While the Office of Personnel Management recently announced steps to improved the maligned USAjobs.gov website, participants of a recent panel said more must be done to improve it.  

Using the site today is like “typing your information into the black hole,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), since many applicants never get a response from hiring managers and the hiring process can take months.

“We will never get people interested — the good ones — if we don’t hire on a timely basis,” noted Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “The private sector is kicking our butt on this one. We need to speed that process up.”

The USAjobs.gov site lists federal job openings and receives more than 20 million monthly visits. An estimated 11 million who have accounts with the site filed more than 22 million applications for federal employment openings said Mark D. Reinhold, an OPM associate director

The acting OPM Director Beth Cobert told lawmakers in February she would transform the website from “a job bulletin that was automating a process to a real resource to help people understand what are the opportunities in federal employment, is that a fit for them and how can they access those positions.”

Improvements are currently being made to the USAjobs website said Mark Reinhold, OPM’s associate director of employee services and chief human capital officer, but the website is only one part of the hiring process he noted.

“There is room for improvement, and we are very focused on a set of planned enhancements, some of which have already been rolled out, and we’re seeing good results in terms of user feedback,” Reinhold said. “We know that USAJobs is only part of the equation. The vast majority of the hiring process is administered by agencies.”

Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, offered numerous suggestions to improve the federal hiring process, reported FCW. These include agency-by-agency performance data, greater accountability for political leaders and hiring managers, a meaningful government direct-hire program, amended minimum qualifications and the use of oversight to ensure efficiency.

Numerous other suggestions were made during the recent panel, as reported by NextGov, including:

Stop asking applicants to rate themselves

During the hiring process, applicants are asked to self assess their skills, in an effort to weed out individuals. Yet many users “don’t like rating themselves as ‘expert,’” Lankford said. A candidate who “rates himself down … doesn’t get the job.”

Allow hiring manager to use social media platforms

Millenials don’t go to USAJobs.gov said Linda E. Brooks Rix, co-chief executive of Avue Technologies, a private firm that works on federal personnel matters. She said the federal hiring process “a deeply broken mess” and today’s job seekers turn to social media and other job boards.

Search for keywords in applicants’ profiles, instead of waiting for them to apply to particular jobs.

OPM is piloting a “mining” function that allows for keyword searches, said OPM’s Chief Human Capital Officer Mark Reinhold. If a candidate agrees to the searching feature, a hiring manager can search for skills keywords and the like and the candidate can be notified for complimentary positions throughout the country.  

Stay in touch with applicants in real-time

Applicants should have the ability to receive assessments from their phones and keep their applications active even when a position they applied for has been filled.

Remove federal jargon

“If I’m not in the federal workforce and I’m a millennial, and I’m looking at this and it says my ‘Series’ and ‘Grade,’ … I have no idea what that means,” Lankford said. He also noted there aren’t clickable definitions for technical hiring terms.

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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.