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Reshaping Government Recruitment


The rapid pace of business, coupled with the changing workforce and modern technology have created a new imperative for recruitment. Traditional recruitment methods, such as websites and online applications, are no longer sufficient. Government agencies have to adapt to new recruitment methods to keep pace with these changes and build their future workforce.

Concurrently, government is facing a talent crisis. As Lisa Rein writes in The Washington Post, “With agencies starved for digital expertise and thousands of federal jobs coming open because of a wave of baby boomer retirements, top government officials, including at the White House, are growing increasingly distressed about the dwindling role played by young workers.” Even more concerning is the scant pipeline for potential employees. According to the 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers Student Survey, “only 2 percent of the students surveyed planned to enter federal service after graduation.” This crisis further dictates the need for government to switch from a reactive approach, or waiting for candidates to come to them, to a proactive approach that can attract even a passive job seeker.

Fortunately, new approaches to recruitment are helping agencies identify and attract potential candidates in ways that were previously impossible. Some examples of these approaches include:

Social Media – Different from the pull strategy required with traditional website recruitment, social media pushes out information, giving agencies the opportunity to reach greater numbers of potential applicants, including those who were not previously considering employment with the government. Whether indirectly by posting about the agency’s work, or directly by hosting career Q&A’s, the benefit of social media is the variety of methods that can be implemented to attract candidates. For example, Veterans Affairs uses social media to recruit employees, leveraging everything from tweetchats to photos of events and quotes from employees on Instagram, while NGA uses Twitter to highlight the job of the week.

Video – Similar to social media, videos give agencies the opportunity to tell their story and connect potential candidates with existing employees and the agency’s work. Nearly seven in eight Americans watch online videos, according to the 2015 US Digital Future in Focus whitepaper.  That ubiquity is not surprising, since videos make content more engaging for the audience – which agencies can capitalize on to increase the reach and efficacy of recruitment efforts. The Army, for instance, uses videos to share stories about soldiers’ careers and experiences.

Mobile – The dominance of smartphones requires organizations to think from a mobile perspective for everything from training to communication to recruitment. As reported by Kelton Research, 86 percent of candidates use their smartphones to begin the job search, and 70 percent want to apply via mobile. Perhaps it is with this in mind that the Justice Department developed DOJ Law Jobs and Singapore Public Service developed Careers@Gov, both mobile apps, applicants can use to search and apply for jobs. Mobile allows agencies to have greater control over the candidate experience and reduces the drop-off rate of applications. It provides the setting to create more simplified, easily accessible applications and gives agencies the opportunity to check in with applicants along the way.

Open Gov – Not only are hackathons, competitions and other co-creation initiatives great ways to develop innovative solutions, they also can be a resource for recruiting candidates. The General Services Administration, for example, has found hackathons to be a good source of much-needed tech talent.

Big Data – Data is also playing an increasing role in the recruitment process – helping organizations better understand both their talent needs as well as the available applicant pool. Data is central to OPM’s REDI Roadmap, in which OPM recognizes data’s ability to help to identify and hire applicants with the right skills.

With the government set to lose a large portion of baby boomer employees in the coming years, there will be continued pressure to attract new employees. The modern workforce requires recruitment to be rethought and new methodologies to be instituted to meet ever-changing business demands and millennial expectations of a more personalized recruitment process. Luckily, there are many tools and methods now available to government hiring managers to increase their pool of applicants and the likelihood that the applicants they do choose will be the right fit for the job.

Darcie Piechowski is the social media and innovation fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

(Image via Tungphoto/

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