Feds need to hire quickly, hire well

Federal managers may be looking in all the wrong places to hire employees to replace the thousands of government employees who will be retiring in the next five years, according to a new study.

A report on a study by the Partnership for Public Service suggests that the government not only has to hire quickly but also hire well. Few officials are using effective assessment practices to do that, the reportstates.

"Nothing has driven this point home more forcefully than the recently released 9-11 Commission report, which shows that, in some instances, having the right person in the right job can literally be a matter of life and death," officials at the nonpartisan group wrote.

The report's authors found that only 39 percent of federal employees agree that their managers are hiring people with the right skills. And many federal officials still identify candidates by relying on an applicant's self-reported training and experience, which is the least effective predictor of job performance, the report adds.

The report suggests that choosing

the wrong candidates leads to poor services, more turnover, less productivity and higher rates of absenteeism.

"If just 10 percent of new professional and administrative hires each year leave prematurely because of poor assessment practices, there is an unnecessary added cost to the government of at least $150 million annually," the report states.

In addition, the report states that many federal officials are using an assessment tool that is more than 20 years old. And many human resources directors say it does not work.

The tool gives added weight to

experience, creating an unintended bias against recent college graduates.

Federal officials still have a lot of work to do to identify the right skills for open jobs, to design a selection system related to those skills and to make sure a new assessment tool correctly measures a job candidate's skill set, according to the report.

Office of Personnel Management officials have not been ignoring the problem of finding new workers to replace those who are about to retire. OPM Director Kay Coles James has instituted a number of measures to speed the hiring process and find the best candidates.

Nevertheless, there is much more to be done, according to the report.

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21st-century hiring

A study by the Partnership for Public Service includes some tips for government officials on hiring the right people. In addition to encouraging Congress to fund development of a valid applicant assessment tool that can be used by all agencies, officials should:

Create better tests to gauge applicants' qualifications.

Use structured interviews in which all applicants are asked similar questions.

Ask applicants for work samples.

Give applicants a job-related scenario to solve during the interview.

Source: Partnership for Public Service

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