USAJobs Is Getting Another Makeover

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta noted the upgrade during a virtual town hall meeting. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta noted the upgrade during a virtual town hall meeting. Jamie Cotten/Labor Department

The Office of Personnel Management once again is revamping USAJobs, the website most people use to apply for jobs in the federal government.

The agency wants to streamline and clarify its job descriptions and make sure job postings don’t ask applicants redundant questions, said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta on Friday during a virtual town hall where she took questions on topics including recruitment, diversity and the role of veterans’ preference in the hiring process. She did not say when a new site might debut.

“We are looking at USAJobs from beginning to end to make sure it is just what our applicants need and our hiring managers find helpful,” Archuleta said, dubbing the initiative USAJobs.com 2.0. The latest makeover actually will be at least the third time since 2010 that the agency has relaunched the troubled federal hiring portal. In October 2011, OPM launched USAJobs 3.0.

OPM has tried over the past few years, with some success, to make the federal hiring process less bureaucratic by simplifying job descriptions, creating a more resume-based system for applicants (i.e., eliminating the “knowledge, skills and abilities” section), and using technology to help hiring managers sift through hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of applications for jobs. It’s a difficult and complicated process because the government has to adhere to certain rules and hiring authorities that don’t exist in the private sector.

The agency relaunched the site three years ago, after security concerns prompted OPM to bring the site in-house, but it was a public relations disaster. Version 3.0 went live Oct. 11, 2011, and received nearly 45 million page views on its second day and thousands of complaints from users on login difficulties, unreceived email notifications and nonworking search parameters.

Archuleta on Friday also defended veterans’ preference, which gives eligible vets by law preference over non-veterans in the federal hiring process. A question posed on Twitter during the town hall asked why it was so hard for civilians to get jobs in government and said that there was a perception that vets are “blocking” all the jobs. “I think that is a real misconception,” the OPM director said, adding that she is a “very, very strong proponent of veterans’ preference” and that as an employer the government needs to take advantage of everything it’s invested in the military. “Veterans’ preference really offers an opportunity for veterans to come into federal service, for us to take a look at them, and it brings a richness of talent and experience that adds to the many applicants that we have,” she said.

Archuleta also said she’s focused on bring more women vets into federal service. “The skills that women veterans can bring to us and to the federal service is really important… It’s an underrepresented group among veterans, and I’m working very, very closely with employment council to increase those numbers,” she noted.

Veterans hired in 2012 through the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act and Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment authorities were overwhelmingly male -- 80 percent and 76 percent, respectively -- since men still dominate in the military, according to a September report from the Merit Systems Protection Board. MSPB also found that more than 35 percent of those hired under what’s known as competitive examining, the standard hiring authority, were veterans.

President Obama has made hiring more vets into the civil service a major priority. But that increase has contributed to an unintended consequence – the government hiring fewer women. “Our research shows that as use of veterans hiring authorities increased, the percentage of female new hires decreased,” MSPB said.

Archuleta, who co-chairs the Veterans Employment Council, said a working group will release a report in January on increasing the number of female vets in the federal government.

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