tem, said Mar­ilee Fitzger­ald, the Pentagon’s act­ing deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for civil­ian per­son­nel pol­i­cy.

“Not since 1978, with the Civ­il Ser­vice Reform Act, has there been such an oppor­tu­ni­ty to acquire and devel­op our tal­ent with alacrity and con­tem­po­rary hir­ing and devel­op­ment prac­tices,” Fitzger­ald said in an Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice inter­view.

“We have mar­velous tal­ent, and they can’t fig­ure out how to get to us because we have all of these rules and a pro­lif­er­a­tion of hir­ing author­i­ties,” she added. “All of these things dis­tract our appli­cants from com­ing to us.”

The depart­ment is one of the largest civil­ian employ­ers in the world, Fitzger­ald said, hir­ing more than 100,000 employ­ees every year. This reform is vital to meet the department’s goals of attract­ing and retain­ing the high­est qual­i­ty tal­ent, she added.

The hir­ing reform will spur exten­sive changes through­out the Defense Depart­ment, she not­ed, with impacts to the hir­ing process at every step. For job seek­ers, changes include:

— An enhanced web­site at that will pro­vide job seek­ers a sin­gle, easy-to-use entry point to fed­er­al job oppor­tu­ni­ties;
— The use of a sim­ple resume and cov­er let­ter to apply for a job instead of pages-long resumes that bog down selec­tion process­es;
— Mod­ern assess­ment tools with sim­ple, quick ques­tion­naires rather than assess­ments that require long essay respons­es;
— Appli­ca­tion sta­tus feed­back at a min­i­mum of four points: receipt of appli­ca­tion, qual­i­fi­ca­tion deter­mi­na­tion, refer­ral sta­tus and result;
— Stream­lin­ing of job announce­ments from 10 to 12 pages down to about three pages. And rather than depart­ment jar­gon, the announce­ments will be writ­ten in sim­ple, easy-to-under­stand terms; and

— Enhance­ment of the Stu­dent Train­ing and Aca­d­e­m­ic Recruit­ment Pro­gram, known as STAR, in which col­lege stu­dents are hired to assist the depart­ment with its entry-lev­el recruit­ment needs, offer­ing peer-to-peer, on-site infor­ma­tion.

For man­agers, the reform will put the focus on part­ner­ing with human resource prac­ti­tion­ers to devel­op staffing plans, with the over­all aim of reduc­ing hir­ing time­lines and pro­vid­ing access to the high­est-qual­i­ty can­di­dates.

Noth­ing is more dis­ap­point­ing, Fitzger­ald not­ed, than wait­ing for a refer­ral list and then dis­cov­er­ing none of the appli­cants fits the bill. “Often,” she said, “the lack of qual­i­fied can­di­dates is a func­tion of not plan­ning for the require­ment on the front end.”

Human resources spe­cial­ists now will work with man­agers two to three years out from a job open­ing to exam­ine job require­ments and cre­ate accu­rate job descrip­tions, Fitzger­ald said.

And when the open­ing is at hand, they will encour­age man­agers to begin plan­ning imme­di­ate­ly to posi­tion them­selves for mak­ing a quick hire. Man­agers can take care of admin­is­tra­tive func­tions such as prepar­ing inter­view ques­tions and arrang­ing hir­ing pan­els up front, she explained.

On the human resources side of the house, offi­cials are look­ing at how they can reduce time­lines on tasks such as can­di­date assess­ments and refer­ral list devel­op­ment. Con­tem­po­rary assess­ment tools, for instance, will help experts weed through appli­cants quick­er and more effec­tive­ly, Fitzger­ald explained.

The department’s goal, she not­ed, is to reduce the time it takes to hire new tal­ent from the cur­rent 155-day aver­age down to 80 days. “And the short­er the bet­ter,” she added.

Fitzger­ald pro­ject­ed the new assess­ments could be oper­a­tional by as ear­ly as the end of the year.

In the mean­time, the depart­ment has launched a new hir­ing reform web­site — — that includes easy-to-digest infor­ma­tion cus­tomized for man­agers, appli­cants and human resources spe­cial­ists.

The tim­ing is right for these com­pre­hen­sive changes, Fitzger­ald not­ed.

“Cer­tain­ly, the com­plex­i­ties of the department’s engage­ments at home and abroad demand a work force with the right mix of exper­tise at hand to prop­er­ly address these emerg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and to thwart poten­tial threats that face us,” she said. “A work force with a broad port­fo­lio of capa­bil­i­ties with max­i­mum ver­sa­til­i­ty is a mis­sion imper­a­tive for the Depart­ment of Defense.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)