With the New York District below full staffing levels largely due to a wave of retirements, Commander Col. Thomas Asbery implemented an innovative method to hire staff more quickly than the usual tedious process, which can take up to 120 days. He found the solution by using the federal government’s Direct-Hire Authority (DHA) and a District career fair.
In an effort to staff vacancies at the New York District, the Human Resources Office and Office of Counsel orchestrated a Career Fair to attract quality candidates to fill job vacancies. It was a method to resolve frustrations from HR managers and the District’s own applicants. A two-day Career Fair was announced and pitched weeks and days leading up to the event held at the Federal Building.
The DHA is an appointing authority the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may use to grant to the Corps requesting it to fill vacancies when there’s critical hiring needs, severe shortage of candidates, and for recent college graduates. It saves time as it waives some of the customary steps in the hiring process, permitting employment with fewer restrictions to qualified applicants.
Planning & Coordination
Prior to the event, a 16-member Project Delivery Team (PDT) headed by Lorraine Lee, chief, Office of Counsel, spent six weeks planning, reaching out to area colleges to spread word. The fair was timed to coincide with many college’s spring break recess, to maximize attendance. This directly contrasts with the District’s usual outreach where personnel attend off-site college fairs providing information about potential opportunities and background information about the Army Corps of Engineers.
Nearly 100 Job Seekers
Close to 100 job seekers attended the fair obtaining information about agency mission and goals, applying for available job vacancies, interviewing with hiring managers and speaking directly with Division chiefs. Many of the applicants were diversified from a variety of skill backgrounds and expertise.
Focus on STEM Positions
Targeting recent college graduates and those about to graduate, the focus was on STEM positions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and hard-to-fill vacancies. Some attendees, having already applied on the OPM job website (usajobs.gov) the federal government’s job portal, attended to meet District staff in person.
Many were deemed well-qualified candidates and 12 job offers were extended, and others considered for employment. “This event was a big success for the District,” said Lorraine Lee, chief, Office of Counsel. “It exceeded our expectations; we’re considering holding more events similar to this.”
Noting the District is to hire at least 30 new employees by the end of this fiscal year, Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Richard Gussenhoven, who interacted with candidates during the fair, stated, “This event has allowed us to bring together quite a diverse population of potential applicants for jobs here in the New York District.”
Organized by Office of Counsel and Human Resources, the fair was the first direct-hire event in recent memory, with Division chiefs and senior managers from Construction, Operations, Planning, Engineering and Contracting participating. The effort pulled all resources together ̶ hiring managers, support staff, agency information and interview set-ups ̶ to quickly identify qualified candidates to fill vacancies.
Evaluations & Feedback
The success of the event was validated by positive feedback from participants’ evaluations. Feedback included: “I liked the diversity of positions available as well as the friendliness of the staff;” “Everyone was super friendly; I liked that HR matched you with Divisions;” and “The ability to speak with high-level people on the spot.”