Thousands of veterans and minorities are applying for jobs at the Housing and Urban Development Department as part of a major hiring push by the agency in fiscal 2014, according to officials.
HUD is on track to hire 1,000 people by the end of this fiscal year, through a combination of internal and external candidates, said Michael Anderson, the department’s chief human capital officer in an interview with Government Executive on Friday. The department, which launched its hiring effort in January, had received nearly 95,000 job applications as of last week, said Towanda Brooks, deputy chief human capital officer, who is leading the massive effort. Of those applications, 20,000 were submitted by vets, 59,000 were from minorities, and 400 from candidates with disabilities.
To date, HUD has hired 474 people, though not all of them are on board yet. Another 600 positions are in various stages of the hiring process at this point, Anderson said. “The hiring percentages were in line with the representation of applicants in the pool for vets and minorities,” he said. HUD is keeping track of applications, hiring and candidates’ demographics through an automated staffing tool.
Anderson said the hires, when complete, likely will comprise 50 percent internal candidates and 50 percent external. “We’re actually excited about that break, because we do look to give people new opportunities internally, and try to strike the balance with getting new thought and a diverse set of experiences from the outside as well.”
The positions are located throughout HUD, at headquarters and in its field offices across the country, and run the gamut from financial analysts and housing program specialists to technical professionals and engineers. The Office of Housing is looking to fill the most jobs, followed by Public and Indian Housing and the Community Planning and Development office. Brooks said it has taken on average 78 days for each hire—from applying to arriving for work. That’s slightly faster than the average hiring time governmentwide, which was about 87 days in 2012.
Brooks said all the positions are posted on USAJobs, but the department is using a strategic hiring approach. “We are using multiple programs to bring people on board, so that we have a good pipeline from all types of avenues,” she said, adding that HUD is reaching out to and hiring candidates through the Presidential Management Fellows program and Peace Corps alumni network, as well as using hiring authorities to bring on recruits with disabilities. President Obama has said he wants the federal government to serve as a model for employing more people of diverse backgrounds, including veterans and people with disabilities. The president and First Lady Michelle Obama have made finding vets jobs in government and the private sector a high priority within the administration.
The administration’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal included a request for the hiring bonanza at HUD. The department, like many other federal agencies not involved in defense or homeland security, has labored under a hiring freeze during the last few years. After sequestration began in March 2013, HUD imposed a hiring freeze to help save money under the automatic budget cuts; multiple years of continuing resolutions funding the department at the same level also affected hiring. “We have not hired in a few years, so a lot of it is sort of pent-up demand,” Anderson said. HUD has about 8,000 federal employees right now.
The push to fill 1,000 positions in addition to onboarding and training people “is a heavy lift for the agency on a number of fronts,” said Anderson. “How effectively you onboard plays directly into how well you retain people, so that is a big focus of ours right now.”
Jereon Brown, a HUD spokesman who has been with the department since 2000, said he cannot recall such a hiring blitz during his tenure. “I don’t remember [Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer] or HR having anywhere near this challenge,” he said. “It is a very massive undertaking, and I think it’s required a big push of initiatives on their part to make it happen.”