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Federal Government Process
Federal Government Hiring Process for Jobs in the Competitive Civil Service
Before Federal government workers in the United States can start to serve the country, they all must go through a hiring process just like all other applicants in the private sector although there are distinguishing protocols put in place to suit this type of service. Due to the need for centralization and fairness of resources in government, hiring process is logically more complicated than most non-government companies or corporations. According to Crosby (2004), the said requirements entailed regulations thus the standardization of job titles. In addition, resumes are more detailed to match more specific job qualifications.
The said characteristics shape the federal government hiring process for jobs in the competitive civil service in the US. As the leading world power, it is very helpful to understand and equally interesting to know how the US Federal Government is run particularly in the selection of individuals that constitute it.
This necessitates the analysis of the hiring process in place and identifying unique areas of process management towards drafting a recommendation for a better strategy. Apart from the above objective, this paper also aims to combine the proposed process in the form of a flow chart and testing it using a standard for best practices in order to come up with the pest possible federal hiring process (US MSPB, 2007; Crosby, 2004; GAO, 2004).
There are more than 1,700,000 jobs in the US Federal Government under more than 400 occupational specialties. The top three federal agencies with the most employment are the US Department of Veterans Affairs, US Army and US Navy with 232, 644; 223, 086 and 179, 806 employees respectively.
The US Department of Homeland Security and US Air force complete the top five while US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Justice and US Department of Defense follow with workers numbering over a hundred thousand. The three smallest of the 25 US Federal agencies in terms of number of employees are the Smithsonian Institution with 4, 997 employees, US Department of Education with 4, 574 and US Securities and Exchange Commission with 3, 570 employees (Crosby, 2004).
Job titles in the Federal Government are standardized. This means the government uses a set of occupational titles called occupational series that is uniform across agencies. There are highly specific titles and there are job titles that cover broad specializations or fields of work depending on the agency where these are needed. Examples of common or broad titles include program analyst and technical writers.
The occupational series of the Federal Government shows that the most common occupation is under the category miscellaneous clerks and assistants with 74, 380 employees, followed by miscellaneous administration and programs positions with 69, 185 and information technology management positions with 64, 209 workers. The least number of employees can be found in correctional officers and budget analysis positions categories (US MSPB, 2007; Crosby, 2004).
Qualifications for US Federal Government employment primarily includes US citizenship and other experience, education or specializations depending on the position applied for. The system used for classifying jobs in terms of qualifications and other requirements is called the General Schedule (GS). This system indicates every job a 1 to 15 grade level, depending on the qualifications; the lower the grade level the lesser the qualifications (Crosby, 2004).
The main objective of the hiring process is to find the best suited person for the job position to be filled (Bennett, 2003). Appropriate laws for this process are myriad and have been established (LMC HR, 2003). The Federal Government has protocols in place for the said purpose with a standard protocol and 45- and 30-day versions.
There are five major steps in the competitive screening process. The first step involves the identification of the job and related assessments. This is followed by the recruitment and announcement step. The third step is accepting and reviewing an application which is followed by the assessment of applicants. The final major step is the certification of eligible applicants.
Under the first major step are three sub-steps which are reviewing of hiring flexibilities, conduction of job analysis and identification of competencies or KSAs, identification of assessment tools, and submission of request to the assigned examination officer. The second major step includes recruitment, creation of job announcement, and satisfaction of public notice announcements.
Review of requirements and notification of applications if requirements are not satisfied or review of qualifications if satisfied are the two subsets of the third major step. Under the fourth major step rating and ranking, case examination and competitor inventory are done. The last major step involves the drafting of selection order, issuance of certificate, selection and auditing (OPM, 2005).
Below are the current examining processes based from The Delegated Examining Operations Handbook (OPM, 2005). The first flowchart is the Competitive Examining Process which is currently utilized for hiring in competitive civil service (Figure 1). The second flow chart is the same process but with a 45-day hiring model integrated (Fig. 2). The third flow chart is the 30-day model of the SES Merit Staffing Process (Fig. 3).
In order to identify areas of improvement, there should be measurements on the current performance of the said processes. The key is therefore to mine data or statistics pertaining to each of the steps described above. Also, prior studies related to success of such steps can be reviewed to further validate the observed trends in performance.
The first area in this case is the review of hiring flexibilities. Parallel agencies should have data pertaining to the performance of this protocol. Statistics highlighting resources and equivalent decisions will show the efficiency of the methodology. Analysis should date as far back as possible so that a trend can be seen.
In doing so, a database can be put in place which can be readily available. The following factors should be noted: the size of the agency, the department and division; the load of those involved; the approximate amount of resources before and after hiring; the efficiency of the office before and after the employment; the length of service of the newly employed individual; number of additional employment related to the position. Apart from the individual statistics of the said factor, there should also be derived figures so as to give a grade or scale signifying the resulting efficiency of the target employment.
