Auditors said that job postings for pre-career craft positions did not always include realistic job descriptions or demands. Image: Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

Changes to the way the USPS hires for its “pre-career” positions cut the average time to hire from 49 to 32 days over 2021-2023, an audit has found, but the Postal Service “continues to experience challenges” with recruitment and retention in those positions.

“This is due, in part, to the national unemployment rate overall being low, impacting most employers as they compete for talent,” says an inspector general report which added that the USPS did not receive any applications for above half of the more than 700,000 pre-career positions it posted nationwide over that time.

Pre-career — formerly known as “non-career” — employees are temporary workers who do not receive the same employee benefits as career employees and are not always guaranteed a regular schedule; they convert to career status when certain conditions, in some cases involving union contract provisions, are met.

The IG has issued a number of reports in recent years focused on difficulties in hiring and high turnover in such positions, which at any time account for almost a fifth of the 640,000-employee postal workforce, in positions including rural carrier associate, city carrier assistant, postal support employee, and mail handler assistant.

Changes to the hiring process begun in 2019 included shortening the time to hire by promptly extending job offers, eliminating interviews for most bargaining positions, and a video applicants must watch, showing current postal employees “describing daily tasks and physical demands of the job.”

However, auditors said that job postings for pre-career craft positions “did not always include realistic job descriptions or the demands required of each job at the specific hiring facility” because vacancy announcements include “generic” and “ambiguous” language regarding tasks such as standing, walking or bending and reaching. The result, it said, was that turnover remained about the same, at 56-57 percent within a year of hiring, over 2021-2023. Further, 33 percent of new hires did not last even three months.

The report also recommended steps to improve retention such as being more consistent in holding in-person meetings in which new hires visit the facility before their first day on the job and talk with management to ensure they would be a good fit.

“Without providing prospective employees with the specific and accurate requirements of the job during the hiring process or allowing new employees the opportunity to meet with facility staff, there is an increased risk of employee turnover,” it said.

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