The MSPB has said that in the present political and budgetary environment hiring practices become even more important because with limited numbers of new employees to hire, agencies “can ill afford to make mistakes” in their selections.

A recent publication included these tips:

“Go beyond USAJOBS to recruit. With all of the media coverage about federal hiring freezes and cutbacks, many potential applicants may believe the federal government is not hiring at all or may be deterred from applying for positions. Therefore, agencies that do have jobs to fill will need more active recruitment to let applicants know that they have positions and to communicate why they should want to work for the federal government. Better outreach, improved job opportunity announcements, more communication with applicants, and a timely, understandable application and assessment process will go a long way to attracting a high-quality applicant pool.

“Employ rigorous assessment strategies that emphasize selection quality, not just cost and speed. Some things that can be done include the following: conduct a thorough job analysis to identify the needed knowledge, skills, and abilities; train HR or other staff on assessment instruments and techniques; use valid assessment instruments that identify the highest-quality applicants instead of relying predominantly on less effective tools, such as occupational questionnaires and unstructured interviews; and use a multiple hurdle approach that combines valid assessment procedures successively to manage the candidate pool and narrow the field of qualified candidates.

“Evaluate internal hiring processes, procedures, and policies. The federal hiring system may present barriers to efficient and effective hiring, but it does give agencies some discretion and flexibility. Often, agencies’ own internal practices erect unnecessary barriers. Evaluating the agency’s hiring process may help identify and eliminate internal obstacles.

“Properly prepare HR staff and selecting officials for their responsibilities. Ensure HR staff have the training and expertise necessary to carry out their hiring responsibilities in a timely, high-quality manner, and hold them accountable for these responsibilities. In particular, agencies need to ensure that all managers, supervisors, and HR staff are well trained and knowledgeable about the merit system principles and prohibited personnel practices.

“Manage hiring as a critical business process, not an administrative function. Agencies should integrate decisions of hiring needs, methods, and outcomes into the strategic business planning process. The impact that the hiring process has on mission accomplishment must be acknowledged by agency leaders, and selecting officials should be held accountable for decisions pertaining to selecting a quality workforce. While most agencies are probably focusing their efforts on determining how to cut resources from their programs, they still need to ensure that they have the staff necessary to carry out their important work. That is unlikely to happen if they forget the importance of good hiring practices.”