Some USAJobs.gov 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 USAJobs.gov 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 USAJobs.gov 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 USAJobs.gov 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, USAJobs.gov 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 USAJobs.gov. The system automatically generates vacancy announcements, publishes the announcements on USAJobs.gov, 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 USAJobs.gov 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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