Sunday, May 1, 2011

Government New Hires Tell What They Did to Get the Job

The job search experience plays a key role in who is selected for Federal positions. It determines who hears about job vacancies, what steps they take to apply for jobs and how long they must wait to be hired (or not). Some of the most common complaints about the Federal hiring process are that it is excessively long, complicated and bureaucratic. To learn from their job hunt experiences and identify ways to improve the process, a government survey asked Federal new hires what steps they took to get their job and what obstacles they faced.

Learning About Jobs
Here, we take a close look at how new hires first learned about their Federal job to identify how specific recruitment strategies can be used more effectively.

Friends and Relatives
When asked how they first learned about their Federal job, new hires’ top answer (31 percent) was that a friend or relative told them about it (see Fig. 1), particularly one who works for the Federal Government. The importance of personal contacts and referrals in recruitment plays a major role in the hiring process. In fact, a 2006 Booz Allen Hamilton recruitment-trends survey found that recruitment practitioners rated employee referrals as the top source not only in terms of applicant quantity but also in terms of applicant quality (Booz Allen Hamilton, 2006 DirectEmployers Association Recruiting Trends Survey, February 2006, pp. 6, 8.).

Does anyone remember what it was like trying to find out about Federal vacancies before the advent of the Internet? For the most part, an applicant had to locate and go to the closest Office of Personnel Management (OPM) office to look through vacancy announcements, call individual agencies to find out about opportunities or pay to subscribe to periodicals that provided a list of Federal vacancies open at the time of publication.

Now, OPM sponsors USAJOBs—the official Federal job site that provides potential applicants with full vacancy announcements for all competitive service and some excepted service job openings. With 20 percent of new hires reporting that USAJOBs was how they first heard of their job, the Web site is obviously an important recruitment source.

USAJOBs has many advantages. It is open 24/7, is updated in real time and is available to anyone who can access the Internet. Applicants can search job opportunities using a variety of criteria, such as job title or key word, agency, location and pay. Applicants can create a Federal resume, store it on the site and, in many instances, use that one resume to apply online for multiple Federal jobs.

Agency Web Sites
Only 7 percent identified the agency Web site as the first place they learned of their job. While some agency Web sites may not be the first place a potential applicant will go to find a Federal job, they are probably a valuable secondary source of information. Once potential applicants have identified a specific job that interests them, they are likely to go to the agency Web site for more information about the agency, including its mission, organizational culture, career advancement opportunities, workplace flexibilities and other features.

College Fairs and Related Sources
College fairs and school placement officials proved to be a significant employment source for recently graduated new hires. Fifty-one percent of new hires who came to Government directly from school heard about their first job in this way. It appears that agencies are increasing their campus recruitment efforts.

For additional information regarding careers in the federal government, visit

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