We the Partnership

A new tool to help HR teams improve federal hiring

By Lia Collen
February 17, 2021 | Updated on August 26, 2021

Federal agencies need top talent to achieve their missions, but highly qualified candidates often struggle to make it through the hiring process.

A new look at federal hiring data from the past two years suggests why. The Hiring Assessment and Selection Outcome Dashboard, released this year reveals that agencies often use only multiple-choice assessment questionnaires completed by the applicant to evaluate candidates for open positions across government. The dashboard shows that hiring managers did not extend job offers to applicants for roughly one-half of the competitive, open-to-the-public federal job announcements in fiscal year 2020.

The dashboard is the first-of-its-kind tool to share publicly available federal hiring data from USAJOBS, and is a collaboration between the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Digital Service, the General Services Administration and other agency partners. The underlying data set of every job posted to USAJOBS over the past two years is also available and accessible in a machine readable format with an API endpoint for developers.

The tool compares assessment types to selection outcomes and enables users to analyze job announcement and hiring assessment data by job series, title, GS level, agency and bureau, and may help hiring managers use more effective hiring assessments in the future.

A chart from the dashboard looks at the types of assessments hiring managers are using and which most frequently led to a selection.

“At a time when the government urgently needs highly qualified professionals to address the many challenges our nation is facing, the hiring process is failing skilled applicants,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “Implementing more effective hiring practices is time-intensive but necessary to ensure our government recruits the brightest talent with the right technical skills. The dashboard makes this possible by sharing critical hiring data for all of government in an easy-to-use tool.”

The state of federal hiring

Data from the dashboard shows that hiring managers relied solely on self-assessment questionnaires and HR resume reviews to determine applicants’ eligibility for 90% of competitive, open-to-the-public federal job announcements in fiscal 2020. However, hiring managers extended job offers to candidates for only 53% of those announcements.

Why are these hiring assessments so ineffective?

One reason is that candidates tend to either overrate or underrate their own skills when filling out self-assessment questionnaires. Additionally, HR specialists who review federal resumes­—which can be up to 20 pages long—are typically not technical experts in the applicant’s field. Applicants who can figure out the best answer and how to create a federal style resume tend to do the best in the process over those who are really qualified.

The dashboard also shows that some of the most frequently announced jobs left vacant were quite critical. For example, agencies posted more than 8,800 announcements for nurses in 2020 and only 59% of these announcements led to a job offer.

Using a new tool to make better hiring decisions

The dashboard was created to be a central resource with easy-to-analyze data for HR teams who are often overworked and understaffed, and need to fill critical positions quickly.

Hiring specialists can look at this tool and see that instead of posting 60 announcements in a year for an IT specialist with no selections, it’s better to do one high-quality hiring action with higher quality assessment hurdles like is done for the Subject Matter Expert Qualification Assessments hiring actions, which use both subject matter experts and HR teams to review candidates.

Given a law approved by Congress to allow agencies to share competitive certificates, agencies could issue higher quality certificates and share them to place as many applicants from a hiring action as possible, saving time for hiring managers, HR and applicants. This strategy was recently piloted using Subject Matter Expert Qualification Assessments to bring in more than 20 customer experience specialists across the government in 2020.

New data will be added to the dashboard each month, and the team is looking at additional data fields, such as the number of job offers made using technical versus behavioral assessments, to improve this hiring tool.

View the Hiring Assessment and Selection Outcome Dashboard here.


Lia Collen