Easier Federal Job Applications? Yes!

If you are planning to apply for a job with the Federal government, you can start doing your happy dance now.

From the Federal Times, the dreaded knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) questionnaires will be phased out. The Office of Personnel Management plans to ask agencies in September to stop requiring job seekers to fill out the time-consuming questionnaires.

What are KSA questionnaires?

The Federal Times explains, "KSA questionnaires can contain dozens of questions requiring applicants to write essays describing their work experience or qualifications. HR specialists and subject matter experts then read through those responses — or use software to search for key words — and assign point values to KSA responses that help determine which applications will be reviewed further. But KSA questions are sometimes repetitive and require lengthy responses, and critics say they discourage some people from applying for federal jobs."

Yes, they do. When I initially reviewed the announcement to apply for my current position, I read it, put it away and thought, maybe even said aloud, "no job is worth this." I eventually did apply and it took the better part of a day. To me, this was not a normal application process.

What is normal?

Funny you should ask. Of the societal norm, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said in the article,

"Our society operates on a résumé-based approach, and for years, the government has had its own approach separate from that. What I’m hoping we can accomplish is a culture shift to have the federal government rely upon what the societal norm is.”

Federal HR benchmarking against the societal norm – now that’s COOL and something I can get behind. I hired people without KSAs before working in federal HR and I'd like to do that again.I started dancing in my office (almost) as I read on.

What is going on here?

I continued to read and then my dancing slowed and disbelief started creeping in. Some bucky Federal HR mangers were quoted in the article saying:

If we do away with KSAs, we’ll be moving away from information we need to properly evaluate people. I’m not sure this is going to work.

Switching to a pure résumé system isn’t the right idea. Without KSAs, HR offices will have to ask job seekers more follow-up questions, which will just end up slowing the hiring process further.

Let’s not create the illusion that because the process will be easier on the front end, it will also be easier on the back end. If this bogs down the hiring process, then we won’t achieve the result we’re looking for.

Hokey Spitballs! Get out from under your regulations and take a look around. We can hire without KSAs. The private sector does it every single day. The U.S Army and U.S. Customs Service do it.

Step Up Your Game

John Palguta of the Partnership for Public Service said, "some HR offices and reviewers who have been relying on KSAs, they’ll have to step up their game and be more creative in terms of how they evaluate people."

Yes! Let's be creative. Eliminating KSAs is the right thing to do and those not willing to consider that maybe there is a better approach to assessing applicants will need to step out of the way for others to try.

It's time for a change and streamling the federal job application is a change in the right direction.