Federal Hiring Reform Hype Misleading and Confusing So-Called Reform Adds More Confusion to Federal Hiring Process

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November 1 was the deadline for federal hiring reform. Finally the government has adopted a commonsense, efficient, applicant-friendly hiring system! “If only that were true,” laments federal jobs expert Kathryn Troutman of The Resume Place. Seems the changes are slow to take hold and jobseekers will need help more than ever.

Bye Bye KSAs, Not So Fast!

“It looks like the best and the brightest will have to slog through the morass of the federal hiring system for a while longer.” ~ Kathryn Troutman, federal jobs expert

Earlier in November, federal jobs expert Kathryn Troutman and her staff of federal job application consultants gathered around a cake decorated with the words: “Bye Bye KSAs!” They had come to The Resume Place to celebrate the start date for federal hiring reform. Suddenly, applying for a federal job just got easier. The government had finally adopted a commonsense, efficient, applicant-friendly hiring system that called for resumes and cover letters and scotches the dreaded KSAs, a lengthy set of demanding essays intended to show “Knowledge, Skills and Abilities.” Finally, sanity has come to the federal application system.

“If only that were true,” laments Troutman.

With over 80,000 federal employees retiring or otherwise leaving the federal government each year, thousands of mission critical and management positions must be filled with the best and brightest Americans. Federal application practices, however, have many times deterred the “best qualified applicants” from seeking federal work. President Obama’s May 11 memorandum therefore called on Executive Departments and Agencies to overhaul the way they recruit and hire highly qualified employees. By the November 1 deadline, however, only three out of 240 federal agencies were ready for hiring reforms.

“I was really surprised by how little the agencies have accomplished in the last six months,” shared Troutman. “Plus, this new application process is in many cases much harder, because the announcements don’t tell you what’s needed. It looks like the best and the brightest will have to slog through the morass of the federal hiring system for a while longer. We’ll just have to call it an interim reform cake,” she joked.

After 30 years working with more than 200 agencies in the Beltway, Troutman is recognized as one of the most tuned-in experts on what’s happening in federal hiring circles. Her clients benefit from her unique perspective as an outsider with inside information.

Business at the Resume Place has been slow and Troutman wonders how many jobseekers have been thinking that the November 1 implementation date will usher in an era of easy applications, with cover letters and resumes just like those in the private sector.

“It’s interesting that applicants seem to believe that hiring reform is going to make applying for federal jobs a lot easier. Ironically, the applications that we have been preparing for clients have been extremely difficult,” she observed. “The new application process is not simple at all. A set of KSAs are no longer supposed to be a part of the initial application. But you have to interpret the announcement. Some postings still require the KSA. Others expect to see them in the resume, and your resume must respond to items in a complicated, online questionnaire. You will probably have to submit KSAs at a later point in the process.”

Troutman adds that the newest challenge for the federal jobseeker is to make KSAs stand out in their resumes. That’s a main way that the human resources specialist reading the resume from USAJOBS will be able to determine if an applicant is a “best qualified” candidate for a job. Also, the jobseeker must know that federal resumes are different; they can reach up to five pages in length, as opposed to the one or two pages typical of private sector resumes.

Troutman also identified a trend towards drastically shortened application periods—to as little as two days—which means that federal applicants have no time to waste with trial and error, fumbling to get it right.

This is where The Resume Place’s resume writing and job coaching services can become essential. As the various federal job application systems evolve, it’s good to get advice from people who have studied and continue to keep in touch with all aspects of the various employment practices of more than 200 federal agencies.

For a Free Estimate for Federal Resume go to The Resume Place, Inc. Help also comes from Kathryn’s books, including Ten Steps to a Federal Job and the Federal Resume Guidebook. These books are highly regarded in federal and private sector employment fields for their practical use as handbooks for individuals and classrooms.

No one knows how long it will really take for the entire government to completely make over their various application systems. Some speculate at least a year, others say several years. Ron Sanders, former Chief Human Capital Officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and currently a Senior Executive Advisor with the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, thinks that it will take both time and a cultural change. For the government to truly reform its hiring practices, he says that there must be a radical shift in the mindset of those who for decades have been evaluating applications with inefficient, arbitrary tools.

Until then, it appears that reports of the KSA’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

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KATHRYN TROUTMAN
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