USAJobs, the government’s online warehouse of job vacancies, is still difficult to navigate and lacks sophisticated search capabilities to help applicants find positions that meet their interests and qualifications. Recruiting and hiring tools, including veterans’ preference, Pathways, and the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program, are innovative. But they’ve become encased in layers of complicated rules that most hiring managers and even some HR staff don’t understand or use properly. Job descriptions typically exceed 1,500 words, and many of them are barely comprehensible, at least to the uninitiated. Agencies are supposed to get new hires onboard within 80 days, but for some jobs, it can take several months.
In fact, all three of those issues—USAJobs applications, special hiring authorities and the length of the hiring process—were cited as the most significant impediments to hiring by federal employees who responded last fall to a survey conducted by Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive Media Group.
Even the Office of Personnel Management, the federal agency charged with creating and enforcing governmentwide human resources policy, concedes there is a pervasive sense that firing a fed is difficult. “The procedures for terminating employees are perceived as a lengthy process,” says Tim Curry, OPM’s deputy associate director for partnership and labor relations.
Undoubtedly, there are major hurdles to removing an employee from federal service; federal workers are guaranteed levels of due process not typically provided to employees in the private sector. Whether that’s a problem is the subject of a lengthy and nuanced debate, but the mere perception that incompetent federal employees operate with impunity creates fractures that divide agencies from their workforces, the legislative branch from the executive branch, managers from their employees and the American people from their government.