This numerical grade will be an easy and concrete guide for evaluating the need for hiring a new employee which can be used both by the office concerned and the Delegated Examining Officer. This can lower the first major step and also provide a numerical basis for every decision that will be made. Cumulatively, this will render a very significant reduction on the initial processing time in all applicable levels and agencies in the Federal Government.
The proposal, therefore, is to insert or replace altogether the first to third sub-steps in the first major step. This means the proposed sub-step would indicate: “consultation of database for job analysis” and will be directly connected to the fourth sub-step which is submission of request to the delegated examining officer.
The second area where there is possible improvement is the creation of job announcement and satisfaction of public notice requirements. There is a measurement that can be applied in this stage to determine the efficiency or past successes of the process in place.
This can be done by digging over the records in past hiring efforts and researching literature related to this. The number of applicants, speed of applications and overall turnout can be correlated to the efficiency of spreading the job announcements in the target demographics. A very high turnout would be regarded as ideal although the specificity of those recruited should be the main focus of the review.
On the other hand, mass media studies should also be used as established markers of job announcement efficiency. These should include all the forms of communication or information media such as newspaper or print, radio announcements, television advertisements and internet website posts.
The method would involve collating articles on these avenues which align the turnout of applicants with the medium used, the specificity of these applications, number of short-listed individuals and the speed of reaction to the advertisements. Also the success rate for each of form of dissemination can be a gauge of the applicability of each method. Again, a numerical figure in the form of percentage for each of the medium analyzed can be very helpful in placing in rank probable method to be used for a particular job announcement.
In the context of the hiring process, the above information gathered can be highly useful before proceeding with making of job announcement and recruitment. If there is already a previous study or data which can be ideally retrieved from a network database, the step between recruitment and review of applications can be greatly reduced. Therefore, a single sub-step, namely use of announcement wizard, can replace the two sub-steps called creating job announcement and satisfying public notice requirements.
To better the federal government hiring process, it is imperative to look for loopholes in the system. Also, consulting available best practices in the said area will definitely provide a good example in refining the system. There are problem areas and challenges and identifying those are already a task on itself.
The US Merit Systems Protection Board or US MSPB (2007) enumerated the problems concerning the process. It said on its report that the hiring process is long, not applicant-friendly and ineffective; standards have limited use and inadequate; reduces competition; waste resources; does not use automation effectively and do not include government-wide reforms (US MSPB).
According to the NCAA (2005) some of the areas of hiring best practices include increasing the diversity of the candidate pool, exploiting job posting avenues, looking beyond paper qualifications, using search firms, resources and databases.
Character and leadership skills that are not easily transferred on the job through training or staff development but critical for high performance in a particular position should be the main focus of every job search processes in terms of best practices (Schoonover, 2002).
According to Corlett (2003), best practices in hiring include appropriate scheduling, hiring talent and skill and not personality, using networks to better search, improving job announcements and avoiding limited choices among other ideal practices.
Hands-on training with actual tools or apparatus that are used in the company and allocating available time for job applicants and not for examiner or interviewer are just two of the best practices in hiring, according to Bitzenburg (2003). NowHire (2007) gives importance on understanding applicant demographics, providing an easy mode of application and taking advantage of the availability of technology.
According to InterviewExchange (2006), when using the internet for recruiting purposes the following best practices would be of great help: focusing on the top applicants, running an active career site and getting everyone involve among its seven listed practices.
The abovementioned best practices can be fitted into a currently in use hiring process and produce a more ideal version. After looking at the said practices, it can be noted that there are points that have been forwarded in some studies or articles that are of little importance in other best practices manual.
For example, some put importance on having an online presence to better disseminate the job announcement. One manual elaborates on the focus on skills and talent and not on personality. Some highlight the role of time and other factors in conducting interview and examination while some put emphasis on maintaining diversity in the workplace as seen from the above publications.
Having encountered such best practices and recommendations, it is now appropriate to apply those points when developing a better version of the already existing federal government hiring process for competitive civil service (Figure 1). This would include suggestions based from the concerned areas as listed in this paper such as installing database for job vacancy evaluation and for making job announcements.
The result therefore is to incorporate salient points in the best practices in the sub-steps already existing. The use of electronic resources has already been added. Skills and talent focus can be found in the review of applications sub-step. What remains are time considerations and diversity improvement. The former would be an end result for the entire process and will be ensured with the addition of databases and networks as mentioned above. The latter will be incorporated to the job vacancy analysis or the first sub-step of the first major step.
To measure the efficiency of the above process, the flowchart has points wherein evaluation techniques can be put in place (stars). The first star is placed after submission of request to examining officer. The approval rating of requests can be used as a measure of success of the new sub-step.
The time expended to complete the whole major step will also be indicative of the efficiency of the new system. The second star after notice maker will measure the extent of persons reached by the announcement. The third star placed after qualifications review will give an indication of the specificity of the previous steps. The more appropriate applicants are found, the better is the performance of the new process. Overall, the time and number of qualified applicants will therefore be the basic measure of success of the proposed model.
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