By Don Jacobson
On May 11, 2010, President Obama signed a memorandum ordering Federal agencies to significantly revamp their hiring processes by November 1, 2010. Under the new policies, agencies must:
- eliminate any requirement that applicants respond to essay-style questions when submitting their initial application materials for any Federal job (i.e. no more KSAs);
- allow individuals to apply for Federal employment by submitting resumes and cover letters or completing simple, plain language applications, and assess applicants using valid, reliable tools; and
- provide for selection from among a larger number of qualified applicants by using the “category rating” approach (i.e. no more “rule of three”).
Managers and supervisors with responsibility for hiring are required to be:
- more fully involved in the hiring process, including planning current and future workforce requirements, identifying the skills required for the job, and engaging actively in the recruitment and, when applicable, the interviewing process; and
- accountable for recruiting and hiring highly qualified employees and supporting their successful transition into Federal service, beginning with the first performance review cycle starting after November 1, 2010.
Federal managers will have a crucial role to play in making the new processes work. Regardless of the quality of the new hiring systems established by each agency, the government will not become any better at getting the right people into the right jobs unless/until we as managers take ownership of the hiring process and learn how to do it well. It is, of course, in our interest to do so; decisions about who will be on our team has a profound impact on the performance of the team. In Good to Great, Jim Collins actually argues that getting the right people “on the bus” is key to building the foundation of a great organization.
Federal agencies have actually had the flexibility to do most of the things in the President’s May 11 memorandum for several years, but few have taken advantage of the flexibilities available to them.
By the end of year, Federal managers will be held accountable in their annual performance evaluations for hiring qualified people and supporting their transition into their new roles. As such, managers will need to move quickly to start cultivating their hiring skills. There is no need to wait until your agency rolls the new processes. There are a number of principles that apply to recruitment and hiring regardless of context. Here are a couple suggestions on where to start:
- The first article I wrote for GovLeaders.org in (back in 2002) was Hiring the Best People for Your Agency.
- Stewart Liff’s book The Complete Guide to Hiring and Firing Government Employees is a great resource for government managers. It is packed with useful and innovative tips on hiring the best people, including how to: minimize staffing gaps, target your recruiting efforts, screen applications, conduct effective interviews, and make good hiring decisions.