Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Rob Seidner

USA • HR Specialist, U.S. Department of Transportation

MBA '03

Putting People to Work: National Policy, Reform and Innovation

Rob Seidner, MBA '03, of the U.S. Department of Transportation is working with a Presidential mandate to fix the broken federal government's hiring process

Spring 2011

Last year, Rob Seidner, MBA '03, was scheduled to speak at a government jobs event. About 500 people were expected to attend. As a seasoned federal employee, Seidner had worked at a lot of these career fairs, but his experience did not prepare him for what he saw that day. When he arrived, he noticed that the line to get in the door wrapped around the building -- 3,000 people had shown up. That's when he knew things had changed.

The U.S. government is the largest employer in the country, with 2.1 million people on the payroll. However, getting those employees hired was, for the most part, overly complicated and inefficient. It was taking up to a year to make hires, and some job announcements were 30 pages long, says Seidner, who also got his start as a presidential management intern working in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

"The hiring process was broken," he says. But last year Seidner was given a mandate to work on fixing it by the president himself, when Barack Obama signed an executive order to address the problem. Accepting a promotion at the U.S. Department of Transportation in December 2010, Seidner is now implementing the changes.

Today, the government is requiring managers to get more involved in recruiting and hiring and eliminating many obstacles for candidates, like long essays on first-round applications. Some changes have been in effect for fewer than six months, but already Seidner has seen dramatic improvements. And it isn't a moment too soon. The average age of federal employees is 47, and they've been retiring at high rates. At one time, Seidner says, 100 percent of senior executive service members were eligible to retire at several agencies. "No one quite knows what's going to happen," he says.

Making matters worse, many applicants are not meeting government hiring standards.

"The get-your-foot-in-the-door jobs are mostly gone in government," says Seidner. "Even the entry level is not the entry level anymore."

And, it seems, a college degree is no longer enough.

"Even for college students, the game has changed," says Seidner. "Employers are not looking at potential anymore. By the time you finish college, you already should have accomplished something."

Seidner has counseled thousands of job-seeking college students over the course of his career. He tells them that, in interviews and resumes, they should focus on what they've created and to quantify their results.

"The bottom line is truncated. Employees need to perform right away," he says. "Work ethic is no longer enough. Employers are less likely today to take a risk in general."

That being said, Seidner is still optimistic about career opportunities available with the government, especially for those graduating from Heller programs.

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