Average time to hire a new fed cut by 70 days

Wednesday - 10/27/2010, 7:20am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - The average time it takes to hire a new federal employee is down to 110 days from 180 days, but that is still too long for the Office of Personnel Management.

Nancy Kichak, OPM's assistant director for employee services, said the goal is 80 days and there are several steps the agency is taking to get the average time down further.

"The prior process is already faster," she said. "From the time the President issued his memo telling us to get going, we've been going. A lot of agencies have already eliminated knowledge, skills and abilities. They have already simplified the job announcements, have done them in plain English and have done them in a way applicants can understand them."

She said many of these changes can be found easily on the USAJobs.gov website.

But the change that could have a bigger impact is coming in January.

Kichak said OPM will launch the first of many assessment tools, called USAssess, in early 2011.

"If you go in and apply for certain occupation, and we are starting with the accountants and financial analysts, there will be an assessment tool that has been validated by people in the industry asking the kinds of questions you need to select the best people for the job," she said. "When you apply for the job, you take the assessment and you save the score."

These assessments are part of the changes required by November in a May memo from President Obama.

Kichak said OPM will do assessments for every job classification area over the next two years, starting with the occupations in the 14 registers developed earlier this year. Some of the occupational categories include HR specialists, management and program analyst and IT specialist.

And hiring managers need help rating applicants. A recent Partnership for Public Service report found assessments the weakest part of the overall hiring process.

"I think the HR professionals are excited," Kichak said. "They needed the support and they wanted to get this done. The people who are doing the actual hiring are still skeptical to whether without those written KSAs they will be able to assess the candidates like they want to. The assessment tools will be in place of the KSAs."

Additionally, OPM is improving USAJobs.gov and addressing shortcomings in federal career internship programs.

Kichak said OPM will give agencies and applicants four points to understand where someone is during the hiring process. She said many agencies already are prepared to enter and receive information as part of this four-step process.

The steps in the hiring process are:

  • Notification that an application was received by the agency.

  • Notification whether or not the applicant met the basic qualifications of the position.

  • Notification whether the job seeker was referred to the hiring manager.

  • Notification of a final decision about the job.

Kichak said OPM also is addressing federal internship programs. She said the confusing names will no longer be used, and instead, it will be called Student Pathways. She said the program is in interagency clearance.

"It is a revitalization of the current programs, which are the STEP and SCEP programs," she said. "We will simplify it and call it an internship program. It will require an Executive Order so we have to make sure we have the President behind us."

OPM also is modernizing the Presidential Fellows Program (PMP) to include an online exam to whittle down the candidate pool more quickly.

Kichak said internship programs also will include onsite interviews, which haven't been done in a long time, and move away from a paper oriented program.

"I would expect that you will see something on that either if not this calendar year then very early next year," she said. "Some new things and you will understand the terminology."

OPM isn't just focusing on the hiring process. The dismissal of underperforming employees is a priority in 2011 and beyond.

Kichak said OPM is working through the Chief Human Capital Officer's Council and the federal employee unions to see how they can improve the entire dismissal process.

"It's a very hard nut to crack because so much of it is in law and involves the lawyers," she said. "There are so many appeal rights and two different forms to attack your removal notice. It's complicated and a lot of that is wrapped up in statute."

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