Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New MSPB study has gems

A new study out by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), "Attracting the next generation: A look at federal entry-level new hires," while focused on the federal government, has good information for all of us. The study of recent federal hires uses data from over 1,000 survey participants as well as personnel records. Some of the insights include:

- Both those under 30 and those 30+ were most likely to find out about the job through a friend or relative. On the other hand, those 30+ were more likely to use USAJOBs and agency web sites, whereas those under 30 (not surprisingly) were more likely to discover jobs through school job fairs or placement offices. In addition, those under 30 were more likely to use "non-government job sites."

- The most common forms of assessment used were (mostly unstructured) interviews and reviews of transcripts. Narrative statements, written exams, and job simulations were (unfortunately) used much less often--despite evidence of their superior ability to predict job performance.

- Agencies also relied heavily on the "point method" for reviewing training and experience--i.e., the more training/experience you have, the higher your score. This despite evidence that the correlation between experience and performance is complex and peaks fairly quickly, while education does not generally predict performance very well. Not to mention that they make little sense when hiring for entry-level jobs.

- There were very few differences between age groups when it came to what applicants wanted in a job. For both the under 30 and 30+ groups, salary and benefits came out tops. The only significant differences came when looking at pensions (more popular among those 30+) and health insurance and tuition reimbursement (more popular among those under 30). Job security was also mentioned by both groups as a big draw to the federal government.

- Those under 30 were much less likely to predict staying with the feds for their entire career (although still an impressive 45%), and more likely to predict eventually moving to the private sector.

- "Length of the process" was by far the biggest obstacle faced by applicants in their pursuit of a federal job.

MSPB recommends federal agencies make several improvements to their recruiting and assessment efforts, including:

- Use more predictive assessment tools instead of relying on training and experience measures.

- Use a balanced set of recruitment practices to reach all the various segments of the job market. MSPB points out that conducting a proper job analysis and identifying true minimum qualifications can help cut down the number of unqualified applicants.

- Market what is important to applicants. For federal agencies this means job security, benefits, and the ability to make a difference.

- Evaluate the hiring process and remove any obstacles that are unnecessarily lengthening the process.

- Avoid stereotyping based on generational assumptions, since the data indicate substantial similarities between age groups in what they want out of a job.

Again, good information for all of us. There's a lot more information in the report.

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