Hiring makeover helps attract younger feds

Participants in a recent federal hiring experiment used commercial software tools and practices to find and hire qualified applicants whom they wanted but could not attract because of bureaucratic procedures.

Marcia Marsh, vice president for government transformation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that spearheaded the Extreme Hiring Makeover, said the 10-month experiment succeeded in attracting qualified younger employees.

The most important lesson is for program managers, human resources managers, executive officers and administrative officers "to spend a few hours in a room together discussing a strategy for each and every hire," Marsh said. Delegating hiring to HR, she added, "is like asking your chief financial officer to spend your program dollars."

For the makeover, seven human resources companies and organizations offered their software and consulting services at no charge to the agencies that participated.

Monster Government Solutions provided help with branding, marketing, job analysis and prescreening of applications. CPS Human Resource Services mapped the agencies' existing hiring processes. Brainbench offered online skills assessments. The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems helped the agencies target qualified candidates who were not actively seeking federal jobs. EPredix assisted in conducting structured interviews and other behavioral and cognitive assessments of job candidates. Korn/Ferry International and the Human Capital Institute contributed consulting and training expertise.

The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) volunteered for the Extreme Hiring Makeover after an unsuccessful search, said James Cavanagh, NNSA's deputy associate administrator for management and administration.

Agency officials restarted the hiring process using approaches they learned from the makeover companies. "We got an eightfold increase in the number of applicants, and we had the type of applicants that we'd dreamed about," Cavanagh said.

One-third of NNSA's federal staff will be eligible to retire by 2006. "We had to replace the scientists, the engineers, the information technologists and the business talent that we need to run the weapons complex," Cavanagh said.

So the agency put together multimedia presentations to give to potential applicants. "We put them on thumb drives that they could stick into their laptops when they left the recruitment sessions," he said.

To supplement the multimedia presentations, NNSA offered new financial incentives, including a student loan repayment program. "With many students facing bills of $100,000 or more, the repayment program was a major factor in getting the right people and the scientists and engineers that the agency needed to attract," Cavanagh said. "They need to get those [bills] out of the way so they can move on."

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