Job fair follows State model

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"Filling the ranks"

The federal CIO Council's proposed nationwide "virtual IT job fair" is taking its cue from two Web-enabled recruiting events the State Department held two years ago that attracted more than 2,300 applicants.

Before both events — held in February and November 1999 — job-seekers filled out applications online at the Office of Personnel Management's USAJobs Web site, Pat Popovich, State's deputy chief information officer, said.

After compiling that information over four weeks, OPM sent State a list of applicants whose skills met the requirements for federal employment. State then called eligible applicants for interviews, ran preliminary security checks on them and made conditional job offers — all in one day.

"We were able to bring [successful applicants] on board right away with a temporary security clearance, and many were permanently on board within two to four weeks. This is the same thing we're going to be doing this time," Popovich said. "The difference is the virtual job fair saves us four to five weeks up front."

The CIO Council's virtual job fair, which is aimed at hiring scores of new federal information technology employees, will be held either the week of April 15 or the week of April 22. Applicants will complete a screening questionnaire, a technology aptitude test, and a skills inventory — all online — and OPM will compile and rank the results, Popovich said.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, first came up with the idea of the job fair.

"[Davis] asked CIOs how they were taking advantage of the downturn in the economy to recruit new workers to government. Their response was that they were not," said Dave Marin, Davis' press secretary. "So Davis challenged them with finding a way to do so."

"The virtual job fair is an important first step because it represents active recruiting by the federal government using cutting-edge techniques," Marin said.

Whether the job fair will receive the financing it needs is still an issue. OPM is providing some funding, but "at this point we're finalizing the aspects of it with OPM and with the financial requirements," Popovich said.

Online job searches have become so popular in the private sector in recent years that Monster.com, the largest online job board, has more than 6 million people conducting job searches during peak weekday periods.

The virtual IT job fair "could be the pilot for the future of hiring for the U.S. government," Popovich said.

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