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Less than Half of Recent Graduates Consider Federal Government Employment, Qualtrics Research Finds

Last updated:  August 23, 2022


2022-08-23

To fill tens of thousands of open jobs, federal agencies need to attract younger talent to public service with career progression, quality of life and flexibility  

PROVO, Utah & SEATTLE (Aug. 23, 2022) – A slow recruiting process, lack of awareness of open jobs, and outdated or unessential requirements in job announcements are limiting applications for federal jobs at a time when the government is facing a staffing crisis, according to a new study by Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM), the leader and creator of the experience management category. In fact, less than half (44%) of recent graduates said they would consider federal employment.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,[1] there are 85,000 job openings across the federal government. As the world of work continues to evolve, the public sector faces unique challenges in attracting top talent to federal agencies. For example, the average time-to-hire for federal employees is 98 days,[2] which makes it even more difficult to compete with private sector companies that have streamlined recruiting practices.  

Very few recent college graduates are considering federal government jobs. According to the Qualtrics study, 20% of graduate respondents said they were not aware of federal jobs and 30% said the hiring process is too complicated. Despite the fact that nearly 70%[3] of federal jobs do not require a college degree, more than one third (36%) of recent graduates and (38%) of students report they would not apply to federal jobs because they feel under-qualified. When asked about the reasons they felt unqualified, graduates cited years of required experience (32%), required skills (32%) and credential and degree requirements (24%) as the top barriers. These results indicate that federal agencies may need to speed up the hiring process and clarify the skills needed rather than the years of experience required to attract new applicants.  

Recruitment strategies should also emphasize what appeals to younger talent who have not considered government jobs. When asked about the top qualities they look for in a job, recent graduates ranked work-life balance first (40%), followed by flexible work arrangements (29%) and then job security (27%). Corporate values have also become increasingly important to younger workers. For graduates, having a good track record of social responsibility (22%), a strong reputation for services (22%) and a diverse leadership team (17%) were also among the most-selected qualities they look for in a job.  

College students ranked work-life balance first (40%), followed by pay & compensation (39%) and then the opportunity to do meaningful work (28%) as the top qualities they look for in a job.  

“The work of the federal government is so crucial to all of our lives – and our country needs the best of the best applying and interviewing for the tens of thousands of open roles,” said Sydney Heimbrock, chief industry advisor for government at Qualtrics. “The federal government hires for  a wide variety of occupations, and the work is flexible and impactful. This study makes clear that targeted improvements to federal agency recruiting – even simple fixes like promoting flexible work and career progression, emphasizing the mission-oriented nature of the work and rewriting job announcements to replace required years of experience with required skills – can have meaningful impact on who is aware of open positions and who decides to apply.”  

Delivering services to residents equitably and effectively requires a diverse government workforce that represents the population. Yet the Qualtrics study found that minority graduates were even less likely to consider federal employment – only 40% said they would. Among minority students, 34% said they would consider federal employment and 37% were undecided.  

According to Angela Bailey, former chief human capital officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and strategic advisor to Qualtrics, “To meet minority students and graduates where and how they want to live and work, federal agencies need to create recruiting strategies that provide opportunities for folks to see themselves working in the agency – from being intentional about who engages with them at hiring events, to realistic job previews that show them how their values and goals align with the agency’s mission. Pay policies will need to address the value of the skills an agency is seeking, rather than rely on outdated compensation models to compete for minority, early career, skilled workers. Agency leaders can take this early talent feedback to make meaningful changes today to build their talent pipelines.”  

For more on the study: www.qualtrics.com/2022-fed-recruiting-report.  

Methodology

This study was fielded in April 2022 to understand perspectives on a career in the U.S. federal government. Qualtrics surveyed 1,129 Americans aged 18+ who are currently or were recently (within 3 years) enrolled in a post-secondary education degree or certification program, including two- and four-year degrees, professional and doctoral degrees, and vocational and technical training.  

About Qualtrics XM for Government 

Qualtrics helps government organizations design experiences that build public trust and foster community engagement by putting people at the center of every government experience. As the most comprehensive platform for strategic experience management, Qualtrics enables government organizations to capture feedback across every touchpoint and journey, streamline workflows and automate actions to continuously improve the experience of communities and employees. Its unmatched ability to capture unsolicited feedback and create segments based on actual experiences helps government agencies design more inclusive and effective services, programs and policies. Qualtrics is the only ISO 27001, FedRAMP compliant and HITRUST certified experience management platform on the market, so organizations can confidently collect and analyze data knowing sensitive information is secure. The solutions are used by more than 350 state, provincial and local government organizations and 90 federal offices to harness the power of resident and employee sentiment to design policies and provide services the public needs most. To learn more, please visit qualtrics.com/government.  

About Qualtrics  

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is changing the way organizations manage and improve the four core experiences of business—customer, employee, product and brand. Over 16,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics to listen, understand and take action on experience data (X-data™)—the beliefs, emotions and intentions that tell you why things are happening, and what to do about it. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action that helps businesses attract customers who stay longer and buy more, engage employees who build a positive culture, develop breakthrough products people love and build a brand people are passionate about. To learn more, please visit qualtrics.com.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.a.htm

[2] https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2021/02/federal-agencies-are-increasingly-avoiding-normal-hiring-procedures-bring-new-staff-quickly/171922/

[3] https://www.federaltimes.com/management/hr/2020/09/28/more-than-a-quarter-of-federal-jobs-require-a-degree/