Federal job applicants headed for a better shopping experience

An overhaul of the government's job application system, set to go live next month, will make finding a federal position more like shopping for shoes, according to an Office of Personnel Management official.

USAJobs 3.0, designed to make the process smoother for potential hires and federal recruiters alike, will debut by Oct. 13. The new system is more user-friendly and follows common conventions found on retail websites, said John Allen, director of integrated hiring systems at OPM. For example, search engine capabilities will be more powerful and the tool bar to refine results will move to the left. Searches also will catch spelling errors, have a "quick-view" pop-up option and provide context in the results, making it easier for users to narrow their focus, he said.

"It's not intuitive [now]," Allen said. "We had to see it the way we see everything else."

Job seekers' interaction with the site will change slightly, depending on what they're looking for, officials said. Users will be able to "window shop" if they aren't applying for a specific position, meaning they also won't have to provide as much information just to set up a USAJobs account. There will be additional data required during the application process, but some questions -- such as those on veterans' preference and special hiring authorities -- will pop up only if users have indicated they are eligible. This also will allow agencies to target recruiting efforts, officials said.

According to OPM, all profile information and resumes already in the system will be saved and uploaded to the new site. Saved searches -- which trigger email notifications when new jobs are posted -- will not be transferred, however. Users will be able to reset their search preferences and make their current resumes searchable as well.

"We're not getting rid of anything, we're just moving it to a new shop," Allen said.

Agencies will have to close all open job announcements before Oct. 6, when the system will be made unavailable to all applicants. The downtime will allow agencies to move data to the new platform built by OPM and create a level playing field for job seekers and human resources staff. According to agency officials, the system could be back up and running as early as Oct. 11.

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