President Orders End to Job Seeker “Black Hole”

The federal government is about to do what the private sector can do, knows it should, but doesn’t. That’s to let job candidates know where they stand in the hiring process.

It’s taking a Presidential order to make it happen, but the directives in Barack Obama’s official memorandum — Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process — order a broad reform of the government’s recruitment and hiring program.

Among the changes is a reduction in the time to hire, acceptance of resumes, simplification of online forms, and elimination of the written essays all candidates must submit just to apply. In addition, hiring managers will get to select from a pool of qualified applicants, rather than pick from among three candidates.

There’s plenty more in the memo that clearly has been in the planning stages for months. The Office of Personnel Management already has  a website dedicated to the hiring reform program. Yesterday, the day after the order was issued, HR leaders from most of the federal agencies met to consider how to implement the directives and hear what’s expected of them and how fast.

To nudge the agencies to move quickly, the Presidential memo requires the federal Office of Personnel Management to report on the progress publicly by creating a public human resources website that will also share agency best practices.

From a job seeker’s point of view, just getting a response to an application will be an improvement.

Survey after survey shows that job seekers are most unhappy with the treatment they get after applying for a job. In their entertaining, if troubling, 2008 report entitled How Are Job Seekers Really Treated by America’s “Top” Corporations? Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler found that 22 percent of the companies didn’t even acknowledge an application.

Principals of the recruitment consultancy CareerXroads, Crispin and Mehler scrutinized the online hiring process of the companies that earned a spot on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. Using a fictitious resume, they applied to each of them. The majority acknowledged receipt of the resume, but some never even mentioned the name of the company.

Only 18 of the companies sent emails when the position was filled.

For the federal government at least, there won’t be a candidate black hole anymore. When the procedures are put into place, candidates who apply through USAJobs will not only have their application acknowledged, they’ll be contacted no less than four more times so they know where they stand and when the position is filled.

“The current hiring system uses overly complex job descriptions, involves filling out lengthy forms and essays, and is a black hole, providing no feedback to applicants along the way,” Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, of the Office of Management and Budget, was quoted as saying.

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