Fixing How We Hire Feds

on October 10, 2011 at 1:00 PM

This article originally appeared at

Is the Federal hiring system cumbersome and lengthy, and does it need to be reformed to meet the current workforce demands of the government?

That was a question posed by several government workers on GovLoop after The Brookings Institute’s Reforming the Federal Hiring Process and Promoting Public Service to America’s Youth event on September 28. The event sought to promote employment with the government and assess the ways in which the Federal hiring process needs to be reformed to attract a fresh crop of potential candidates for careers in public service.

Some of the proposed reforms included collecting higher quality information on hires, converting more interns to full-time employees, and removing barriers to entry for employment.

But the buzz didn’t end when the panel discussion concluded. When posed with these points, GovLoop community members shared their own proposals for change.

“I would change job qualifications to include integrity, collaboration and drive for results.” said Carol Davison, a human resources specialist with the Department of Commerce. “I believe that we invest too much time in seeking out technical competencies, which are relatively easy to develop, when it’s character that really impacts performance in an organization,”

Some suggested that the self-evaluation portion of some Federal applications be more scrutinized.

“We definitely need to do away with the self rating process. Way too many people are willing to exaggerate on those and say they are experts. Then the people who are better qualified but don’t exaggerate don’t even get a chance,” said an IT specialist with the VA.

“Can there be an enforced penalty – like being banned from applying for govt jobs – for those caught blatantly lying on the screening questionnaires? All this does is penalize those who have viable skills + honesty. A PhD can’t begin to compete for a fed job against the “self-assessed” experts on every single category of the self-assessment,” argued Lorie Obal, a Ph.D. candidate.

But sometimes the easiest way to increase the talent pool is to broaden the scope of the search.

Anna Abbey, a conflict resolution specialist with the EPA, suggested that current programs designed to entice fresh graduates, like the Presidential Management Fellowship, should be expanded and made more inclusive of those who have been out of school for one or two years.

“To that end, programs like the PMF that are only open to very recent graduates (while great for those recent graduates) does nothing to encourage qualified candidates with one or two years of experience from entering the federal workforce. We may be missing out on a lot of excellent candidates.”

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