Jan 07 2015

GSA Puts Hiring of IT Pros on Fast Track

The General Services Administration is one of a few public agencies with expanded authority to hire specialized IT talent.

The General Services Administration is exploring a model for accelerating the IT hiring process, one in which managers can quickly identify and recruit cloud experts, open source developers and other specialized talent.

“We are part of a small group of agencies that have been given expanded authority to hire specialized IT talent in a more accelerated manner,” GSA CIO Sonny Hashmi told FedTech.

GSA is one of three pilot agencies exploring what Hashmi calls a more agile approach for recruiting IT talent. Over the past several months, GSA has used this authority to hire more than 80 individuals. “That number will increase,” he said, adding that “we are very excited about it.”

Most of the recruits are part of a digital services delivery team at GSA called 18F, which is charged with helping government agencies develop high-quality services. Hashmi is passionate about finding vacancies within GSA to set aside for new talent, including technologists who specialize in prototyping and business process design to ensure GSA is a nimble IT buyer.

As agencies expand their cloud and mobile capabilities, they need in-house experts who understand those areas. But hiring qualified IT talent can be a daunting task for federal managers.

The average hiring time for IT specialists in the federal government is more than 100 days, compared with seven to 14 days for leading private sector companies, former federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, told a Senate subcommittee in May.

“Given the competitive markets for technical talent, government is often unable to acquire top candidates given the current hiring process,” VanRoekel said.

There are exceptions to the norm, thanks to programs such as the Health and Human Services Department’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Technology & Innovation Fellows and the newly launched U.S. Digital Service, which bring top talent into government to work on the high-impact projects.

Hashmi said that the GSA is also retraining staff to ensure they have more opportunities to grow. The agency is changing from an organization that has primarily been an IT caretaker to one that is a business partner and expert resource.

“We need to be better experts, so we can be better buyers and partners with industry,” he said.