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RFC 004 - Cross-TTS Hiring at Scale

The problem / situation / context

The pace at which TTS has hired staff is no longer sustainable, as we are growing the organization and are called on to help implement aspects of the administration’s top priorities, including the American Rescue Plan. We can only accomplish the goals set out before us if we rapidly hire at scale. We have limited TTS Talent, OHRM, and hiring manager / interviewer capacity. TTS will pilot cross-TTS hiring: the goal is to hire faster while attracting a highly qualified, diverse candidate pool.

With our new Direct Hiring Authority approval in place, we are piloting a new approach to hiring through March 31, 2022. We assembled working groups from across TTS to draft cross-TTS position descriptions and specialized experience statements for four discipline areas: Account Management / Project Coordinators, Design/CX, Engineering, and Product Management / Program Management.

With integrated position descriptions, we need only one HR action and public notice on USAJobs per discipline area across TTS. This reduces the effort to prepare and post these public notices.

Once position descriptions are complete, teams can begin efforts to source diverse candidate pools. TTS Talent is already utilizing job boards and events to reach diverse pools of talent.

TTS Talent will encourage all candidates to attend cross-TTS information sessions to learn about opportunities with the relevant TTS groups and about the application process.

What happens after candidates apply? How will TTS coordinate? How will candidates be evaluated? How do we preserve candidate experience? How do we preserve equity and inclusion throughout the process?

The proposed path forward

I propose the following:

  1. In addition to the efforts mentioned above to attract diverse candidates, Talent will work to incorporate equity, and inclusion in the process. Everyone conducting interviews will participate in interviewer training that covers unconscious bias. Talent will work with hiring teams on best practices regarding equity & inclusion in our evaluation of candidates, our selection of interview panels, and how we conduct interviews / take notes, debrief, and make selections.
  2. Candidates will apply without indicating specific TTS group(s) of interest. Hiring managers will review all resumes and select candidates of interest. Some offices may be interested in the same candidates. Talent will then do a review of all selected candidates to ensure that they meet the specialized experience requirements. Talent will then reach out individually to the qualified candidates to discuss the offices considering them and to ask if the candidate wants to proceed.
    1. Rationale:
      • For Hiring managers: Some of our TTS programs aren’t as well-known as others. We want to ensure each office has an opportunity to identify and interview candidates.
      • For Talent: There is significant Talent effort required for each candidate pool. Given that there are 7 TTS BUs participating in some of these hiring actions and that we have very limited resources, managing multiple pools of candidates isn’t feasible.
      • For candidates – People will have an opportunity to learn about offices / opportunities they might not have considered during the application process.
  3. We’ll cap the number of people a hiring manager can select to interview based on the number of hires they’re trying to make. Talent will look at the conversion rates of recent hiring actions to inform their recommended number per hiring manager. If the hiring manager is unable to hire enough qualified candidates from that initial pool, they can select a second pool of candidates.
    1. Rationale: This will limit the burden on everyone participating in hiring.
  4. We’ll consolidate the number of interviews from 4 to 3. Traditionally offices have done a phone screen, technical, core values, and behavioral based interview.
    1. Rationale: Phone screens have traditionally been used to introduce candidates to the team and role they are interested in while also screening them for the basic skills needed to do the role. To replace the ‘introduction’ part of the phone screen, candidates will be given the optional opportunity to submit answers to some basic questions in their application including why they are interested in the opportunity/org. Hiring managers/interviewers will be provided this information in advance of their interviews to read. Talent will also run interview information sessions via Webex (so candidates will be anonymous) for candidates that have been selected to interview. The candidates will be provided with information on the interview process and what to expect and will be able to ask questions anonymously about the process to create a better candidate experience in lieu of the phone screen.
      • I’d like to see if we can effectively evaluate candidates while limiting the hours we spend interviewing and debriefing on each candidate. Given all the needs of the organization, our limited Talent resources, and the amount of time it takes to coordinate and schedule each interview, something has to give, and I’d like to give this a try.
  5. Candidates will receive interview questions in advance.
    1. Rationale: We’ve gotten extremely positive feedback from candidates. Having the questions in advance helps people prepare, interviewers have noted that the answers candidates provide are better, and reduces some of the stress of the interview process for the candidate.
  6. Technical interview: Each hiring manager will have discretion on how they conduct their technical interview. Candidates interested in multiple opportunities will do multiple technical interviews. If teams want to extend the technical interview from an hour to 75 minutes and start the meeting in what traditionally had been the “phone screen” to set the stage with the candidate and have a two-way dialogue, they can do that. (Or to allow additional time at the end of the interview for questions.)
    1. Rationale: The roles and responsibilities of each TTS BU are different and consolidating these technical interviews to work across TTS is not feasible.
  7. The final two interviews will be a core values interview and a behavioral based interview (i.e. leadership, communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, etc). I’d like to stand-up a working group to determine the questions for these TTS-wide interviews. Experienced TTS interviewers will conduct these interviews on behalf of TTS. Interviews in core-values and behavioral-based interviews will have two or more interviewers participating.
    1. Rationale: The second and third interviews will be the non-technical interviews. Candidates interviewing for multiple TTS positions will only have to do these non-technical interviews once. Hiring managers will be able to share notes and talk to the interviewers. This helps preserve candidate experience; we shouldn’t expect candidates to do a separate core values interview for COE, Login, and 18F, for example. Experienced interviewers will conduct these interviews because they have a deep bench of experience evaluating candidate responses, specifically around core values and DEIA.
  8. Reference checks, to be conducted by the hiring manager, are optional, but are strongly encouraged.
  9. Selection. If more than one TTS office is interested in hiring the same candidate, the candidate will decide. If the candidate wishes to speak to other people in that organization before making a decision (which happens often), Talent or the Hiring Manager will facilitate scheduling those conversations.

