Traffic crushes fed Monster

A high volume of online job listings and applications at two agencies has forced Monster Government Solutions to take down its Internet-based federal job application programs for more than a month, officials said today.

The software program, QuickHire, is used by more than 100 federal agencies, but systems at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and the Department of Health and Human Services crashed because of the unexpectedly high number of people applying for jobs, and the large number of jobs the agencies posted online.

Chris McCarrick, senior vice president and general manager of Monster Government Solutions, said the QuickHire software performed below expectations because of the increased volume. But Monster Government, a subsidiary of Monster Worldwide, is now working to expand the systems to carry a bigger load, and has added staff to help run the programs. The code is being rewritten and more hardware is being added to help keep the system humming. Additional employees are being deployed to analyze the problems and fix them, he said.

"We're optimizing the solution," McCarrick said. "We've dedicated substantial resources on the software front and infrastructure front."

He said he did not know how much longer it would take to get a robust system back up and operational.

"We're working with those clients on a daily basis and dedicated substantial resources to this," McCarrick said. "We're confident we will bring them back online."

The delay in processing applications has caused work shortages at the CBP, which is trying to fill at least 750 jobs.

"We get vacancies everyday," said Christianna Halsey, a spokeswoman for the agency, which is part of the Homeland Security Department. "We're playing the game of catch-up."

The first serious problem with the program surfaced in January, but by mid-February, the system was completely unusable, Halsey said.

CBP officials have been using the online application system for three divisions. But without the software, they have been forced to turn to the Office of Personnel Management to help process applications.

"It's a steep curve for us right now," Halsey said. "We're not paying Monster, and they are not billing us. One of the other issues is that we have to retrain staff, and that takes time."

At HHS, spokesman Bill Hall said the agency is hiring temporary human resources staff to help process paper applications and expects to outsource some of the work to contractors.

"We are working with Monster's folks to figure out a solution," Hall said. "We don't have a time frame. In the meantime, we are reverting to the old paper-based process, and we're posting most HHS jobs at usajobs.gov."

Despite all the problems, the system has never lost an applicant, McCarrick said.

"We have worked with clients to notify job seekers about system outages, client by client," he added.

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