America’s Got Talent (And We Need to Hire It)

As I have written here before, in order to build a new foundation for economic growth, we need to change how Washington does business. We need to cut what doesn’t work and streamline what does so that we can create an effective and efficient federal government that is responsive to the needs of the American people.

A key component of that is recruiting and hiring the best, most-qualified people for the job. The current hiring process is overly complex and takes too long. On average, it takes 140 days to make a new hire, and in some cases, it can take nearly 200 days. Often, by the time a federal agency is ready to make an offer, the best candidates have taken a position elsewhere.

As the Washington Post reported, there are lots of people who are frustrated with the federal government’s hiring process. This dissatisfaction with the process is understandable.

Given the magnitude of the challenges we face, and the approaching retirement of nearly half the federal workforce, we have a pressing need and opportunity to make improvements to our antiquated and cumbersome personnel practices.

That is why today the President signed a Memorandum to agencies that will overhaul the way in which the federal government recruits and hires its civilian workforce.

Specifically, the Memorandum directs agencies to take several important actions by November 1, 2010:

  • First, agencies would eliminate essay-style questions from the initial phase of the Federal application process and allow applicants to rely on resumes and cover letters or complete simple, straightforward applications.
  • Second, agencies would move from a so-called "rule of three" approach to hiring, under which managers may only select from among the three highest-scoring applicants, to a "category rating" that permits agencies to consider a greater number of qualified candidates.
  • Third, agencies would increase supervisors’ involvement in and accountability for the hiring process, from workforce planning to recruiting and hiring highly qualified employees.
  • Fourth, agencies would put in place plans to improve the quality and speed of their hiring as well as provide training for managers on effective, efficient, and timely ways to recruit and hire well-qualified candidates.
  • Fifth, agencies would improve applicants’ experience by using the USAJOBS web site to notify them at key steps in the application process.
  • Finally, each agency must identify a senior accountable official for leading hiring reform implementation.

In addition, the Memorandum will task the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a plan to promote diversity in the Federal workforce, establish with OMB a government-wide performance review for hiring reform actions, and provide guidance for improving the quality of Federal job announcements. OPM will also develop an online dashboard that OMB, OPM, and agencies will use to regularly review progress to improve the quality and speed of hiring.

I am hopeful that this Memorandum will be a significant step towards making our hiring process more competitive and candidate-friendly. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government and make sure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely, the federal government can’t afford not to have the best talent.

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