Interest in federal jobs is beginning to outpace that in other sectors, showing that agencies are growing their presence in the marketplace and connecting better with candidates, particularly from minority-serving institutions, according to an October report.
Job postings from federal employers on Handshake increased by 22% over the past year, according to a report by the company, which presents itself as a job board for college students.
The average number of applications per job increased by 55% for federal jobs, compared to 38% for other industries. Growth was particularly strong for jobs in tech, customer support, accounting and environmental science.
Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s chief education strategy officer, said in an interview that there are a few reasons why public sector hiring is looking up. Certainly, she said, the White House’s Office of Personnel Management has made recruitment of recent graduates and young professionals a governmentwide priority. Congress, too, has raised concerns over aging groups of employees retiring and leaving vacancies, particularly in IT jobs. But for a long time, efforts to hire have been hampered by the fact that agencies are often slow to extend an offer and onboard employees, meaning they lose out on interested talent.
“It’s a challenge for the government because [it] might lose really good talent to other sectors and other areas,” she said in an interview. “And they can’t always move as fast as they might want to.”
That dynamic has changed recently, though. Hiring for the government’s biggest competitors has slowed, Cruzvergara said.
Hiring in the U.S. has been slower over the summer. However, posts at the federal, state and local level represented a fifth of all new jobs created in the first eight months of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported in September.
“For example, with the tech sector slowing down on hiring, federal government has actually been able to come in and scoop up a lot of that really great talent,” Cruzvergara said.
The director of OPM, the federal government’s HR agency, previously said in a statement that the federal government is going to make a “concerted effort” to attract these individuals laid off by the tech sector. The average number of applications to federal software developer openings grew by 200% over the past year.
Cruzvergara also said that agencies are coming to understand that they cannot just post generically worded job descriptions on one platform, like USAJobs, and expect to get a robust pool of applicants. That’s especially true for the government’s hard-sought demographic of younger people.
“[Engagement] is very, very important, especially for this [younger] generation,” she said. “They want to talk to young alumni. They want to talk to other employees, so that they’re getting what they consider the ‘real deal’ or the authentic experience of somebody on the ground, not just the glossy marketing.”
The average federal employer on Handshake messaged a quarter more students this year and reached out to 2,000 more schools, an increase of about 25%. They also registered for a total of 3,000 career fairs this year, an increase of 15%.
Visits to federal employer profile pages were up by 26%, compared to an increase of 17% across all employers.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.