A Time for Talent: Improving Federal Recruiting and Hiring

Aug 26, 2020
  • Description

As the United States works to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus and blunt the pandemic's economic fallout, the need for an effective and efficient federal government has never been clearer. Indeed, there may be no institution more important to the health, safety and financial wellbeing of the nation than the federal government. To deliver for the American people now and in the future, and competently respond to inevitable crises, the government must be able to recruit and hire a world-class workforce. Yet the federal recruiting and hiring process is in drastic need of repair.

The federal government has long struggled to attract the talent it needs, handicapped in part by a General Schedule pay system that makes it difficult to compete with the private sector. Too often, the applicant experience is miserable, plagued by confusing job announcements, a USAJobs platform that is difficult to use, and a cumbersome hiring process that can take months to complete. Even after collecting resumes, agencies rely too frequently on outdated methods to evaluate candidates, causing them to overlook the most qualified.

While there are a number of well-documented steps that Congress and the Office of Personnel Management could take to reform the recruiting and hiring process, agencies can do a great deal on their own.1 Made possible by generous support from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and informed by interviews with human resources leaders in government and the private sector, this report describes approaches that agency leaders and human resources specialists can take right now to strengthen the federal workforce.

Particularly as new staff are added to deal with a range of issues stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, agencies should:

- Strategically identify their talent needs for both today and tomorrow.

- Recruit more effectively and efficiently by being proactive, promoting their brand, keeping in touch with former employees and targeting young people.

- Ensure that they hire the best applicants by creating a better candidate experience and using innovative techniques to identify who is most qualified.

- Look inward for the next generation of talent. This report describes what these strategies look like in practice, sharing replicable examples from across the federal government.