USAJOBS to Tell Applicants More About Their Competition, Help Identify Relevant Openings

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The federal jobs posting site has undergone significant improvements in recent years.

The federal government’s jobs website will soon undergo a series of updates, including new tools to help applicants find jobs matched to their skills and additional information throughout the hiring process. 

The Office of Personnel Management plans in fiscal 2021 to launch changes to USAJOBS, a site used by more than 500 federal agencies to post job openings. OPM has regularly overhauled and updated the site in recent years, fixing bugs and design flaws that have long frustrated federal applicants and agencies alike. 

One forthcoming tool for USAJOBS, according to the Government Accountability Office, will be a pilot program aimed at matching would-be federal employees to openings throughout government. OPM is currently testing its matching algorithms on its Open Opportunities platform, a site for existing federal workers to pursue professional development, by asking users to identify their skills. The pilot will also initially launch on that platform before expanding to USAJOBS. 

OPM plans to provide job seekers with more regular access to information about the hiring process through a new indicator available to them at any point after submitting their applications. Applicants will be able to see the number of people seeking the position and, eventually, the number of individuals selected for it and the date on which they were chosen. The tool will provide more transparency into the process and make information available more consistently, OPM officials told GAO. 

Veterans applying for civil service positions will also see process improvements, as they will for the first time be able to import data on their military service and Veterans Affairs Department disability ratings. That will in turn automate assessments of their eligibility for special veterans preference hiring status and show the applicants jobs for which they would qualify. 

OPM must still update USAJOBS to better handle the uploading of documents and ensure applicants do not have to post simple information, like their résumés, in two separate portals. 

GAO outlined several of the steps OPM has already taken to improve USAJOBS, such as updating and securing the login process, better directing applicants to jobs for which they might qualify, launching a revised template for job announcements and issuing more help pages. GAO noted that agencies have posted more than 2,000 openings looking for employees to assist in the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to more than 500,000 applications. 

The auditors also praised OPM for continuously seeking feedback on USAJOBS. It has multiple surveys that measure users’ satisfaction with the site, its helpfulness and challenges. It has asked its chief human capital officers to contact individuals who both complete the process and drop out of it to assess their experiences and has engaged in significant usability testing. OPM has launched focus groups to measure how individuals interact with the site, including “co-designing sessions” with stakeholders. GAO noted, however, OPM could solicit better feedback through more engagement on social media, but it has not had the resources for social media staff for the last year. 

In fiscal 2019, job seekers started more than 17.5 million applications on USAJOBS and searched the site more than 1.4 billion times.