Federal hiring regulations haven’t been a gold standard for much of anything for a long time.  It takes just under 100 days to hire someone for a federal job – three times longer than the average for private companies.  The applications are lengthy, and the list of requirements is long.  Hiring flexibility is weak.  Unsurprisingly, there are major shortages, especially in technical fields.

After decades of inaction, however, there are small moves toward a better process.  A pilot program to speed hiring at two agencies last year led to a reduction of selection time from 47 days to 17, shortening paperwork hassles along the way.  Five additional agencies have agreed to participate, and the team members contributing to the subject matter evaluation process at these agencies have been selected.  Will this be the beginning of a move toward a hiring process that’s more reflective of the ones used in private enterprise?

It’s too early to tell.  These pilot programs are focused on highly technical jobs, and special carve-outs have been made to expedite hiring due to the severe shortage.  Even if changes do happen within many federal agencies, it could take years for those improvements to spread to jobs without a double-digit percentage of employee shortages.

There are other hints of improvements; the most recent White House budget proposal includes significant changes to how federal employees are hired; degree requirements would also be eliminated from many job requirements unless there’s a specific reason to have them.

Unfortunately, the reality behind those recommendations provides a good example of why the federal hiring process has taken so long to improve.  These positive hiring changes come attached to a host of proposals that are opposed by federal labor unions, likely leading to a long fight – and that’s if they are even implemented in any budget. 

The White House budget proposal is also famously ignored by Congress. Typically the President’s party does at least pretend to use it as a base for negotiation with opposing party members.  This year, even Republicans are admitting it’s a dead document.  The Senate Budget Chairman won’t even hold a hearing on it this year, saying “Congress doesn’t pay attention to the president’s budget exercise.”

So while there’s hope for small improvements, until the politicians can agree where to start, there’s little hope of any major change to the federal hiring process.

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