7 steps for successful federal government recruiting [tool and video]

Posted March 17, 2017 by


To be a successful in federal government recruiting, you need deep knowledge of staffing systems and federal hiring practices and laws. However, you must also be willing to use innovative technologies and alternatives to posting on USAJOBS. College Recruiter spoke with Kyle Hartwig, ­­­­­­Senior Human Resource Specialist with the National Institute of Health (NIH). Hartwig developed a tool for federal government recruiters who are engaged in targeted outreach. The tool has 7 steps which guide recruiters in finding and engaging talent for hard-to-fill positions. There is a link below to the full 7 steps. Here you can read a summary and watch our 5-minute interview with Kyle to hear major tips and takeaways.

This tool attempts to address unique challenges in federal government recruiting.

According to Hartwig, a lot of agencies are afraid of doing active outreach. The reason is that they are concerned about is ethics. There are very stringent laws associated with hiring. Thus, HR specialists in agencies across government often shy away from taking real steps to find talent for unique roles. More often than not, many federal agencies don’t feel they have the freedom to recruit and find their own talent. With strict or even confusing federal staffing regulations, recruiters often opt for simply posting the opening on USAJOBS, or a few other places. After that, they just wait to see who applies. Hartwig says he built this tool because “we owe the American public our best efforts to keep our agencies fully staffed and running at capacity to fulfill their missions.”

In another vein, many federal HR specialists are unaware of the specific competencies necessary in each role they recruit for. Understanding those competencies would allow them to actively pursue ideal talent. Hartwig says that this is possible. “I’ve found proactive and specific talent sourcing and outreach to be a challenge in the Federal government but not impossible.” His tool allows HR specialists to use best practices while also following federal guidelines.

Don’t buy into the myths.

Congress certainly provides guidance for government recruiting and hiring practices, and we definitely need to follow all regulations. A critical one is Merit System Principles and Prohibited Personnel Practices: agencies cannot give a competitive advantage to individuals who they actively recruit.  According to Hartwig, “We must meet public notice requirements through an announcement on USAJobs (for most jobs).  This means we cannot give individuals information that would help their chances in getting the job that is not otherwise available via the announcement.  We can answer informal questions, but nothing too specific about what the applicant should address in their application.”

There are myths out there, however, that perpetuate assumptions about recruitment and hiring practices. Hartwig says, “Don’t immediately think there’s a regulation against this, or there’s a law that prohibits this,” or there is a reason not to employ certain recruitment practices. Many times, Hartwig says, if you investigate further, you’ll find these are myths. Don’t be afraid to expand your outreach to beef up your candidate list. Hartwig says he is often confronted with the assumption that outreach is easy. Wrong. Outreach—the kind that results in high quality hires—takes a lot of work. “Working with an entire hiring team, and finding the exact target skills of the desired candidate is not easy.” The 7-step tool, however, breaks it down into a methodical process.

The seven steps in the tool are not ground breaking. They are quite simple:

  1. Prepare. This includes researching the opening and understanding the competencies needed to perform in the role.
  2. Meet with the hiring team. This includes HR, hiring managers or any subject matter experts.
  3. Write your plan. If you are only posting on USAJOBS, you are missing out on a potentially wide pool of quality candidates.
  4. Source. Identify talent prospects. Look on the Internet to find potential candidates and categorize them.
  5. Ask for feedback. Make sure the hiring team explains their reasons for their feedback as well.
  6. Nurture candidate relationships. Get creative to engage candidates. You can invite them to an on-site visit, chat with them virtually, etc. There are many no-cost ways to engage candidates.
  7. Follow up. It’s essential to track your progress and share what is successful. This record will give you and the whole team feedback to improve in the future.

The tool can help recruiters become more self-aware.

The tool has a checklist that can give recruiters a sense of their own behavior. We all have strengths and weakness, for example, one recruiter may be great at working with the candidate but not as strong in collaborating with the hiring team. Using the checklist will reveal some of those weaknesses to help recruiters pay more attention to where they need to develop.

Hartwig adds, “Before implementing your own recruitment strategy and plan, ensure to consult with your agency’s legal counsel.” For more training and research, review https://hru.gov/Studio_Recruitment/Recruiting_Strategies.aspx.

Click here to see Best Practice Federal Government Talent Aquisition in 7 Steps

To start expanding your outreach, explore advertising options with College Recruiter and watch how JobsThatScale can help with high volume hiring.


Kyle Hartwig Corporate RecruiterAbout Kyle Hartwig: Mr. Hartwig is a Human Resource Specialist (Corporate Recruiter) specializing in innovative recruitment and employment branding efforts. He meets often with NIH management to strategically fill talent gaps, and is often seen presenting to students on college campuses regarding public sector careers. Prior to his appointment as a Human Resource Specialist, he received a Master’s degree from Georgetown University in Human Resource Management. During which he completed a rotational internship program in several areas of HR. 

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