Data Scientist Hire Campaign Maximizes Applications in Under 2 Days

A coalition of agencies led by the Office of Personnel Management is launching a government-wide appeal to hire data scientists.

The OPM, in conjunction with the Federal Chief Data Officers Council and the US Digital Service, released a joint job posting on Monday offering applicants with in-demand skills consideration for more than 50 data science positions through a single application.

Ten agencies have launched a call to hire program analysts at the GS-13 and 14 levels with at least one year of prior experience.

OPM announced that the nomination will close at midnight on the day it received 500 nominations. An OPM spokesperson said it received more than a number of applications in less than 48 hours.

The hiring process is designed to integrate employees with in-demand skills at a faster rate than would normally occur under the federal hiring system. The US digital service piloted the same process last spring to hire customer experience experts.

Lisa Frid, head of the Census Bureau’s Workforce Transformation Program, said applicants will go through a subject matter expert qualification assessment that gives data scientists a place at the table during the selection of candidates.

“Instead of asking applicants to assess themselves, SMEs partner with HR to assess whether applicants are qualified before being deemed eligible,” Frid said in an interview.

The assessment of the qualifications of subject matter experts is clearly a departure from the assessment of skills that occurs with most federal hires. New data from the General Services Administration found that 90% of competitive job postings open to the public were based solely on applicants’ responses to a self-assessment questionnaire to determine whether their experience made them eligible for the position.

The government-wide hiring initiative comes a year after the Council of Data Officers first met, a milestone given that Congress passed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act just a year ago and has required agencies to appoint a CDO.

Program analysts hired through this process would oversee the agency’s objectives under the Evidence Act, automate data collection, and present the results of their data analysis to agency management.

Applicants hired at the GS-14 level would work more independently or as a senior analyst in a data science team, and brief senior policy makers.

Applicants will take a written assessment in late January and data science experts will interview applicants in early February. The agency’s hiring staff will offer a second interview to candidates later in the month and expect to finalize hires by early March.

The app asks candidates to detail their skills in a handful of programming languages ​​and includes three multiple-choice questions asking candidates how they would respond to everyday challenges, like extracting datasets from PDFs with inconsistent formatting or designing a model. predictive based on agency data. .

Daniel Morgan, the Department of Transportation CDO, said the agency had open positions in data science in Washington, DC and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in mission areas that include security, infrastructure and innovation.

“We are excited for the opportunity to showcase the public service angle of data science work,” Morgan told Federal News Network.

The joint hire initiative would complement a data science requalification effort that began at the Census Bureau in 2019, but has since been extended by the Office of Management and Budget to develop a data requalification program at the government wide.

The office’s first cohort of 50 participants completed the program in June 2020, and the office will launch a second cohort later this month, expanding courses to include two tracks – one for data science generalists and the other for machine learning experts.

The Census Bureau is also one of 40 organizations working with the Chief Information Officers Council and the OPM to create a professional data science series. Frid said agencies are currently heating applicants into job descriptions and job titles that only partially cover the work they do.

The new set of jobs, she added, would not only categorize data scientists more consistently across government, but also help agencies attract top talent for those positions.

“Right now it’s very difficult to compete with the private sector, but this series will help federal agencies make it clear where data science roles lie, provide people with a career path in this new discipline. and to provide the compensation and benefits necessary to attract and retain this talent, ”said Frid. “We’re trying to respond to the changing landscape from the outside, as data science is a sought-after career and people call themselves a data scientist. They’re not called a survey statistician or a data analyst, so we want to adapt to the times.

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration, in support of these data requalification efforts, released a Data Skills Catalog highlighting a range of data skills training available to the workforce. federal work.

The GSA released the Competency Catalog as part of the Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan, which set out a 10-year journey of common steps that agencies should take to improve their data analytics capabilities.

Morgan said he and his colleagues on the CDO Council are looking to continue building on the success of the federal data strategy with the upcoming release of a 2021 action plan.

“The Federal CDO Council has proven to be an amazing place to create a learning and sharing community between agencies on how to implement the elements of the action plan and celebrate the successes along the way. “, did he declare.

Sean N. Ayres