By Aaron Boyd, Senior Editor | July 6, 2018
Original Article Posted on Nextgov

Here’s why public-sector hiring managers think the government is struggling to fill its ranks.

Government research group Market Connections and the government arm of job-search company, Monster Government Solutions, polled 200 human resources professionals and hiring managers from the public sector (75 percent) and government contractors (25 percent) to get a ground-level view of current workforce challenges.

The majority of respondents (52 percent) agreed the dearth of qualified candidates is the biggest recruitment problem. Respondents also cited an inability to compete on salary (44 percent), long lead-times finding qualified candidates (42 percent) and budget restrictions (40 percent).

The sectors—defense agencies, federal agencies, state and local government and government contractors—face different challenges. All three public-sector slices showed significantly more difficulty competing on salaries, but that isn’t as big a problem for contractors. Private-sector respondents singled out the lack of qualified candidates as their biggest problem, an issue state and local governments shared.

And while compliance issues hamper recruitment in both defense and federal agencies, the latter cited budget concerns far more than any other group polled.

For the most part, these groups use veteran recruiting programs (64 percent), the official government USAJobs website (62 percent) and their agency or company website (62 percent) to find and solicit for new hires. Majorities also cited referrals (56 percent), academic partnerships (53 percent), internal recruiters (52 percent), face-to-face meetings (52 percent) and third-party job websites (52 percent).

On the low end, less than 50 percent of respondents said they use diversity recruiting platforms (47 percent), job fairs (47 percent), social media (42 percent) or professional associations (41 percent).

This is a problem, according to federal hiring managers like Elaine Ho, chief of staff for the U.S. Digital Service, who recently joined Nextgov for an episode of the Critical Update podcast.

When Ho asks other federal officials about their recruitment strategies, she most often hears, “’Well, we’ve got USAJobs,’” she said on the podcast. “They get so many applications they’re thinking, ‘Why do I need to recruit?’ But what we’re trying to do is get the right talent.”

Hiring managers largely agreed that their agency or company brand was important to recruitment efforts, and more than half said their employer stood out compared to the competition.

However, among federal respondents, less than half said their agency has a strong brand, compared to almost three-quarters of government contractors.

This is a problem, according to Monster researchers, as an agency’s brand is usually tied to its mission, and mission is the biggest selling point of public service.

“Candidates don’t set out to work for government, they set out to work for the FBI, NASA, USDA, or the City of San Francisco,” said Susan Fallon Brown, vice president of global strategy and business development at Monster Government Solutions. “These are organizations with important missions from national security to food safety, and they have a unique opportunity to brand their goals and values in their recruiting efforts.”

The full white paper goes into further detail on each data point and offers some recommendations on opening up the job search and retaining young and skilled talent.