Hiring overhaul on the way as soon as next week

As soon as next week, the White House will release a hiring reform memo that will promote using résumés in place of knowledge, skills and abilities essays, a senior human capital official told Government Executive.

The official, who spoke on background in advance of the memo's release, said Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management officials almost have completed the document and are prepared to pass it along to the White House for clearance.

Kathryn Medina, executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, said in an interview with Government Executive that CHCOs played a significant role in reviewing early proposals for hiring reform and suggesting which ideas would be feasible. She said OPM and OMB had revised the final proposal based on senior workforce officials' comments.

"We've just had several meetings with them," she said. "As recently as yesterday, we put out some more information to them asking for substantive feedback and giving them a couple of days to give us their thoughts and feedback."

OPM Director John Berry has made hiring reform one of the key goals of his first year at the agency. The Obama administration will propose eliminating KSA statements in the first round of the job applications process, though Berry has said agencies might want to solicit such essays from a smaller group of applicants once finalists have been identified.

Berry said during Government Executive's Excellence in Government conference last week that he was surprised by the number of KSA defenders who emerged while he was working on crafting the package of reforms. But he added he was determined to do away with the essays, which critics have called cumbersome.

The reforms also will eliminate the "rule of three" procedure, in which agencies select hires from among the three top candidates for a position. Berry has said that rule is still in use only because hiring managers feel comfortable with it. A report by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government on a hiring reform forum in Washington last October singled out the rule as an example of a regulation that was intended to prevent favoritism but has not been evaluated for effectiveness.

Berry has suggested that while federal agencies and OPM can implement some elements of hiring reform, other parts might require legislation. If the administration proposes a hiring reform bill, then it likely will have bipartisan support from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Workforce Subcommittee leaders Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio. In March 2009, the senators introduced a hiring overhaul bill that contains some of the changes Berry has targeted, including eliminating KSAs and making federal job descriptions clearer.

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