CIO Council plans online job fair

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"Filling the ranks"

The federal CIO Council's proposal to hold a weeklong, nationwide "virtual" information technology job fair in mid-April may permanently change the way agencies hire IT workers.

The virtual IT job fair "could be the pilot for the future of hiring for the U.S. government," said Pat Popovich, the State Department's deputy chief information officer who is involved in developing the virtual job fair.

"We literally would not have to go through the months-long process we have now, where jobs have to be opened through a posting," Popovich said. "One of the biggest criticisms of getting a job with the government is it takes so long. This process could be helpful in that regard."

The job fair, aimed at hiring scores of new federal IT employees, was modeled after two Web-enabled recruiting events the State Department held two years ago that attracted more than 2,300 applicants. Job seekers will go to the Office of Personnel Management's USAJobs Web site to complete a screening questionnaire, a technology aptitude test and a skills inventory. OPM, in turn, will compile and rank the results, Popovich said.

If USAJobs were to make the interactive application process available continually, OPM could build a database of qualified applicants and e-mail managers who have openings a list of people who might meet their needs, she added.

The lawmaker who originated the idea met the proposal with guarded enthusiasm. "We applaud the CIO Council for putting this together, but we are going to be watching the progress following the fair," said Dave Marin, press secretary for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who first approached the CIO Council with the idea. Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

"How, for example, will the CIO Council work with OPM to cut down on the slow hiring process? Has OPM reached out to government agencies to assist them in better marketing the open positions?" Marin asked. "Rep. Davis wants to work with the administration to see how we can meet these goals."

The job fair will be held either the week of April 15 or the week of April 22, according to an e-mail that the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils sent to its members March 5.

Online job searches have become so popular in the private sector in recent years that Monster.com, one of the largest online job boards, has more than 6 million people conducting job searches during peak weekday periods. Job seeking is currently the second most popular activity on the Internet, according to the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School.

Potential job applicants are also frustrated by the job-posting process.

"What a bureaucratic system we have created that it takes three to six months to fill internal and external job announcements," a Federal Computer Week reader wrote in response to a recent story on problems the government has with filling information security positions.

"I do not intend to bash the federal government, but they may want to look into Monster.com, Hotjobs.com and the like to get an idea of how to attract potential candidates without having to resort to expensive newspaper ads," wrote another. "How can I apply for a position if I can't find it or understand the bureaucratic-speak describing the position?"

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.

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Virtually job searching

A job seeker will go to the Office of Personnel Management's USAJobs Web site, where he or she will complete an online questionnaire. If the individual meets the requirements, the Web site will direct the applicant to take an interactive technology aptitude test, which will be graded by OPM, and complete a skills inventory online.

OPM will compile the information and rank each applicant according to his or her test score and skill level.

Those lists will be sent to agencies that have openings, and each agency will decide how to carry the hiring process further. The State Department plans to hold a one-day event where applicants will undergo personal interviews and security screening, according to Pat Popovich, the department's deputy chief information officer.

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