OPM blames high demand for USAJobs complaints

An unexpectedly high number of users flooded the new USAJobs website when it launched, causing the time outs and errors that many users experienced, OPM says.


The Office of Personnel Management blamed the bulk of the technical failures affecting USAJobs.gov 3.0 on the extremely high volume of traffic, although some users believe software bugs also are at fault.

OPM officials asserted that USAJobs.gov volume is running five times higher than at its past peak usage times, which has contributed to the problems thousands of users are experiencing, including “several thousand” complaints to the USAJobs Help Desk in three days.

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“We have had an unprecedented number of visitors to USAJobs 3.0 since Tuesday—(in) excess of five times the volume we have had in the peak history of USAJobs, and an incredible amount of interest,” the agency said in the statement. “Such high volume has also made it difficult to use the site to its fullest capacity, such as using the new search features and building new saved searches.”

The popular USAJobs.gov website previously was operated and hosted by Monster.com in a contract with OPM. Federal authorities began working to develop their own 3.0 version of USAJobs.gov 18 months ago. The agency completed that development and took USAJobs.gov offline for several days for the conversion, and then debuted the new system on OPM’s servers on Oct. 11.

Since the launch, another problem reported by users is site inaccessibility, with visitors to USAJobs.gov unable to access the website at times throughout the day. “I have been waiting three hours,” was one of the complaints posted on Facebook.

OPM officials said the inaccessibility of the USAJobs.gov website was due to the huge volume of traffic. “This is due to the site traffic causing the page to intermittently timeout,” OPM officials wrote on the site’s Facebook page.

Agency officials added that they are striving to address the problems being reported by users.

“We will continue to experience technical glitches, like most new IT products,” the OPM statement continued. “We expected this and have a dedicated team working around the clock to address these issues. We are working carefully to make 3.0 run smoothly, realizing it takes some time to get a new system to ‘quiet down.’”

Asked when the USAJobs.gov website would be running smoothly, or whether cloud computing resources or additional personnel were being brought in to increase capacity to ease the downtime, OPM officials did not provide a response by press time.

The agency said visitors are being reminded that they must update their passwords and security questions, and it asserted that those issues account “for a great percentage of the several thousand help desk requests we have received.”

While OPM officials appeared to be blaming all of the negative user experiences on extremely high traffic, some users are expressing skepticism about that assessment and asserting that OPM should have done more testing for software bugs.

“This is NOT a simple capacity issue,” a USAJobs user told Federal Computer Week. “If too many people were using the site at once, the results would not display at all. Search results are in many cases incomplete, misdirected, or wrong. This is bad code.”

“I'm not sure what load balancing (to increase capacity) would have to do with the search function simply not returning solid results,” wrote another user on GovLoop. “(There are) lots of reports of mixed results, differing results off from same search strings, etc. Sounds like there is some bad code in there somewhere.”

However, OPM officials assert that overcapacity is the root of many of the problems.

“Many of the challenges that users have experienced are a result of the system timing out due to traffic and not technical functionality issues,” OPM officials said on Facebook.

Additional details on the volume of traffic being experienced by USAJobs.gov are not completely clear.

According to the program’s Facebook page, USAJobs.gov 3.0 has received, on average, 2.5 million visitors per day for Oct. 11 to Oct. 13. “This is three times the highest peak day in 2010 on the previous USAJOBS,” OPM said on the Facebook page.