OPM Touts Upgrades to Federal Jobs Site

OPM Director Beth Cobert

OPM Director Beth Cobert Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

USAJOBS has had several makeovers in its 20 years.

The Office of Personnel Management this week is touting upgrades made over the past year to simplify and improve USAJOBS, the much-maligned website most people use to apply for jobs in the federal government.

USAJOBS, which posts more than 14,000 federal jobs each month, has undergone several makeovers since the site originally launched in 1996. OPM solicited feedback from focus groups and other forums to make several changes to the portal since February, including creating a new landing page and user interface; a mobile-friendly design that replaced the USAJOBS app; a new help center; and new user profile experience.

“I’m really excited about all of the progress we have made with USAJOBS,” said acting OPM Director Beth Cobert in a statement. “But this doesn’t mean our work is done. The USAJOBS team here at OPM will continue to solicit user feedback and make continuous enhancements to the website to improve the experience for applicants interested in federal service,” she said.

There are approximately 11 million user accounts on USAJOBS, and 16 million resumes posted. Users conduct 1 billion job searches annually.

OPM announced in February that it would further streamline the website in phases over the course of the year and beyond. The changes came after a year-long effort spearheaded by former OPM Director Katherine Archuleta to identify the site’s shortfalls and how to create a “human-centered design.” For instance, users can now upload and save relevant application documents to their profiles. OPM has tried to make the site more navigable, and worked with agencies to create job descriptions and other guidance that is clear and written in plain language. There’s also a section now that lists federal jobs by category (e.g., technology, medical, dental and public health) that are mission-critical and hard-to-fill.

USAJOBS has undergone various iterations in its two decades. OPM relaunched the site three years ago, after security concerns prompted OPM to bring the site in-house, but it was a public relations disaster. Version 3.0 went live Oct. 11, 2011, and received nearly 45 million page views on its second day and thousands of complaints from users on login difficulties, missing email notifications and nonworking search parameters.

OPM has tried over the past few years, with some success, to make the federal hiring process less bureaucratic by simplifying job descriptions, creating a more resume-based system for applicants (i.e., eliminating the “knowledge, skills and abilities” section), and using technology to help hiring managers sift through hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of applications for jobs. It’s a difficult and complicated process because the government has to adhere to certain rules and hiring authorities that don’t exist in the private sector.