Taking the work out of hiring

Desirable applicants for federal jobs often become discouraged by the lengthy hiring process and end up taking their skills elsewhere. And part of the reason it can take so long to hire someone at a federal agency is the complicated procedures that must be followed.

Linda Brooks Rix and James Miller think they have a solution for both problems. Their hosted extranet system, Avue Digital Services, is intended to make it easier to keep ap-plicants well informed, while reducing the time it takes agencies to hire workers by eliminating mountains of paperwork.

Federal agencies "tend to have very long cycle times between the time they post a job to the time they select applicants for interviews," said Rix, co-chief executive officer of Avue Technologies Corp. and a former Office of Personnel Management employee. "Applicants don't get a lot of information during that time and lose interest. Agencies lose many to other jobs in the process."

Avue automates part of the application process and the hiring manager's task of creating a position description, posting it to recruiting sites on the Internet and selecting qualified applicants for interviews. In the near future, Avue will be a total workforce-management solution, with modules for enterprise learning management, performance evaluation and succession planning, according to Rix.

Those types of functions are becoming more important to federal agencies as they look not only to recruit highly skilled workers but also to retain them and help them develop new skills. At the same time, agencies are facing a shortage of human resources personnel to process the applications they receive.

"Administrative jobs are not going to increase," Rix said. "No more human resources people will be hired, even though there's a human capital crisis that requires it."

At agencies such as the Library of Congress, which rolled out Avue during a four-month period, applicants can enter the customized Avue portal directly from the library's Web site.

As soon as they apply for a job, they get feedback about whether they meet the minimum qualifications or why they may not. Once in the system, applicants receive e-mail messages as reminders before the job posting closes and to tell them if they have been referred to a hiring manager. The applicants also can save their personal information and resume on the system to apply for future job openings.

On the agency side, the human resources staff and the hiring manager are electronically updated on the status of job openings, the number of applicants and the vacancy closing dates. The system offers agency managers a pick-and-choose menu to simplify the process of creating a new vacancy notification and including the appropriate duties. Manually, that can often take months, said Avue co-CEO Miller.

Other customers using the job classification tools include the Agriculture Department's Forest Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Avue has helped the Library of Congress redesign its interviewing process, said Terri Smith, the library's director of human resources. The library now con-ducts structured interviews by a three-person panel. Panel members ask applicants questions about how they behaved in past situations to verify their experience, instead of asking questions about how they would react in hypothetical situations.

Automation is changing the way human resources managers do their jobs, said Marcia Byrd, a consultant at LOC.

"We can act as consultants," Byrd said. "Before, there was almost a sense of helplessness because of the amount of paperwork that needs to be done. Now, we are out meeting with the managers and helping them develop their positions and helping them recruit for those positions."

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