How did the US Government hire people pre-internet?

Going back to the OP, Amasia writes:

> . . . I realize the federal government has gotten much larger in recent years . . .

No, it hasn’t:

As you can see, the number of Federal employees rose quickly from 1940 (the earliest date given in this article) to 1970. The number of Federal employees stayed relatively high in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It decreased in the 1990’s. It went back up in the 2000’s. So there are less Federal employees now than there were in 1970. Most of the growth in the 2000’s were related to Homeland Security and Defense. Furthermore, these are increases in the raw numbers. As a proportion of the population, the number of Federal employees is much less than in 1970.

Here, at any rate, intelligence agencies didn’t advertise, ‘connected’ academics talent-spotted people at university and suggested that an approach be made to them.

That may have been true at one point in the U.K., but it’s not true anymore. Here, for instance, is the job application website for GCHQ:

Similarly, there may have been a few years after the founding of the CIA in the U.S. when a lot of the hiring was done by professors at elite universities recommending particular students to the agency, but that was long ago and no longer the case.

Hmmm. My father, a college professor, delights in sending his foreign exchange students to any Federal table at job fairs to request work as spies. Maybe he’s doing more than joking…

Within the past year, I’ve seen several TV ads from the CIA, looking for people interested in careers there. Interestingly, these ads were often placed on Mythbusters…I suspect they decided that it was the right audience for the message. :slight_smile:

FYI, here is a link to a page on the CIA website that offers samples of their advertising. And here is the webpage offering information on spy jobs (double-ought spies, as Jethro Clampett used to say). The jobs are as “core collectors” in the clandestine service. As I said, they used run ads for these positions quite openly in the newspapers.

As a point of comparison, here is the page describing intelligence officer positions with MI5. Neither the CIA nor MI5 seem to pay all that much.

Yes, I realize that everywhere in the federal government allows people to submit their resume online, that was not what seemed strange to me. The part that seemed strange to me is the idea that you could send a physical resume to the front desk of an agency or a large corporation, and it would actually end up in the right place and be considered for anything.

I could be completely out of touch, but I would think that piece of paper would be so far out of the normal hiring “process” of online and/or career fairs, that it would be essentially worthless.

I was talking about the time before submitting applications online was standard. Before then, the mail was how an applicant communicated with an employer. In any case, these days applying to an agency starts with either talking to an interviewer at a job fair (or an interviewer in a college placement office), sending a resume to the agency, or E-mailing a resume (or an online application) to the agency. The resume does not go to any individual office in the agency though. The personnel office in the office will look at it and, assuming that an appropriate position in open somewhere in the agency, send the applicant the standard application, either by mail or by explaining to him how to submit an online application. No, they don’t consider an application or a resume sent by mail to be so strange that they would just reject it out of hand.

How did you think that things worked before online submission of applications or resumes was possible?

Bear in mind that the government is, effectively, a business - it provides critical services that requires resource allocation (staff, funding, physical assets, and intellectual properties). With very few exceptions, Federal workers are employed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM - the folks who run the USAJobs website). With the dawn of the Intertoobz, the various agencies largely realized that they could more efficiently perform recruitment by “warehousing” their collective hiring efforts under OPM.

So, OPM developed this as a service, for which the agencies pay a fee.

In many cases, it works like this - Johnny and Janet want to be FBI agents.

Johnny uses the USAJobs website to fill out an application, upload a resume, etc.
Janet gets the phone number for her local recruiter, who asks her to complete and application, send in a resume, etc.
Johnny gets a call from the local recruiter after OPM and FBI determine he meets minimum requirements…
Janet gets a call from the local recruiter after her paperwork is found to meet minimum requirements.

And then interviews, background investigations, and all of the other fun stuff happens.

Same result, with the main difference being that Johnny used slightly less of the FBI’s time by making his submissions electronically (no wasted recruiter time on the phone, no physical paperwork, and some of the document review being performed electronically). Janet just cost the FBI a little bit of money to process her application, but they had to pay a fee to have Johnny’s paperwork processed by OPM.

This is a great example of the “double-edged sword”. Those databases give you a lot more jobs to apply to, which seems great. But that very advantage is precisely offset by the greater competition for those very jobs.

In simpler English: When our main source of jobs was the want ads in the local newspaper, we applied to a much smaller number of prospective employers. But our odds of landing a job at one of them was much higher.

GiantRat writes:

> . . . With very few exceptions, Federal workers are employed by the Office of
> Personnel Management . . .

I assume that by this you mean that Federal workers usually make their first enquiry for employment at the OPM. They don’t of course in any sense work for the OPM (unless their job is actually at the OPM). All the decisions about who gets hired is done at the particular agency where they will work. The OPM merely acts as a funnel for applicants.

And administers their pay and benefits. This is why it’s so easy to move from one agency to another - you’re not changing employment status, don’t have to take a reduction in grade, and aren’t considered a “new employee.”

“Office of Personnel Management” is not a coincidental name for the agency - when you apply for work you are potential “personnel”; when you work for the G, you ARE “personnel.” OPM is there to find potential personnel, arrange for them to become personnel, and then manage them when they are personnel. It’s not just a organization.

Well, sort of. The OPM administers the standard pay grade schedule for the entire U.S. government. They administer the standard health and retirement benefits system for the entire U.S. government. They do not do any hiring or promotion though, but when you are hired by an agency, you know that your pay, promotion, health benefits, and retirement will be handled in a standard way. If you move from one agency to another, your eligibility for retirement and the amount of money you will get during your retirement will be calculated according to the total number of years you spent as a Federal worker. If your agency is downsized and you lose your job, it’s made easier for you to apply for a job at another agency. However, there is no requirement for another agency to hire you if there is an opening.