Strengthening and Streamlining Federal Recruitment and Selection

   Memo #2 of Strengthening the Federal Workforce

Summary: To address existing shortcomings in the federal recruitment and selection system, the President and Congress should take immediate steps to enhance the hiring process by providing greater strategic alignment of agency level hiring systems, strengthening merit system protections, and bolstering existing efforts to attract, select, and retain a high quality federal workforce.

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Recommended Actions

1. Improve the strategic perspective of hiring. Agencies should view and manage hiring as a critical business process, not an administrative function. Recruitment and selection should be designed as a continuous, long-term investment in attracting a high-quality workforce capable of accomplishing the organization’s mission. Recent efforts to improve internships, the presidential management fellowship, and other recruitment strategies are quite positive. Accordingly, discussions of agency branding and hiring system reforms should be integrated with the overall strategic plan and mission of the respective agency.

2. Agencies should assess their internal hiring processes, procedures, and policies. Such an assessment should better identify barriers to quality, timely, and cost-effective hiring decisions. Often, hiring barriers are self-imposed and rooted in past practices without a strategic guiding principle. For example, agencies may continue to impose excessive time frames, which may have been necessary when applications were processed manually.

3. Agencies, with the assistance of OPM, should employ rigorous assessment strategies that emphasize selection quality, not just cost and speed. In particular, agencies should develop and use assessment instruments that have a relatively strong ability to predict future performance. Multiple assessment tools used in succession can improve the effectiveness of the assessment process by managing the candidate pool and narrowing the field of qualified candidates. Agencies should work with OPM to develop assessment tools that can be used for occupations that cut across agencies. This would increase the Government’s return on investment for these assessments.

4. Agencies should improve efforts to manage the applicant pool while making the process manageable for applicants. Recent improvements to and the developing use of mobile e-recruitment platforms have resulted in significant strides in this area. However, there is still a need to continue to improve recruitment strategies, vacancy announcements, and communication with applicants. For example, enhancing ongoing communication with applicants will encourage applicants to await a final decision rather than abandon the federal job search in favor of alternative employment. 

5. Human resources staff and selection officials need to be appropriately trained to think strategically and carry out the full range of services necessary to implement an efficient recruitment and hiring system. In particular, OPM should bolster its efforts to inform hiring officials about their critical role in the hiring process, the importance of using good assessment tools, what assessment tools are available to them, and how to use the probationary period to alleviate selection mistakes.