First round of USAJobs.gov improvements out from OPM

The Office of Personnel Management is releasing the first iteration of new improvements to USAJobs.gov. It’s part of a major redesign to the federal job portal, which OPM will unveil incrementally throughout the year.

The site now includes an application tracker to help job candidates follow their progress as they start and finish the process. Applicants can also build their own resumes directly on the site or upload files to USAJobs, which they can now preview before submitting the application.

USAJobs will now automatically save an applicant’s progress. And the site will prompt candidates to verify that their applications are complete and accurate before submitting them to the agency.

“Throughout the rest of the year, new features will be added to increase the usability of the USAJobs website by enhancing the job application process for those interested in careers in the federal government,” acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said in a statement. “By streamlining the USAJobs process, we will also improve our ability to attract the best and brightest to apply for jobs in the federal workforce.”

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The goal is to simplify the application process for job candidates, who told OPM their experience on USAJobs has often been confusing, frustrating and difficult, the agency said.

Through its research, OPM learned that many applicants abandon their applications mid-way or submit incomplete applications, Michelle Earley, USAJobs program manager, said in a blog post.

Creating a more user-friendly design experience is also a  main goal for OPM. The agency is applying new U.S Government Web Design Standards, which the U.S. Digital Service and 18F created, to each round of USAJobs updates.

OPM described the first round of changes in a video posted to USAJobs.gov.

A team at OPM, in collaboration with the agency’s Innovation Lab, had been working in six to eight week agile development “scrums” to make incremental improvements to the job site, the agency said in December.

“That will allow us to push out features on the site quickly over time and allow us to work on the site in an iterative way, instead of just unveiling the curtain and saying look what we’ve done,” said Sean Baker, lead designer at OPM’s Innovation Lab, during a Dec. 2 Human Capital Management for Government Training series in Washington.

OPM spoke with groups of job applicants, human capital and HR specialists and design and usability experts to gather feedback about the problems they saw with USAJobs and what steps the agency could take to fix them, Earley said.

The next generation of USAJobs began in May, when the team reconfigured the site’s search engine capabilities, she said. In October, OPM finished adding responsive design elements to make the site entirely mobile-friendly.