USAJobs aims to boost minority recruiting

Demographic questions on the government's central jobs site could improve the recruitment of minorities to federal positions, according to diversity advocates.

Applicants for federal jobs soon will have the option to submit demographic information for every USAJobs application they complete. While agencies in the past have collected similar data, each job posting now will include a governmentwide form. The change, announced in the Federal Register, will improve the government's recruitment efforts targeting specific population groups and determine the barriers to reaching certain demographics.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, which issued the notice, posting the form on USAJobs will allow more efficient information collection and help agencies analyze equal employment and affirmative action programs as instructed by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Representatives from diversity advocacy groups expressed support for the measure, saying it could improve efforts to reach minority applicants.

"The fact that [the Office of Personnel Management] will incorporate a race and national origin form is a very positive thing," said Jorge Ponce, co-chairman of the Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives. "For one thing, this form has been approved by OPM, and while it is not mandatory for other agencies with various online systems to use it, they can use it as a prototype to design their own."

According to Michelle Crockett, executive vice president for compliance at the advocacy group Federally Employed Women, the form is an important step to understanding the federal applicant pool and to increasing the number of minorities in government.

"[The information] was being collected ad hoc, and some agencies have this kind of demographic information while some do not," she said. "In order to identify challenges and barriers, we need applicant flow data."

The form, which includes four questions, asks applicants to indicate how they learned about the position for which they are applying in addition to their sex, ethnicity and race. Ponce said the information collected also will help agencies determine the effectiveness of job fairs and recruiting at higher education institutions in reaching targeted groups.

"Before there was no way of knowing how successful you had been in performing outreach efforts," he said. "Agencies did not have a mechanism to target future recruitment fairs that had given them a lot of resumes [in the past], so it was like shooting in the dark."

Crockett said because the form is voluntary, it could be a challenge to encourage candidates to fill it out, but it's important for them to know that the information won't be linked to their job applications and therefore won't bias evaluators.

"There needs to be a very good marketing campaign explaining how the form is going to be used," she said. "If people are leery, they may be reluctant to complete it.

OPM will post the form to USAJobs on Sept. 1.

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