How to fulfill your hiring needs during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Lucy Cunningham and Rick Kempinski | May 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of an effective federal workforce, yet it can be challenging to bring on new talent during a crisis. In April, the Partnership hosted two virtual roundtables to help federal human capital leaders recruit and fulfill their hiring needs in a virtual environment.

Best practices to bring qualified talent on board quickly

Roundtable participants who shared hiring lessons they’ve learned over the years included professionals from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Personnel Management and 18F, an office in the General Service Administration focused on helping agencies build, buy and share technology. Here’s some of what they suggested:

  • Work closely with hiring managers. When starting to hire, consult with hiring managers to determine what GS-level is needed for both the short and long term, and what skills and abilities the agency needs. 
  • Think strategically about the position the agency needs to fill. Consider the type of candidates you’d like to reach, and the hiring authorities in your toolbox. Are you looking for short-term employees, or to grow talent for the future? For hiring experienced people for the short term, consider the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) Schedule A hiring authority, the Intergovernmental Personnel Act authority, and the U.S. Digital Service and 18F, both of which provide access to specialized talent. Also consider these options:
    • Schedule D–Presidential Management Fellows Program.
  • Stay up to date on the latest guidance. Continually check OPM guidance for updates on vetting and onboarding new employees in the current environment.   

Virtual recruiting tips and tricks

Participants from the Department of Homeland Security, the USDS, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and George Washington University discussed how to find talent quickly in a virtual environment.

  • Look within government. Share the open position with your agency’s hiring managers – the right fit may be internal. Post short-term or project-based positions on Open Opportunities to find talent at other agencies.
  • Use existing networks. Referrals from current and former employees account for a high number of qualified federal employees.
  • Take advantage of online career sites. Use Handshake to connect with students preparing to graduate with undergrad or advanced degrees. Check paid recruiting sites such as LinkedIn Recruiter and Entelo.
  • Connect with colleges and universities. Develop relationships with career services representatives, faculty and advisors. Contact deans to arrange opportunities to hold virtual discussions to share your work and meet students.
  • Seek out STEM talent. If you need employees with science, technology, engineering and math skills, attend and speak at virtual STEM conferences and competitions. Recruit candidates from fellowship programs such as the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science and Technology Policy Fellowships.

No matter how you find applicants, focus on your agency’s unique and important mission, and the effect people could have by becoming civil servants. Share success stories and case studies of innovative federal employees to highlight how applicants’ experiences and skills are vital to increasing the effectiveness of the federal government.

If you have suggestions on future federal recruiting and hiring sessions, contact Margot Conrad at mconrad@ourpublicservice.org.


Lucy Cunningham
Rick Kempinski