Agencies pitch 500 tech jobs at recruiting event

Civilian, military and intelligence agencies met candidates for 500 open jobs at a first-of-its-kind federal IT hiring event.

hiring event silver spring md photo courtesy gsa
 

Job candidates wait to enter a Nov. 6 federal hiring event in Silver Spring, Md. (Photo courtesy: GSA)

Civilian, military and intelligence agencies went to Silver Spring, Md., to participate in a first-of-its-kind job fair hosted by the Federal CIO Council, aimed at pitching -- and even offering jobs -- to IT and cybersecurity specialists.

Across the two-day recruiting and hiring event, 33 agencies, including five intelligence agencies, set up information booths and pitched their IT and cybersecurity needs for 500 vacancies to droves of candidates looking to join the federal IT ranks, meet agency representatives and share their resumes in person.

While the event capped its preregistration at 2,500 sign-ups, which filled up within weeks of the initial announcement, event hosts allowed for walk-up, on-site registration.

According to an estimate from the Office of Management and Budget based on the number of scanned name badges, over 1,300 prospective employees attended the first day -- and about 1,800 in total -- with the goal of getting facetime with agency representatives.

Participants ranged from those still in college to those with decades of professional experience and, according to preregistration data, represented 40 states.

"It's enlightening to see that people do want to be part of the federal government, and not everybody's 40 [years old] and above anymore," Department of Health and Human Services CIO Beth Killoran told FCW.

"As citizens expect better services and cybersecurity threats evolve, so does our need to modernize," acting Federal CIO Margie Graves said at the job fair Nov. 6. "And to stay current, the federal government needs engineers, data scientists and IT and cybersecurity professionals at the helm."

In addition to the main expo space filled with agency booths, rooms were sectioned off throughout the rented-out Silver Spring Civic Building for hiring managers to swiftly schedule and conduct interviews with participants and even make on-the-spot job offers.

While some agencies opted not to do direct hires at the event, Killoran said HHS made three offers the first day and had between three and six more "in queue" for the second.

Right now, Killoran said, HHS is recruiting for 86 positions, almost half of which are in cybersecurity, but also include program management, help desk operations, systems administration, governance and policy as well as capital planning.

As for the structure of the event, agency officials and participants alike expressed excitement at the opportunity to get facetime with one another.

"At this kind of a hiring fair, it's a one-stop shop," said Chris Hoggan, a human resources specialist at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "We're able to do everything that we need to at the event.... It brings all the necessary pieces for the hiring process together in one place."

Jason Miller, a senior at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania who traveled to attend both days, said getting facetime with agencies and learning more about federal hiring was worth the four-hour trip, "even if I don't get a job."

One critique he did note was that, as a participant, the large number of attendees actually made it difficult to speak with hiring managers.

The event also offered free training seminars on resume writing, interviewing tips and navigating the welcome mat to civil service: the USAJobs website.

Marshall Finch, a participant who attended both days, said that as a repository for federal openings, USAJobs "is an excellent resource," but he added that "not all agencies use it, and not all agencies use it exclusively."

"What I would love to see on USAJobs," he said, "is a single page that lists agencies that always use it, sometimes use it, never use it, with links to those agencies' individual career opportunity webpages."

Finch added that USAJobs and applicants both could benefit from an orientation page -- like the seminar offered at the job fair --to help explain its ins and outs of the site.

Beyond enjoying a good turnout and hosting information sessions, there's interest among agencies and the CIO Council for building on the job fair's momentum.

While total cost of the event -- entailing man hours, administrative and decorative costs, electricity and other expenses -- is yet to be released, the price tag for renting out the building for two days comes in under $10,000.

Given the level of turnout at the event, Hoggan said, "we want to keep doing them."

"People like this type of event," he said. "And if people keep showing interest in this kind of hiring event, then we're going to keep pushing this kind of thing."

One senior government official said the inaugural fair was "a tremendous success," and moving forward, "we expect to see more" like it.

"This is not a one-time event. This is not even a once-a-year event," the official added.

Killoran said that to maintain interest shown by those who stopped by the HHS booth or who could not physically attend the event, HHS plans to conduct further recruiting efforts.

"We hope to have a good chunk of our hiring done from this event done between now and Christmas," she said.

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