Obama Unveils Hiring Reforms

The Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-improving-federal-recruitment-and-hiring-process">plans</a> to reform and revolutionize the process agencies use to hire government workers.

The Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled plans to reform and revolutionize the process agencies use to hire government workers.

The guidance requires federal agencies by Nov. 1 to eliminate essay-style questions from federal applications and allow individuals to apply for jobs by submitting resumes and cover letters or by completing simple, plain language applications. The guidance also eliminates the "rule of three," where federal managers select hires from among the top three applicants for a position, in favor of the broader "category rating" approach.

"The best talent doesn't wait around for 140 days - they find another job," federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients said at an event on Tuesday . "We need to streamline our hiring process to make it more competitive and candidate-friendly. Across twenty 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 guidance also requires that managers responsible for hiring are more fully involved in the hiring process, including planning current and future workforce requirements, identifying the skills required for a job and participating in the recruiting and interviewing process. Managers also will be required by to provide the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget with timelines and targets to improve the quality and speed of agency hiring by the Nov. 1 deadline.

The guidance also requires agencies to notify individuals applying for jobs through USAJOBS.gov about the status of their application at key stages of the application process.

Tom Shoop poses some interesting questions about previous attempts to overhaul the federal hiring process. The problem with past reforms, he says, is that agencies often tried to find ways to continue using their old methods. Will this approach to reform solicit a different response from agencies, or are more accountability safeguards necessary? How will the reforms impact federal IT hiring, particularly as agencies may need to backfill an estimated 957,000 federal IT jobs left vacant by retirements by 2016?