Federal Coach

By Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service

Blog archive

Federal Coach: Pitching young employees on your federal agency

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

The average age of my agency's employees is high. With retirements increasing, we will need to recruit and hire younger employees. What is the recruiting pitch that will appeal to younger employees? How do you entice them to join your agency? - Federal Manager (GS-15), Department of Veterans Affairs

This is a great question. Recruiting a new generation to public service and getting top-flight talent in the process is essential to the vibrancy and effectiveness of our government.

Let's start with the recruiting pitch. You should have a clear message about your organization and mission, as well as a straightforward description of the job to be filled.

In particular, you need to speak to the interests of young job seekers on making a difference, workplace flexibilities, relative job stability, and the opportunity that a government job can provide as a possible stepping stone. If you really wanted to push your message forward, you could reinforce that federal employment is an opportunity to be of service of the American people. The folks you want will jump at the chance.

Putting all this into action will require that every agency and every office develop its elevator speech - that 30-second, plain-English pitch that explains your role and mission. You also need what I call a "Metro ad": a short, catchy written pitch that's capable of drawing someone's interest even if they're standing on a hot, crowded Metro full of tourists.

This means agencies must stop posting vacancies on USAJobs.gov that contain mind-numbing job descriptions and instead read more like incredible opportunities.

After a quick search on USAJobs.gov, I found agencies that have not yet developed that pitch. The first line of one job announcement read: "Reviews and assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of programs...."

Others, like the Department of Treasury's inspector general made a more enticing pitch: "Treasury OIG is looking for people capable of taking initiative and exercising independent judgment, with a strong desire to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs, and the intellectual capacity and drive to make that happen."

Of course, a great pitch that no one hears is useless. So the answer to your question is incomplete without some mention of the best ways of delivering your message to those young job seekers.

One federal recruiter, Amanda Perry at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,just posted a great blog on the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) website outlining the best communication techniques she's uncovered in her experience.

Among her many great ideas, she outlines enlisting campus ambassadors (former interns) to serve as advocates for your organization; hosting educational seminars on campus for students to support their professional development; and organizing webinars to reach a wider audience without incurring travel costs.

If you're interested, you might also check out a tool my organization, the Partnership for Public Service, has developed, What's My Role: A Step-by-Step Hiring Guide for Federal Managers, that covers Amanda's ideas and others such as using social media like LinkedIn to get your message out to job seekers.

Posted by Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service on Aug 19, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Sat, Sep 17, 2011 northeast

It's really too bad that older workers are no longer valued - when I first started at IRS, we really appreciated and respected the older workers. At IRS now, older workers are treated like dirt, even harassed to pieces in their final year of service. IRS management should be ashamed. Often they are bumped off to make room for the children of these managers who are unqualified (i.e., a library worker replacing CPA/MBA's with 20 years experience). As long as they misclassify an older career tenured employee as probationary, they can and do deny all due process rights and can terminate them without warning or cause to bring in the children. Similar to what's happening in the state of MA (at the state level) and I'm sure it's everywhere in this unemployment crisis.

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