Redesigned job search website attracts barrage of complaints

In the weeks since the latest upgrade to the online federal jobs board was unveiled to the public, the Office of Personnel Management has faced myriad user complaints.

Readers of Government Executive have been less than impressed with USAJobs 3.0. Of the nearly 160 responses to an open-ended query as of Tuesday, only seven praised the website's Oct. 11 relaunch.

"Each iteration has been less user-friendly than the previous edition," wrote commentator Robert Farrell. "One or two more revamps and they will achieve the goal of reducing federal employment by making it impossible to apply for a job."

The most frequent complaints centered on the site's search function. Commentators said the tool for filtering search results isn't working properly -- for example, location-based searches return results outside of the specified regions.

Many readers also complained about losing the searches they had saved under USAJOBS 2.0, although OPM had stated on its website and via emails to users prior to the relaunch that no saved searches would carry over.

Bugs in the results pages, login difficulties and long load times also were high on readers' list of grievances. "It's 4:27 a.m. EST and the system is currently unavailable due to high volume of visitors . . . really?" wrote a commentator identified as "GCP."

OPM stands by the product, updating the public via daily reports on the site.

"Through refinement efforts, USAJobs 3.0 is continuing to see success, and the most recent testing by OPM shows that the site remains stable and secure, and its capacity is at full strength," OPM Chief Information Officer Matthew Perry wrote in an Oct. 31 public report. The agency is planning an additional technical briefing on the site for later this week.

"We continue to work to refine the search filters so that users can do geographic radius searches," OPM spokeswoman Jennifer Dorsey told Government Executive. Dorsey also emphasized that the agency "took every complaint seriously. When users expressed technical concerns, we replicated the problem, educated the user and fixed any problems."

Since the redesign, OPM has added three servers to keep up with the flow of traffic.

But problems persist. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., penned an open letter to federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel decrying OPM's decision to pull away from former USAJobs contractor (based in Kerry's home state) and program the new site in-house.

"There are many commercial firms with expertise and experience far beyond the federal government in designing and successfully managing online job websites and any number of them is better equipped to manage this service than the government," Kerry stated in the letter.

In response, Dorsey said OPM had engaged industry partners like Microsoft when designing the system and benchmarked progress with Monster.

Staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee indicated that USAJobs could be the subject of a future hearing, but did not disclose further details.

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