Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Suggestion for Oregon State Hiring & Promotions

I usually steer clear of topics dealing with my office life in the shadow of the capitol mall (shrouded in mystery and excitement that it is--not!).  Since this isn't an issue likely to yield too much controversy or grumbling, I've decided to voice my thoughts.  In fact, most of you will probably be asleep by the time you reach the last paragraph.  As a state employee for fifteen years within two of the largest state agencies, I think I know just a little about hiring and advancement within state agencies, and I'd like to talk about one particular concern today.


If you have ever looked at the current state government employment opportunities, you know there are a lot of choices out there.  (If you haven't completed an application recently, expect your first electronic application submission to take you a minimum of an hour or two.)  There are external and internal openings, but the issue I am discussing today really applies to both of those categories.  Recently, after being particularly excited about a job opening that was a perfect fit for my communication background, I was dismayed to learn that I was competing with the nice gentleman already performing the duties of the job.  Since I had no interest in competing with him, I made the decision to withdraw my application.  This kind of thing happens more than the public likely recognizes, and I suggest it's a significant waste of state employee time and resources.  

The Problem

I realize that, when it comes to the state hiring/promotion process, there are complex reasons for all the processes and procedures state human resource employees and management must follow--the union contract and privacy concerns account for much of this.  That said, I'd encourage agency management to consider creative ways to give potential candidates an informal heads-up that the open position for which they are applying may have them competing with the person who is already doing the job in question.  I'm confident that I'm not the only state employee who finds these hiring situations a little annoying for two main reasons.

First, it seems in poor form (to me anyway) to compete for a position with the person currently engaged in performing those same exact duties.  I'm not sure I'd go so far as calling it rude...but let's just say it doesn't seem particularly neighborly to me.  (This is why I make a point of withdrawing my applications in these situations.)

Second, it's my understanding that within the vast majority of these scenarios, the person currently competing for his/her own position--e.g. wishing to make the transition from a limited duration or work-out-of-class to permanent--is hired for the permanent.  This is only common sense.  Bringing someone on board who can immediately hit the ground running, saves a lot of time and training funds.  It raises a question, though.  In not disclosing this in some way up front, how much time and effort is being wasted by employees applying for a position such as this?  When you multiply the lost employee hours by the number of instances of this across state government each year, you could probably fund a small Oregon State Agency with the identified savings--but this is a personal observation only and unrelated to my number-crunching by day.

I know that it's not an easy question, and, if HR were to do too much too quickly, they might be legitimately accused of not having a legitimate and open hiring process, but I'd suggest that the agency look at this issue for creative solutions that meet state requirements.  Of course, HR staff will counter that each employment interview is an opportunity for new experience and "professional development," but this really just obfuscates the procedural and practical challenge at hand; no one wants to waste their time applying and interviewing when the pre-selected employee is already "waiting in the wings."

A Solution?

One possible solution might be a method of self-disclosure by position candidates in this particular situation.  Perhaps a private website, for instance, could serve as a place where people trying to make the leap from a temporary, rotational, or work-out-of-class could publicly disclose that they're competing for the same position in a permanent capacity.  A second and related strategy to counter this problem (and others), as suggested by a friend of mine, might utilize rotating interview panelists from different state agencies.  In other words, you might have Department of Revenue employees serving as panelists for Employment Department interviews--and vice-versa. 

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