The federal government’s hiring process has been a longstanding sore spot for many job applicants, with long wait times and few updates keeping potential employees in the dark on whether they are even being considered for a position.

An April 3, 2018, the Office of Personnel Management released a memo aiming to ease some of that uncertainty by reminding agencies that they must notify applicants of their status in a timely fashion at three critical points: upon receipt of the application; upon completion of the qualifications assessment with confirmation of whether the applicant was sent to the agency selecting official; and when the applicant is either selected or not for the position.

“To attract talented and highly skilled applicants to public service, the application process should apprise job seekers (within applicable limits) and enable them to make informed decisions, rather than deter them from pursuing federal career opportunities,” Mark Reinhold, OPM’s associate director for employee services, wrote in the memo.

Agency officials have long noted that the lengthy hiring times often keep talented employees out of federal service, and members of Congress and oversight agencies have criticized the government’s inability to fill vacant positions in a timely manner.

According to a USAJOBS survey, a majority of applicants for federal jobs receive initial notification that their application has been received, but do not get consistent notifications later in the process.

“Maintaining communication with applicants about where they stand in the hiring process helps provide transparency about the process and can contribute to a positive impression and reputation of the hiring organization,” wrote Reinhold.

“Regular communication and notification to applicants are also key to maintaining the engagement and interest of applicants, particularly in cases where the hiring process involves multiple steps or when there is a risk of losing the applicant to a competing employment offer.”