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October 28, 2016

USAJOBS: How We Are Doing It

4 mins read

This September marked the 20-year anniversary of, the Federal Government’s online career portal and the face of federal hiring. Since 1996, USAJOBS has worked to replace an entirely paper system with modern online capabilities to streamline the sometimes complicated federal hiring process. Today, over 14 thousand job postings are available to job seekers each day and the site is highly-visited – with about 11 million user accounts and one billion job searches conducted on the site each year.

In 2014 the team at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, under the leadership of USAJOBS Program Manager Michelle Earley, began to reimagine the USAJOBS applicant experience and develop a portal with an easy to use, transparent web experience that connects job seekers with the right federal employment opportunities.

Excella has been with the team every step of the way, providing program management, Agile, UX, Change Management, and analytics work needed to make the new site a success. In the last twelve months, USAJOBS has released seven job seeker enhancements including a new landing page, streamlined account and guided application process.  We’ve learned a lot along the way!

#1: Embracing Agile Means Getting New Features Faster

We all know the nightmare scenario: a massive IT project starts, taking months (or years!) to gather requirements only to learn that when the product is finally released customer needs have changed. USAJOBS knew the key to success would be to get new features to customers quickly and use their feedback to further improve design.

To make this happen, the team adopted an Agile method of requirements gathering and development. For all features, the team spends time working with staff and customers to define the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and writing small, well-defined requirements to achieve the MVP. By using this approach analysts are able to handoff requirements frequently to the technical teams, who can quickly release new features and collect user feedback.

#2: User-Centered Design and Data Driven Decisions

User-centered design is at the heart of the new and improved USAJOBS. To launch the most recent updates to USAJOBS, user research began two years ago with over 80 user interviews and 12 focus groups held across the country. By taking several months to conduct user research prior to development, the USAJOBS team was able to analyze over 2400 customer data points that were synthesized down to 6 design pillars that inform every aspect of the USAJOBS redesign. The feedback gathering continued as the USAJOBS team partnered with OPM’s hiring experts leading Hiring Excellence Campaign sessions across the nation aimed at equipping Federal HR staff and supervisors with best practices for connecting with the nation’s top talent for their vacancies.  With thorough research drawing from the experiences of both applicants and Federal hiring officials to use as a basis for design, the team was able to move quickly into a pattern of Agile development and begin releasing useful features on USAJOBS quickly.

Research and analytics have continued to be a critical part of the USAJOBS development process. As the team encounters challenges, they collect feedback via surveys, helpdesk metrics, usability testing and interviews to inform how to proceed and improve the product for the customer. Extensive feedback loops have been put into place and analytics are gathered to ensure that new features are performing as expected. As iterations happen, the team is able to use the design pillars and data to ensure that the product continues that meets customer needs.

#3: Change Management is Critical When Working With Large Stakeholder Networks

From the beginning, the USAJOBS team wanted to have an impact on the entire federal hiring process, not just the USAJOBS website.  The federal hiring process can be complicated, making frequent and effective communication with customers and stakeholders a requirement for the USAJOBS team. The USAJOBS website provides extensive information to guide applicants through the process, as well as inform them about the evolution of USAJOBS.

But beyond just effective communications, the USAJOBS team has put power behind change management to ensure that stakeholders and partners within the federal government understand and buy-in to the USAJOBS changes and their intended impact. In most cases, USAJOBS collects job applicant information and passes it on to hiring agencies who review applications and make hiring decisions. By dedicating time and effort to communicating and engaging with partner agencies, the USAJOBS team is working to ensure that the entire applicant experience is as smooth as possible. In the spirit of collaboration, USAJOBS shares user research with partners and involves them in co-creation sessions to improve the hiring process across the board.

To better understand the new look and features unveiled with the USAJOBS transformation that is making the process of applying for Federal jobs and tracking the status of applications simpler and more intuitive, visit

Have questions or want to hear more about Excella’s work at USAJOBS?  Get in touch!

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