OPM working 'around the clock' to fix USAJobs.gov

Thursday - 10/20/2011, 5:50am EDT

Emily Kopp, reporter, Federal News Radio

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The Office of Personnel Management said it's working around the clock to accommodate all job seekers on the overloaded USAJobs.gov site. The revamped site, which posts job openings in the federal government, went live last week but a high volume of traffic brought the site to a standstill for some users.

OPM is hurriedly negotiating contracts for more server capacity, and the hardware should be in place by early next week at the latest, Director John Berry told agency leaders and federal union representatives Wednesday at the Federal Labor-Management Council meeting in Washington.

USAJobs.gov is serving 94 percent of users now, he said. It has processed more than 141,000 job applications since OPM relaunched it eight days ago.

"So we know the system is working for a lot of people," Berry said. But he acknowledged that was little comfort to job seekers still receiving error messages asking them to try back in a few minutes.

"Obviously we've been experiencing a few bumps and I want to apologize for any inconvenience that has caused people," he said. "The good news is that we're well underway with it. We're aware and working very hard."

Extended deadlines

Federal human resources staff also are having problems because they must link USAJobs.gov to their agencies' own portals that use various private-sector products, Berry said.

Agencies are extending application deadlines for nearly all job openings posted on the site by two-to-three weeks, he added.

When OPM launched the latest version of USAJobs.gov eight days ago, Berry said he hoped it would "open the floodgates for innovation and competition" by taking advantage of open technology that would make it easier for agencies and government contractors to work with the site.

Instead, the floodgates opened to a site-stopping 2.5 million users per day — many more than OPM expected.

The agency designed the site's capacity to handle three times the old version's highest load.

"We are exceeding that significantly and that's what is causing the stress on the system. It's greater than what anybody projected," Berry said. "We did plan and had built extra capacity, but it has exceeded even what we had planned for."

Try again later

Until the site can accommodate all users, Berry said, OPM is controlling the flow by limiting capacity. He likened the situation to calling a customer-service phone number during peak hours and being put on hold. People who go to USAJobs.gov at its busiest times of day may get messages asking them to try again later.

That continued to happen Wednesday at 3:55 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The lockouts lasted for less than five minutes each time, however.

Users who get that message should click the "refresh" button on their website browsers, Berry said.

In the meantime, the agency is working hard to iron out all the bugs while it waits for more server capacity, he added. .

"We have people working seven days a week around the clock on this. We've got sort of a shift mentality until we get this in smoother water," he said.

OPM is monitoring user complaints about USAJobs on Facebook and Twitter pages and replying more frequently.

Now that so many users can access the site, Berry said, the most common complaint is users have to change their login name and password. OPM is trying to make the process easier, he said.

Even with all of the glitches, some of the site's new features are working well, Berry said. Users can save documents online so they can apply for multiple jobs without filling in forms again.

USAJobs.gov is the agency's most widely used website. OPM expects to save money over a five-year period by operating it in house. The agency spent between $5-to-$6 million per year on its previous contract with Monster Government Solutions, Berry said.

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