Less lucrative compensation and benefits aren’t the only factors turning thousands of promising college graduates away from public service. The hiring process for employment in the federal government also remains impossibly long, and many recent alumni just aren’t financially equipped to wait it out.
More than a year ago, President Obama launched what the administration called a “comprehensive initiative to address major, long-standing impediments to recruiting and hiring the best and the brightest into the federal civilian workforce.” Mr. Obama directed the Office of Personnel Management to institute reforms — dubbed the Pathway Programs — to streamline hiring for students a s well as recent graduates. As The Post reported then, “Management Director John Berry drew a rousing ovation” when the agency announced it was replacing cumbersome “skills essays” with resume- based applications.
Despite the initiative, many federal agencies still take as long as 200 days from the date of a vacancy to hire. While Christine Griffin, deputy director of OPM, told a Senate panel last month that the OPM efforts had “systemically overhauled” the process and made the USAJOBS website more “efficient and user-friendly,” other experts disagreed. The dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the director of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs contended that the government continues to drive away a majority of graduate degree holders.
This failing couldn’t come at a worse time: The government will face its largest wave of employee retirements in the next five years, and critical posts in fields such as national security and science will need to be filled.
Luckily, there is a bipartisan answer. The Federal Hiring Process Improvement Act of 2010, co-sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and then-Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, was passed unanimously by the Senate. The bill, intended to build on the president’s directive, requires all agencies to limit their hiring time to 80 days, inform job candidates of their statuses in a timely manner, convert to a universal resume application and craft job descriptions as well as announcements in plain writing.
The bill failed to pass the House, thanks to lawmakers leery of affiliating themselves with “federal hiring” legislation at a time when government spending is unpopular. But it makes no sense to punish recent college graduates for the excessive spending of the past.
Mr. Akaka, who chairs the subcommittee on oversight of government management and the federal workforce, is lobbying anew for ratification of his proposed reform.
His measure deserves support. It’s time for the federal government to take the recruiting of human resources as seriously as successful private and nonprofit organizations do. Today’s antiquated hiring practices are thwarting a generation of inspired public servants in the making.
The Washington Post (July 4)