We’ll evaluate this pilot after candidates have been selected from the first cross-TTS hiring pool. We’ll hold a retrospective on the process including PD drafting, sourcing strategies, interview process, and candidate selection.

We will consider the following metrics:

  • TTS demographic trends
  • Average time to hire one person compared to FY21 year-to-date data
  • Number of people hired over 6 months period of time compared to past years data over a 6 months time period

Alternatives considered

  1. Posting individual roles as separate notices on USAJobs and allowing the candidates to self-select orgs of interest, as we have been doing. The drawbacks of this are: more effort to process resumes and schedule interviews for multiple teams; candidates might apply to multiple roles and we are running them through the similar interviews and having to track them in different spreadsheets; some BUs might get a smaller applicant pool; instead of outreach (sourcing, info sessions, job boards) for one role, Talent would have to do it multiple times for multiple roles.
  2. Use consolidated cross-TTS postings and provide candidates the option to select orgs of interest. Make it each Hiring Manager’s responsibility to manage their own interview process; essentially removing Talent from the responsibilities of managing the interview and candidate experience process. The drawbacks of this are: candidates interested in multiple roles will have multiple (potentially duplicate) interviews; potential for loss of equity and fair evaluation; candidate experience would suffer; if TTS/OHRM hiring practices and guidelines are not followed, it could open TTS/GSA up to risks.

Equity and Inclusion

Hiring for speed may have tradeoffs associated with it. I’m concerned that moving faster may mean that the diversity of our candidate pools may suffer. There is a lot that we (as an organization) can do to make sure that’s not the case – teams can do sourcing for candidates and Talent will post to diversity focused job boards, we will draft templates for social media posts, and Talent can pair with TTS employees in “sourcing jams” where we do boolean searches for key terms within your twitter or linkedin networks to identify candidates and invite them to information sessions. I encourage all of you to start thinking through your networks and identifying good folks that may be eligible for these positions. If you have other ideas, I’m all ears.

Premortem / Review

We will hold retrospectives after each cross-TTS hiring cohort and may adjust this process regularly based on feedback and learnings.