Obama Federal Hiring Order Lauded
James Wright | 6/16/2010, 10:08 a.m.
Overhaul of Hiring Practices by Agencies Could Benefit Blacks
Applying for a federal government position just got a lot easier thanks to an Executive Order issued by President Barack Obama last month. The directive to agency heads which is scheduled to kick-in no later than Nov. 1 eliminates the KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) test.
In response to complaints from federal job applicants, many of whom are African-Americans who contend that getting a job in the federal government remains cumbersome and takes entirely too long, Obama issued the order Tue., May 11.
"To deliver the quality services and results the American people expect and deserve, the federal government must recruit and hire high quality employees, and public service should be a career of choice for the most talented Americans," Obama said.
Obama's order reads in part: "Yet the complexity and inefficiency of today's federal hiring process deters many highly qualified individuals from seeking and obtaining jobs in the federal government. I, therefore, call on executive departments and agencies to overhaul the way they recruit and hire our civilian workforce."
Critics of the KSA have said that it does not measure intangibles such as people skills, leadership and how well one works under pressure. Supporters insist that it has served as a good barometer for people who apply for positions but may not have all of the skills needed at the level that is desired to perform well.
Observers point out that different agencies use the KSA in different ways.
The federal government is considered the nation's largest employer, with two million civilian employees, excluding the postal service, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government hires occupations in almost every category.
A job with the federal government is considered a prize assignment because of the competitive pay, outstanding benefits at reasonable costs, and a strong employee support system that makes unfair terminations almost impossible.
Labor statistics show that 85 percent of federal employees work outside of the D.C. metropolitan area and it is believed by many personnel experts on federal hiring that a substantial number of federal employees will retire in the next few years, with estimates as high as 250,000 by 2014.
The federal government has been a strong employer of Blacks since the end of the Civil War. Washington's Black middle class, considered the largest since the Civil War, was based on federal employment for the most part.
The process of getting hired by the federal government can take up to two years, depending on the position and the agency that is hiring.
Gerald Raynor works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. as a copier duplication equipment operator. Raynor, 49, said that it took him eight years to get his job.
"I first applied to work for the federal government in 1998 and I thought it would take about six months to get a job," said Raynor, who is a resident of Seat Pleasant, Md., and serves on its city council.
"I put in three applications for a job. One position was cancelled, I withdrew my application for the other and I got the last one."
Raynor started his job in 2006 and has no regrets about working for the federal government.
"It is a good stable place to work with good benefits," said the husband and father of five children.
"I just wish it did not take so long to get hired."
The long hiring process is something that Kathryn Troutman is extremely familiar. Troutman, 62, is the founder and president of The Resume Place., Inc., which was established in 1971 to help job seekers interested in working for the U.S. government.
The company, located in Baltimore, consults, writes and designs federal and private sector resumes. Troutman has written numerous books on federal hiring, with one of the most popular, "Ten Steps to a Federal Job: How to Get a Job in the Obama Administration" published by The Resume Place, Inc. in 2008.
Troutman said that Obama's executive order will make the hiring process easier for some.
"Eliminating the KSA will help ease the process but it will still be used for senior-level hiring," she said.
Federal hiring is difficult for everyone, she said, because so much goes into the process.
"The problem is that there are multiple systems to being hired and that can be complicated," she said.
"For example, you can apply for four different positions and have to use three different systems. I know some people who look at all they have to do and have just given up."
She said that the individuals who secure federal jobs must be savvy and have strong computer skills.
"If you lack computer skills and are applying for a federal job, you are at a disadvantage," she said.Troutman also said that it has been her experience that many of the human resources directors in the federal agencies don't know how difficult it is to go through the hiring process.
"Basically, they hire the way they want to," she said. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) applauded the president's executive order. Her
district includes many of the nation's federal buildings and thousands of federal employees. Norton sits on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives that deal with matters regarding federal employees.
"I am glad that the president addressed federal hiring because we have to devise a way to make it happen quickly," Norton, 72, said.
"Many good, talented people are discouraged from becoming federal employees because it takes too long to get hired. This is a problem across the country."
Yarborough said that if Obama's actions bear fruit, it will be good for young people like him.
"People want jobs and the government is a good place to work," he said, "but nobody wants to take forever to get a job."