The Office of Personnel Management mistakenly told about 300 Presidential Management Fellows applicants they had been selected as finalists, when they actually had not.
According to a statement from Angela Bailey, OPM's associate director for employee services, the agency on Jan. 23 started sending automated notifications to the 1,229 PMF semifinalists telling them whether they had been selected as finalists. About 300 semifinalists received two emails — first, a message telling them they had not been selected, and then another — incorrect — message saying they had been selected.
Bailey said the PMF Program Office quickly realized the mistake and stopped further notifications. She said an administrative error caused the accidental emails.
OPM sent followup emails the next day to the 300 affected people telling them they did not make it into the program, and resumed emails to applicants who had not yet been notified. OPM said 628 candidates were selected as PMF finalists.
PMF finalists are eligible to be hired by federal agencies. Once an agency hires them, they are officially Presidential Management Fellows. After they serve for two years as fellows, agencies can choose to convert them without competition to permanent federal jobs.
Paul Binkley, director of career development services at George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, said at least five of his 13 students who were PMF semifinalists got the conflicting emails. Only four of the 13 were actual finalists.
Those who got the erroneous emails "were very disheartened," Binkley said. But they also felt, " ‘Oh, there they go again.' There have been a lot of problems with PMF over the years, and a lot of emails sent incorrectly."
Binkley said that in past years, applicants have been mistakenly told via email that they hadn't completed their applications when they had, or vice versa. He also said some applicants have finished their online tests and later received emails saying the tests weren't done. But this is the first time he knows of that applicants were mistakenly told they were finalists.
"Every year it's something new, and it makes it hard to take the PMF program seriously," Binkley said. "I've been a big proponent of the PMF program for a long time, but it makes it difficult when they shoot themselves in the foot this way."
Bailey acknowledged that OPM has had problems before.
"There have been some technical challenges in past years," Bailey said in a statement. "Each time, we moved quickly to address the issue. We are in the process of reviewing the application and notification systems in order to avoid these types of weaknesses for future PMF classes."