Government job listings may not reach wide enough

The official job search portal of the U.S. government, a very effective recruiting tool by most accounts, could lose out on young job-seekers soon if it does not start sharing job listings with other Web sites, some management experts say.

USAJobs.gov, the government's centralized job-search Web site, is user friendly and easy to search, but it does not post its employment opportunities on major online job boards like CareerBuilder, Monster and HotJobs. Nor are its job openings typically searchable through popular search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.

The government may need to consider reaching more eyeballs given that over the next two years, agencies project they will need nearly 193,000 new workers for mission-critical jobs. That figure comes from a July 3 report on federal job openings released by the Partnership for Public Service. Nearly a third of the full-time federal workforce is expected to leave in the next five years, as the baby boomer generation retires.

"You can't expect people to know where to look," in other words, "to look at USAJobs," said Patricia McGinnis, president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government. "Government needs to do a better job making sure that its postings not only come up, but get more attention when a job searcher is looking for a specific job function or even job title."

Stan Paul, general manager of CareerBuilder.com's government services group, suggested that the federal government try CareerBuilder's own WorkForAmerica.com to attract more job candidates. On average, CareerBuilder.com sees 1.2 million job searches each month for government jobs.

But the Office of Personnel Management is not interested in CareerBuilder's help or the assistance of any other job board.

"The premier site in our view is USAJobs. CareerBuilder, let me blunt, what they are, is a competitor to USAJobs," said Bob Danbeck, OPM's associate director for human resources products and services. "We usually get 8 million visits a month. In June, we had almost 9.5 million visits."

In a July 13 interview, USAJobs Program Director Steve Connelly said, "To give you some idea of the volume we're talking about" there are "in excess of 35,000 openings on the site [today]. It's an all-time record." Typically, the average number of listings per day is 24,000 on the site.

USAJobs is well-known in cyberspace and homes nationwide. The site itself immediately pops up on a Google search for "government jobs." Last year, the government started airing a series of television commercials in various areas of the country that spotlight a few of the careers available in the federal government. The TV ads are all captioned: "USAJobs.gov."

"With the videos, people are becoming more aware of USAJobs," Danbeck said. "I'm really comfortable with the fact that the site is known by people."

John Palguta, Partnership for Public Service's vice president for policy, said USAJobs is a good electronic job board in terms of the first place to go for finding openings, but the content of the job descriptions leaves much to be desired.

The site does not write the job announcements, leaving that responsibility to the 112 agencies that advertise their hiring needs. "Some agencies are still guilty of resorting to the use of acronyms and governmentese," Palguta said. "Each agency is kind of doing its own thing."

OPM's Danbeck said his staff is working with agencies to standardize the descriptions of generic positions like accounting professionals and administrative assistants. Just this month, USAJobs presented examples to agency personnel officers.

In the fall, USAJobs will offer a feature similar to the college community's "common application" -- one form that can be sent to a number of admissions offices. The site will permit aspiring federal workers to save up to five supporting documents that they can then submit to multiple agencies for multiple jobs.

Still, the government's current online recruiting methods are not built to withstand the coming wave of federal job openings, McGinnis said.

The Partnership for Public Service's take is that there is a big benefit to having one site where the public can view all government positions, but it also would make sense for individual agencies to publicize on through non-government job boards, as needed.

"The federal government must do a better job of attracting a higher percentage of Gen-Y, and must also target experienced managers, IT engineers and other professionals that will be in high demand," McGinnis said.

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