Critical Read

Where to find -- and how to woo -- your next hires

biggest bang

The report from the Partnership for Public Service provides strategies to attract science and math experts to federal amployment.

What: “The Biggest Bang Theory: How to Get the Most out of the Competitive Search for STEMM Employees.”

Why: The federal government is facing a potential personnel crisis in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine workforce. In 2012, the government employed just under 525,000 STEMM professionals across all agencies, but only 8 percent of them were under the age of 30. The number of those jobs will grow while the pool of qualified applicants will remain tight or even dwindle.

To recruit qualified professionals across all the STEMM fields in the face of robust private-sector competition, federal agencies and Congress need to change the recruitment, hiring and career tracks for STEMM employees, according to a new report from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Although private firms might offer math geeks and engineers the chance to work in T-shirts and play foosball in the office, the government gives STEMM workers the chance to tackle unique challenges, such as conducting high-level medical research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developing cryptography for the intelligence community and designing spacecraft for NASA. In other words, the government offers opportunities that don't have private-sector analogues, and that is something recruiters should stress to job candidates.

Additionally, it's important to use peer-to-peer recruitment and reach job candidates early in their careers or while they're still in college. Competitions and scholarship opportunities can attract young students who might not otherwise consider a career in government service.

Some of the report’s recommendations would require more formal changes to the federal recruitment process, including carving out a category of non-management senior positions at the GS-15 pay level for top-level scientists, engineers and researchers who do not want to take on management responsibilities. The federal government could also capitalize on opportunities to hire non-citizen STEMM workers, but that would require Congress to change the law.

Verbatim: "The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should provide direct-hire authority to agencies for all STEMM occupations, and use existing authority to create and sponsor a STEMM version of the Presidential Management [Fellows] program to bring in a highly talented pool of applicants. Congress has a role to play as well. Many non-U.S. citizens contribute stellar research and other highly needed skills in STEMM fields but are unable to serve in full-time government positions. Congress should examine the necessity of the requirement for employees in STEMM fields to be U.S. citizens, or consider creating a citizenship path similar to the Department of Defense’s Citizenship for Service clause, which allows non-U.S. citizens serving in the U.S. armed forces, and certain veterans, to be eligible for full citizenship."

You can download the full report at

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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Reader comments

Tue, May 21, 2013

Seems like this article is moot during a time of VERA/VSIP, furloughs and hiring freezes.

Mon, May 20, 2013

We can't find good candidates we can grow. When we do find someone we can atleast work with, they are over 50 (I'm 49). Everyone in my group realizes we've been doing this for a long time and that we're all getting a bit too interested in retirement or a next career, and so are our hires. It's not an age thing, it's more . I want to see some new ideas from young hires so I don't get more stale than I already am. Come on guys, the old dogs are waiting to learn new tricks.

Fri, May 17, 2013

The biggest reason why only 8% of STEMM professionals are under 30 is that the hires are primarily experienced people from the military, other government agencies, then the private sector - so they have to be older. Where I work, there is little movement in positions so that means everyone has been around a long time and naturally any replacements, what few they are, will also have to be well experienced people. Also this government culture does not generate a lot of professional technical development as your time is spent on ever changing piles of paperwork. So if you are hired here it means that you should already have it to be effective. Also, unfortunately, I see management more interested in imagery than technical expertise partly because they have been so immersed in paperwork in their career that they have lost most of their technical expertise - if they even had it to begin with. The downsides of this imagery and paperwork driven culture is that to get much serious technical expertise into their projects, they have to hire contractors from the private sector and technological expertise has little value in management and in those below who are looking for promotion. It becomes a downward spiral towards incompetence.

Fri, May 17, 2013

First, learn to use the ones you've got. Second, Congress!

Thu, May 16, 2013 Steve Joining the KMA Club

The politicians can also stop the ill-advised pay freezes, the plans to cheat employees out of the pensions they have earned, and the unwarranted demagoguery of the workforce. Unfortunately our politicians are far more interested in jockeying for political gain than they are in doing what is necessary to ensure the federal workplace can attract and retain the best professionals. Over the past several years the politicians have only succeeded in making the federal government an undesirable employer to those who have the talent and skills that enable them to find lucrative and meaningful work elsewhere.

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