COMMENTARY

Davidson: The problem with OPM’s USAJobs strategy

Adam Davidson works in the federal human capital management technology industry.

As reported in the Washington Post and then in Federal Computer Week, I lost my job at Oracle when I spoke to a Post reporter about the recent troubles with USAJobs, the website recently relaunched by the Office of Personnel Management.

Let me state that Oracle was well within its rights to terminate me for the statement attributed to me, which, unfortunately, also had Oracle’s name attached to it.

I was contacted and quoted by the Post reporter by virtue of being the manager of US Federal Recruitment, Talent Management & HR Professionals, a LinkedIn group of more than 850 human capital management (HCM) technology industry members. What I said to the reporter was not intended to be any sort of official statement from Oracle (because Oracle would never state such a thing) but was a general observation of the opinions of the members of the group, which I’ve managed for the past three years as a free community service for the industry. I was named as an Oracle employee in the original article because my LinkedIn profile said I was.

My duty to care that the issues of concern to our industry in this market segment are also understood by the media prevailed. And, sentimentally, as a former journalist myself, I felt somewhat obliged.

However, I lost my job over it. Oracle pays its employees well, and the discipline it expects from its employees in return justifies its decision.

My only concern in being the subject of this situation now is how it might distract us from the real and ongoing issues affecting the industry and the frustrated federal job applicants.

Now as a "freer" citizen patriot, allow me to present here some of the issues our industry members have observed, discussed and commented on in my group (under “qualified privilege”). And allow me to propose some modest, rational action items.

It is my opinion that the anti-competitive practices and inherent conflicts of interest that OPM has imposed on the country's world-renowned HCM technology providers deserve investigation beyond the capabilities of OPM’s inspector general.

Originally set up as a recruitment policy and regulatory agency, OPM uses its recruitment policy regulation power to coerce federal agencies into buying its products and services. It tells agencies they need not compete for what are better, faster and cheaper recruitment technologies on the open market.

OPM has picked up numerous contracts for its recruitment technology, the government-sponsored USA Staffing, without competition. OPM's contracts with federal agencies cost each agency more than any private vendor would cost in both money and time-to-hire metrics. The time-to-hire metrics at agencies that use OPM recruitment technologies and services are stagnant and embarrassingly higher than those at agencies that have gone with private-sector technologies.

So not only is USA Staffing more expensive, it has proven to be less efficient as a recruitment technology for both recruiters and applicants, and under the suspicious cloud of coercion and conflict of interest, it is procured by federal agencies in an anti-competitive manner.

As a remedial action, either the Office of Management and Budget or the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should direct all agencies that use USA Staffing to openly re-compete their contracts at the very next contract anniversary date. And the government should either shut down USA Staffing or spin it off into its own private entity.

Finally, regarding USAJobs: When OPM first announced its intention to host and manage the system internally, most of the LinkedIn group members (with the exception of the Monster members) seemed fairly neutral about it. The proposed cost was about the same, and — call us naïve — most of us thought, “How hard could it be to host and manage a job board given today’s hardware and software technologies?”

But confidence in the intelligence of the decision was lost when OPM said its real reason for hosting and managing USAJobs was to capture all the applicant traffic for governmentwide reporting and analysis. Although a noble goal, it ignores the fact that nearly half of all federal jobs — the excepted service positions — are not required to be advertised on USAJobs or anywhere at all. Under the law, only competitive service jobs must be advertised.

To capture that data, OPM required that USAJobs be the central hub into which all talent sourcing pools should feed, instead of being one of the many pools federal agencies use to recruit workers, such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, other niche and diversity career sites, and LinkedIn and Facebook. USAJobs is now touted as the one and only gateway filter (read: bottleneck) for all applicant traffic from online sourcing pools. But it fails to account for the excepted service jobs.

So not only is USAJobs reportedly more expensive now, its “data capture” raison d'être is based on a false premise.

Even now, just managing the competitive service jobs, it is choking the entire federal recruitment process unnecessarily because the truth is that governmentwide applicant traffic data can only be gathered from the unique applicant tracking software agencies use. And that data would include applicant traffic on all competitive service and excepted service jobs.

OMB or the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should initiate an audit or some sort of independent, informed review of OPM’s USAJobs management strategy.

Unless these problems are resolved, the government will never be able to attract or compete for the nation's best and brightest talent, which agencies — and we citizens — deserve.

About the Author

Adam Davidson works in the federal human capital management technology industry.

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Reader comments

Sun, Dec 25, 2011 Dave

I am trying so hard to see the positive side of USAjobs.gov, but I have had to create my resume seven times since the change over and using a lot of contact information when it is not working right.

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 Applicant

I wonder if Mr. Davidson has applied to many Government jobs! I have! It is unbelieveable the number of times I have to create a new profile applying to jobs with different agencies; with the same types of questions being asked in order to create these profiles. And, the number of times I have to upload the same supporting documents required for those applications. Yes, I can reuse these once created but unless I am applying to the same agency each and every time, there is a lot that I need to remember and do should I need to update my information. Then I learned that I had to do so because this is the business model that private sector companies providing this service to the Federal Government is using. Oh, one of these companies is also the same company that was contracted by OPM to host USAJOBS and advises applicants to upload these very documents to USAJOBS so that they can be transfered to the various agencies. You see, same profile replicated many times with same document replicated and stored with different agencies - all hosted by private sector companies. All of these add up to monies the Government has to pay over and over again. I am sure USAJOBS and USAStaffing are doing similar things. But be wary of misdirections! Hmm...

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 OccupyIT

Mr. Davidson, thank you for your candor and insightful comments. Maybe we can get Senator Coburn to take up Tom Davis' old role as the only one really interested in looking into Federal IT issues - at least if Mr. VanRoekel won't do it. Mission-First! Maybe if we keep chanting that people will stop talking about all the Distractions-First.

Tue, Dec 20, 2011

Missed that OPM is changing qualifications to include competencies that can't be assessed by regular electronic systems (learning, interpersonal skills, reading...soft skills). OPM rolled out an assessment tool last year. Good product but since it didn't allow for the assessment of technical skills at the same time and OPM insisted that they would provide certs, it didn't go over well (Who is interested in reviewing the applications of amazing communicators but who don't know anything about the technical aspects of the job?). Now OPM is adding those skills as requirements to even be considered for jobs.I may be the suspicious type but... Really? Changing the qualifications?

Tue, Dec 20, 2011

"So not only is USA Staffing more expensive, it has proven to be less efficient as a recruitment technology for both recruiters and applicants" I'm SHOCKED that the government can't do things as efficiently as the private sector. ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED! Let's get a bi-partisan committe formed immediately to study WHY the government is having this problem! NOW!

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