Here’s how we could improve early-career recruiting for federal jobs

In our new normal, job applicants are reassessing how and where they want to work and live. All industries are experiencing rapid changes in the workplace, but the public sector faces particular challenges in attracting and hiring top talent. In fact, a recent Qualtrics survey found that less than half of recent graduates are considering the federal government for job opportunities. Yet attrition from government agencies has increased dramatically in recent years, compounding long-standing skills shortages.

In order to fill mission-critical positions, meet new workforce expectations, and inspire the next generation of future leaders, the federal government must focus on recruitment as a high priority issue. Agency leaders must commit to taking the necessary steps to better encourage early career employees to pursue public service as a lucrative and meaningful career. Understanding the gap between early career employee expectations and current recruiting and hiring practices is the critical first step.

Simplify the language of job advertisements

Potential employees read job advertisements to decide whether to apply based on their qualifications and career goals. But government job advertisements are often filled with off-putting administrative language that doesn’t clearly convey the specific skills the agency is recruiting for and instead uses traditional degree programs as a qualification requirement. As a result, current students and recent graduates surveyed said they would not consider applying for a government job because they do not feel qualified. When asked to rank the top reasons preventing them from applying, respondents listed years of experience, required skills and required credentials as top barriers. Listing formal academic criteria is counterproductive to attracting diverse people who possess unique knowledge and skills through non-traditional schooling, such as certification and vocational training.

Early career professionals are also looking for goal-oriented work. Organizational values ​​have grown in importance as millennials and Gen Z workers reflect on their career paths. Targeted adjustments to the language used in job advertisements can have a significant impact on who learns about vacancies and who decides to apply. These changes can be as simple as emphasizing the mission-driven nature of work and showing opportunities for career advancement.

Meet potential talent where they are

According to Qualtrics research, the biggest draw for students and graduates entering the workforce is maintaining a good work-life balance. Compared to other attributes such as job security, benefits, and office location, work-life balance and working remotely had the greatest impact on the decision to sue or not. a government job. For many jobs, remote work has become common practice. Even new work arrangements allowing employees to live and work anywhere are offered by several private sector companies.

Unfortunately, many government organizations continue to apply traditional models of onsite work to tasks that could be done remotely, forcing employees to come to the office regardless of their expectations and needs. Instead of making rigid policies that ignore the human experience, the government must do its best to meet employees where they are in life. Employee preferences change over time and in response to changing life experiences. It will not succeed in implementing work policies in a single way. While not all federal roles can be performed remotely, it is still critical that agencies make an honest attempt to assess the assumptions, norms, and rules that underpin these practices.

Straightening the way minority graduates view government careers

Another significant barrier comes from the fact that potential candidates have had previous negative interactions with agencies. When these experiences involve the candidate themselves, or perhaps someone they know, early-career individuals may be much less likely to view the federal government as a desirable place to work.

These customer experience gaps are particularly discouraging minority graduate applicants, with 60% of minority graduates surveyed saying they would not apply for a federal job. Minority perceptions of the federal government are reflected in the fact that minority graduates were the least likely to apply for federal jobs, according to the research.

The federal government has always been a place where systematically disadvantaged groups could find employment in a safe environment, with decent pay and benefits – which some private sector companies even today do not provide. Federal agencies must understand and respond to the needs of the many diverse communities they serve in order to attract a diverse workforce. They also need to diversify the leadership ranks to demonstrate to early career employees that they can relate to the organization.

Small changes lead to big improvements

The federal government plays a central role in the daily lives of millions of people. Building pipelines of diverse and talented candidates is critical to mission success. By designing recruiting experiences that resonate with this talent and clearly communicate job requirements and organizational culture, agency leaders can ensure a diverse workforce is ready to serve the American people.

Sydney Heimbrock is Chief Industry Advisor for Government at Qualtrics, where she uses her global experience to transform governments through investments in workforce development and policy reform to help government organizations federal, state and local organizations to design experiences that build public confidence.

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