Talent Development Centre

An Inside Scoop on the Federal Government’s Hiring Process


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David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

I once had a Federal Government client who said there is probably no process more cumbersome, costly and lengthy than hiring contractors in her department.  With all that goes in to it, though, she still finished with: “And yet we get it wrong too often”. There is a lot to that statement but, at its root level is the very fact that the Feds do a whole lot to get it right but it’s what they don’t do — interview in their contractor procurement process — that is likely the number 1 culprit for failed hires.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that every organization will point to hiring and “hiring right” as crucial to their success, or lack thereof. As such, large enterprises like the Feds put a ton of process into hiring, not only to select the best value resource but also to ensure a fair and transparent process, safeguarding the taxpayer throughout. The current Fed process to hire is often a complex RFP response. It seeks to match the best hire for the requirement entirely on paper, through a series of often complex mandatory and rated criteria that vendors need to “prove” in their response. It is a costly and cumbersome process that misses one crucial piece: there is no interview assessment of potential candidates. The hiring department never gets an opportunity to meet and assess both technical and soft skills, nor do they get a chance to dig deeper into experience and overall team fit before they award. These criteria can only be derived off of a resume paper response.

Hiring managers within the Feds are in a tough position, with no ability to interview and, as a result, Piles of folders filled with paperthey try to minimize their risk and have some influence in the choice by making extremely difficult requirements. Unfortunately, this only serves to add to the complexity of the process and makes for a very poor procurement process for all parties involved.

Interviewing face-to-face, likely with a small panel, provides an obvious and valuable mechanism with which organizations get to really assess technical skills, experience and fit to decide best value, but there are other benefits than these obvious ones. With over 300 TBIPS qualified vendors, there are sure to be some who do not play by the rules, will obfuscate credentials on a resume (or to put it kindly, “exaggerate ” experience) and others who play “bait and switch” (win the RFP by proposing candidates they never had or intended to take the work but used their resumes, and then back fill with other resources). Interviewing ensures this cannot happen as these unethical vendors will, without fail, be weeded out.

Other Public Sector organizations have successfully embedded interviewing in their process to hiring contractors both Municipal and Provincial. The Ontario Government even has a page with helpful hints and guidelines to interviewing with them and successfully hire similar resources.

A single friend described the whole process as  “a bit like using a dating service and marrying based on their dating site profile”… foolhardy indeed!

We, through our Industry Associations like NACCB, are working actively with the Federal Government to make interviewing a part of the contractor hiring process for these and other good reasons.

Would you like more information on this topic?  Leave your questions below and we’ll be happy to address them.

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