OPM fine-tunes USAJobs

Users offer their own ideas for improving the Web site

Two years after a major overhaul of the federal government's USAJobs Web site, the job search listings are attracting a growing number of visitors. But those who manage the site are kept busy sorting through several hundred suggestions from users each month.

Many of those suggestions will be incorporated into plans that the Office of Personnel Management has for further enhancing the site's capabilities under a new contract with Monster Government Solutions (MGS), a company that specializes in online job search and hiring tools. The contract announced Aug. 2 is potentially worth $27 million in the next five years. MGS has been managing the USAJobs Web site since 2003.

Two months ago, the Homeland Security Department canceled a contract with MGS because of problems it experienced using the company's QuickHire software. An OPM spokesman said the agency is not using QuickHire.

USAJobs now draws 1.6 million visitors a week, said Dan DeMaioNewton, USAJobs program manager at MGS. Since 2003, more than 1 million people have used the Web site to apply for federal jobs.

In 2003, USAJobs officials introduced easier searches and a new look for the site. Other changes included a job announcement builder for displaying postings. Rather than wading through a lengthy job description, applicants can read a concise overview of the job opening and the agency before deciding to apply.

OPM introduced that feature in 2004, and now 57 percent of agency job announcements appear in that streamlined format. People can "quickly assess the opportunity, and if it's right for them, they can go ahead and apply," DeMaioNewton said.

The feature has helped eliminate unqualified applicants who apply for positions without knowing what skills and background those positions require, he said.

USAJobs officials are still working on integrating agencies' recruitment systems with the jobs site. Such integration is necessary to ensure that federal job applicants can create a single profile to use when applying at more than one agency. That requires agencies to modify their recruitment systems, which they have done to some extent already, DeMaioNewton said.

In the upcoming year, USAJobs officials expect to complete that integration.

Despite noticeable technology improvements, however, many federal job listings are still peppered with bureaucratic language and confusing jargon, DeMaioNewton said.

"We can deliver all the functionality in the world, but it relies on the content in the announcement and the hiring process across the government," DeMaioNewton said.

Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, applauded OPM's recent improvements to USAJobs. But he cautioned against unrealistic expectations, noting that individual agencies control hiring procedures.

It is those procedures that now need overhauling, Stier said. "The promise of USAJobs will be expanded dramatically if agencies are fully integrating their processes into the Web site and making sure the content is as good as possible," he said.

Eliminating jargon is one of OPM's major concerns, said Claire Gibbons, OPM's project manager for USAJobs. Technology has helped by providing, for example, a job announcement template, Gibbons said. OPM officials must also help agency managers write more enticing, easy-to-understand job postings, she added.

With the signing of a new contract with MGS, USAJobs managers have further enhancements planned, including another site redesign. When that is completed, applicants will be able to search for federal positions by job title, salary, location, agency and closing date.

"We have a whole bunch of changes planned to help job seekers and attract the best and brightest," DeMaioNewton said. n

Michael is a freelance writer based in Chicago.


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More construction ahead at USAJobs

The Office of Personnel Management and Monster Government Solutions say they have big plans for improving USAJobs. Here are a few enhancements slated for the first six months of next year:

  • A Web site redesign.
  • More refined search options, such as by salary, job title and location.
  • Added information to help veterans search for jobs.
  • Full integration of agencies' recruitment systems with the site.
  • An authentication process to verify people's identities once for access to multiple government Web sites.

— Sara Michael

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