Some job applications may be missing

This story has been modified since its original publication to clarify information.

The Office of Personnel Management’s automated system that processes many of the job applications on was out of service for at least two days, apparently without enough backup, which may have resulted in the loss of job applications filed from Aug. 7 to Aug. 11.

OPM’s USA Staffing a web-based hiring management system, is used to post vacancies, receive and analyze job application and rank job applicants from the portal. It is used by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and at least two dozen other agencies.The system is not part of USAJobs, but connects to it.

The USA Staffing system was taken offline for unscheduled maintenance from Aug. 9 to Aug. 11. When it was recovered, the system reportedly reverted to a configuration dating from Aug. 7. It was not immediately known how many applications were lost or otherwise affected during the Aug. 7 to 11 period, but the number could be in the thousands.

Related story:

VA signs up for OPM's USAStaffing application

As a result of the USA Staffing outage, efforts are underway at the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to identify and contact individuals who applied for positions on during that period, and to extend hiring deadlines and take other corrective actions, according to an internal memo dated Aug. 12 circulating on an HHS Listserv and obtained by Federal Computer Week.

“HHS has proactively extended all vacancies to Aug. 15 that close between Aug. 7 and Aug.10 to afford applicants additional time to apply/re-apply for vacancies,” the HHS memo said. “This unscheduled maintenance has undoubtedly caused a delay in recruitment efforts and service agreements. The USA Staffing Program office has informed HHS they will begin the notification of applicants adversely impacted by the system down time at 12 p.m. Aug. 12. In addition, the Office of Human Resources is working through other mitigating actions required to return to a steady state of recruitment activities.”

According to the memo, the sequence of events went like this: On Aug. 9, USA Staffing was brought offline by OPM to perform unscheduled maintenance to resolve technical problems and malfunctions being reported by users of the system. During the unscheduled maintenance, applicants and other users were not able to access the system.

The system was brought back online at 4:45 a.m. on Aug. 11 by reverting to a backup system that was dated as of 4 p.m. on Aug. 7, the HHS memo said.

Presumably, those applications filed without a backup system -- from 4 p.m. Aug. 7 until 1 p.m. on Aug. 9 — were most at risk of being lost.

For the period of Aug. 9 to Aug. 11, the system reportedly was not functioning and not accepting applications, so it is possible that the risk of lost applications was minimized during that time.

Thousands of  job applications per day are managed through the USAStaffing system. On a typical day, logs more than 450,000 visits and establishes 9,400 new applicant accounts, according to an OPM news release.

OPM officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Disappointed job applicants complained of the inability to apply for jobs on the USAJobs Facebook page.

“Application Manger has been down for 2 DAYS!” posted Timothy Westfall on Aug. 10. “Come'on!!! I missing out on the chance for applying for jobs.... and there is no other way around it!! “

Others posted helpful updates on the situation.

“I keep receiving the following notice when I am directed there from USA Jobs: We apologize but the system is currently unavailable due to maintenance. Please try again later,” another user wrote on Aug. 10.

“For everyone who is having issues with Application Manager. This is what their helpdesk has replied to me: "Application Manager is still down for maintenance due to a system problem and the system will not be back online today, August 10th. The system should be up sometime tomorrow, August 11th. We are working with our customer agencies on extending announcements that have closed during this time period,” Anitria Roberts-Lawrence posted on the USAJobs Facebook page on Aug. 10.

The USA Staffing system has been adopted by many federal agencies to manage hiring online through The system automatically generates vacancy announcements, publishes the announcements on, accepts applications, analyzes applicant qualifications, rates and ranks job applicants, manages applicant records and notifies applicants, among other functions.

In recent years, USA Staffing was being used by more than 27 agencies. In October 2010, OPM released a mobile application to access available on iPhone and iPad.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 Charnita DC

My bureau never got notice of this problem until today, this morning. The phone is ringing constantly and people are so mad, saying they are sueing us, filing an EEO complaint, calling their congressman, writing the president and other threats. My manager says that we may have to reannounce every job to avoid lawsuits and wishes that the Department had notified us when they got the message buyt everyone was on vacation in August.

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 Doug Reno, NV

What does BHRC stand for? I totally agree with & understand what you're going thru. I work in human resources at a VA hospital & it's frustrating for us as well so you aren't alone. All we can do is try & make the best of it.

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 Carol Maryland

I recently found out that applying through USAJOBS is a joke. I applied for 4 jobs. Received confirmation emails for all 4 and then received one email stating that I was eligible for the job, but didn't receive the same email regarding the other 3 (all the same job title). I called the Helpdesk and was told I was eliglble for all 4 and scored "extremely high." I should hear something in a month or so. I called back after 3 weeks and not hearing anything and was told I was ineligible for two of the jobs and the other two had been selected. I emailed the contact on the vacancy announcements and received an email saying I was ineliglbe for 2 of the jobs due to veteran's preference and the other two, my application was incomplete because they didn't receive an SF-50!!! Why aren't applicants notified if their application is incomplete? I checked "My Application Manager" and it stated my applications were complete. How can anyone get a different job in the government, when apparently the people in BHRC have no clue what is going on!?

Wed, Aug 17, 2011

Please let folks know that this statement "If you applied for a vacancy on anywhere from 4:00 PM August 7 and 1:00 PM August 11" is not accurate. If you applied via USAJobs and were sent to apply online using a USAStaffing application, then you need to worry. If you found a vacancy on USAJobs and applied using a online application other than USAStaffing, like Avue or Monster, then you do not need to worry about a lost application. Only USAStaffing applications were lost.

Tue, Aug 16, 2011 Melanie Salt Lake City

Don't they lose them all? I apply all the time and never hear anything except "application received"

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