skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXI, No. 24
November 27, 2009
cover

next story



Global Recruitment Effort Gets Boost from ARRA

On the front page...

Like several of NIH’s internal communities, the Office of Human Resources flourished as a result of ARRA funds. From unprecedented crowds entertained at local job fairs to an unusually robust influx of rehired retirees, NIH corporate recruitment efforts surged past expectations in fiscal year 2009. And sensing a unique opportunity to reinvent crucial work relations, OHR rose to meet the challenge.

“OHR recognized that ARRA was going to mean a tremendous workload for the NIH,” said Chris Major, OHR director. “We created a special team to launch global recruitments for the most urgently needed jobs and tied them to our advertising campaign to promote them. ARRA was a great opportunity for OHR to provide a coordinated response to best meet the human capital needs of our customers.”

Continued...


  NIH recruiter Chris Pugh (r) greets attendees in front of the agency’s booth at a federal job fair.  
  NIH recruiter Chris Pugh (r) greets attendees in front of the agency’s booth at a federal job fair.  

Fishing with Wider Net, Less Waiting

"Creating a partnership climate between OHR and the ICs has always been at the core of OHR’s work,” noted project team leader Cheryl Wild of the Client Services Division. “ARRA afforded us the perfect opportunity to enhance our ongoing collaborations with the ICs through ‘global recruitment’ efforts.”

Global recruitment simplifies the hiring process, in effect allowing OHR to cast a wider net for employees in a larger applicant pool, streamlining resources and getting results faster.

For example, say NIH realizes it will need about 15 biologists across ICs. Global recruitment lets the agency post one general vacancy announcement for the position. That one posting might lure hundreds of potential hires, from which several ICs can each interview and make their selections. Normally, each vacancy requires a separate announcement from each IC and the pool of certified eligible applicants cannot be shared.

Less paperwork and shorter waiting time to hire, you say? ICs jumped at the chance. So did prospective employees. According to Wild, OHR global recruitment bore fruit quickly, particularly for several positions: grants management specialists, health scientist administrators and program analysts.
Perfect storm? Several factors—
an influx of ARRA funding, a sluggish national economy and rising unemployment
rates—combined to provide a favorable atmosphere for hiring at NIH. Recruiting potential employees at a recent job fair are (from l) Krishawn Demby, Sara Prather and Ed Langford, all of the Office of Human Resources
Perfect storm? Several factors— an influx of ARRA funding, a sluggish national economy and rising unemployment rates—combined to provide a favorable atmosphere for hiring at NIH. Recruiting potential employees at a recent job fair are (from l) Krishawn Demby, Sara Prather and Ed Langford, all of the Office of Human Resources

The grants management specialist post garnered 271 applications. Nine ICs expressed interest in the GMS vacancy. ICs hired 8—5 ARRA and 3 non-ARRA.

The HSA position pooled 541 applications. A total of 18 ICs showed interest. There have been 20 hires made so far, 1 ARRA and 19 non-ARRA.

The program analyst job received 490 applications and 15 ICs looked into it. One ARRA and 8 non-ARRA hires were made.

ARRA Ripple Effect

In addition, NIH experienced a ripple effect in other staffing needs: The success of the ARRA campaign resulted in another global recruitment effort, which is under way for contract specialists. To date, 5 employees have been hired by 4 ICs, Wild estimated. One of those may fall under ARRA. The vacancy listing fetched 533 applications.

“Although sharing a certificate of eligibles within the same office is not unheard of, sharing it across what are essentially 27 different organizations is extraordinary,” Wild explained. “The global recruitment effort has enabled OHR to create effective ‘intra-IC’ partnerships and reduce the number of announcements posted for the same position. These changes shorten the time managers must dedicate to the hiring effort. We have increased our customer service and outreach efforts, which have both led to a greater pool of qualified applicants.”

There have been 35 hires through global recruitment so far—7 of which fall into the ARRA category, she continued. Lists of qualified applicants for all the global recruitments were extended at the request of IC hiring managers, who continue to use the certificates to fill new vacancies as they surface. “ICs and applicants alike have given tremendous positive feedback regarding the global recruitment campaign,” Wild said.

In a note to Major, Sheryl Brining, director of NCRR’s Office of Review, expressed “enthusiastic support for the approach of issuing an omnibus announcement for NIH HSA positions. This approach has saved valuable time and resources that I can now spend furthering extramural research.”
OHR’s Langford (r) answers questions about working at NIH.
OHR’s Langford (r) answers questions about working at NIH.

Climate, a Key Collaborator Too

Of course the nation’s economy and unemployment conditions contributed to the successful recruitment season as well. Turnout, usually in the low hundreds for similar events, reached unprecedented levels (thousands) at several job fairs NIH attended last spring. At fairs in April, for example, NIH drew from about 100 to 450 people at such sites as Mount St. Mary’s College and Bowie State University. By May, agency recruiters were seeing 3,000-plus. A fair in Loudoun County hosted by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) drew at least that many; an event in Howard County, Md., actually closed down road traffic temporarily in Clarksville as job seekers flocked to the federal fair.

Specifically, “our goal was to attract knowledgeable, motivated candidates for critical Title 5 non-SES NIH positions,” explained NIH recruiter Chris Pugh, who coordinates job fair participation within OHR. “I was surprised by the overall turnout of attendees…These events are very productive for branding NIH as an ‘employer of choice.’ They’re also ideal for global recruitment.”

Retired, but Rehired

As ARRA funding boosted the number of grants NIH could offer (and thus, spurred a need for more grant reviewers), OHR and its hiring infrastructure had to respond quickly.

“We needed some experienced people so we could hit the ground running,” said David Uejio, special assistant to Major. “Who better to do that than our recent retirees?”

To find workers in the needed series, OHR used a database of federal workers who had retired within the last few years. NIH sent a letter to about 200 or so former employees, asking whether they were interested in returning to work.

“The response was beyond what we expected,” Uejio admitted. “We received 82 resumés from people who had worked at NIH, as well as several from former employees of other agencies.” Over the last few months, 8 retirees were rehired in 7 ICs.

Time to Streamline

OHR, also wanting to streamline hiring, applied to the Office of Personnel Management for direct-hire authority for positions of critical need.

“We’re not tone-deaf to the criticism,” Uejio said. “We also want to make the hiring process faster. We want to expedite the process as much as everyone else.”

In response, OPM relaxed a couple of its regulations due to the unique circumstances provided by ARRA and OHR gladly seized the moment.

“This has been a huge human capital opportunity,” Uejio concluded. “When we first realized ARRA might benefit NIH, our first thoughts were, ‘How can we support this initiative most effectively? What communities do we need to talk to?’ It was a basic needs-assessment exercise aligned with an outstanding customer service focus. We sought to reach out to various scientific communities and find a quicker way to support their hiring needs. OHR and the special project team for ARRA worked hard to ensure that the advantages of this new funding were realized by filling critical positions quickly with highly qualified candidates who continue to support the NIH mission.” NIHRecord Icon

back to top of page