Federal hiring practices are far from fair, with federal hiring managers predetermining who will fill vacancies and sometimes only accepting internal applications, according to a recent review of federal hiring practices by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Only 37 percent of open federal positions in 2012 were filled through open competition, a significant drop from 50 percent of jobs that were filled in 2000, the report says.

The MSPB report said 79 percent of federal human-resources staff admitted that management already had a specific candidate in mind “at least some of the time” before a job opening was posted, according to a survey. While it is not illegal for hiring managers to identify a good match for an opening internally, they “need to ensure they are not tailoring the job, announcement, assessment, or any other part of the hiring process to favor a particular candidate,” the report said.

While veterans are often given priority in the hiring process, hiring managers and HR should not limit the area of consideration for open positions, the report said.

Since 2000, many hiring authorities have not used the more open “competitive examining” (CE) process, which about one-third of federal hires now being made this way.

“The decreased use of CE is a problem because CE is the only hiring authority that is open to all qualified U.S. citizens,” the MSPB report said. “As a result, as more restrictive authorities are used to hire Federal employees, the less fair and open the system may be.”

Advertising externally can help increase the diversity of an agency’s applicant pool and is “especially important when recruiting for entry-level positions” and “increases the probability that exceptional candidates will apply,” the report stated.

The top reason hiring managers didn’t use the CE process when hiring are:

  • Plenty of high-qualified internal candidates
  • Hiring managers have someone else in mind
  • Too many applications
  • A veteran may block the list
  • Expertise doesn’t exist in the private sector
  • Applicants will not move
  • Unacceptable vacancy opening period

If an agency doesn’t already have a candidate in mind, hiring officials rely primarily on resumes and cover letters, followed by interviews, occupational questionnaires and reference checks, respectively.

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Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO, AllBusiness.com, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine, ClearanceJobs.com, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.