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Applying for Federal Jobs? Uncle Sam’s Career Site To Get a Facelift

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By Jack Moore March 9, 2015

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The Obama administration is planning several tweaks to USAJobs, aiming to make the notoriously creaky federal jobs portal easier to use. 

Officials at the Office of Personnel Management also hope to transform the site from a static repository of resumes into a more dynamic tool that helps federal hiring managers leverage data to make hiring decisions.

The planned website revamp is part of a series of workforce initiatives announced Monday during a webcast by OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.

The site redesign has been in the works for a while. The agency turned its “innovation lab” loose on the problem-child of a website last year.

“We know that this important gateway to federal service does not currently meet the needs of the very large and diverse group of Americans who use it,” said Tracy Orrison, who leads the site’s user experience and data analytics team.

Orrison’s team relied on focus groups and user surveys of hundreds of site visitors to come up with the areas most in need of overhauling. She promised a “beginning to end” look at the USAJobs experience.

However, don’t necessarily look for a “big-bang” relaunch of the website. OPM, instead, plans to roll out new features and fixes every 12 weeks throughout the year, Orrison said.

That will allow users to get acclimated to site changes, she said. It could also prevent a repeat of what happened the last time OPM undertook a major update to the jobs site. A crush of jobseekers visiting the site in the days immediately after it relaunched in the fall of 2011 led to repeated site crashes. The near-“death spiral” proved a black eye to OPM, which had in-sourced the jobs site after previously contracting it out to Monster.com for several years.

The latest redesign also aims to turn the site into a veritable data mine for agency HR officials.

"USAJobs has a lot of data related to the federal hiring process, which until recently has never really been analyzed on a large-scale basis,” said Graham Kerster, USAJobs data scientist.

A dashboard developed in consultation with the White House Office and Science and Technology Policy provides hiring managers with a better understanding of the applicant pool for federal jobs, particularly in the science, technology, education and mathematics fields. Hiring managers can also crunch the data to see why jobseekers for these STEM positions abandon the application process, he said.

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