Agencies can take advantage of downtime during hiring freeze

Margot Conrad, director of education and outreach, Partnership for Public Service

The Trump administration’s hiring freeze may add labor gaps and unwanted stress on federal agencies, but it also gives them time to update internal workforce practices and focus more on outreach, experts say.

Agencies can stay active in recruiting, even during the downtime, Margot Conrad, director of education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service, told Federal Drive with Tom Temin. She said they do not just have to sit and wait it out and can start cultivating new relationships with talent networks and students at colleges.

The White House included several exemptions to the hiring freeze, such as critical positions of public safety and national security as well as internship programs and fellowships. So while agencies cannot currently fill open positions, they can continue recruiting students.

“Some agencies are actively looking to fill positions right now [and this is] helping to really educate students on how they can make a difference through government service, the type of benefits they can have and the professional development opportunities,” Conrad said. “All of that is critical.”

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Many agencies utilize the Pathways program to help recruit students and recent graduates, including the Defense DepartmentOffice of Personnel Management (OPM), State Department and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“There is a lot of work that agencies can be doing to really target the outreach they are doing to college campuses,” Conrad said. “Ideally, they are viewing these internships as a way to build that pipeline and will be really strategically aligning these interns with their future hiring needs.”

The Pathways program has three components: Internship program for current students, Recent Graduates program and Presidential Management Fellows program. Program details may vary depending on the agency.

“It’s a great way for students to kind of get their foot in the door or experience an agency and a way for the agency to sort of see whether that individual is a good fit and potential hire for them in the future,” Conrad said. “So it’s a great way for students to get government exposure.”

While not all agencies have internship opportunities open at this time of year, there is still work they can do. Conrad said agencies could look internally to workforce planning and potential updates to hiring practices.

Conrad said agencies should ask two simple questions:

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  1. What are the current assessment tools the agency uses to reach and  recruit talented individuals?
  2. How can these tools be streamlined to ensure the hiring process is as efficient and effective as possible?

Agencies also have flexibilities  for current employees.

“Folks who are currently in federal agencies may see opportunities for their own growth and development as well by having a chance to have exposure to a different part of the agency or be deployed in a different way,” Conrad said.

Two examples Conrad said agencies should consider are leveraging social media and sending representatives, including former interns, to on-campus career events at colleges and universities to take advantage of the down time until the freeze is lifted.