Isn't 110,000 job sites too much?

Walter Houser

Last time I looked, the AltaVista search engine found more than 110,000 Web pages that listed federal jobs'some 52,000 at .gov sites and 60,000 at .mil.

Do all these sites and applications pay off? Or are they simply a full-employment program for webmasters?

Web job applications are here to stay. But I pity the poor job seeker. Only the most highly motivated would wade through the verbiage to find the nuggets worth applying for., and other job sites show that the Web is a valuable recruitment tool for those who use it wisely. These sites are fast, convenient and attract the impulse job-seeker. They save on postage, paper and processing.

Most important, they avoid those charming federal Knowledges, Skills and Abilities essays. I have seen agencies use 10 dense pages to ask for a dozen or more of these prose pearls, all the while admonishing the applicant to be concise. Fortunately, many of the federal job Web forms have abandoned this practice.

The bad news is that there are too many Web sites. Every agency believes it needs one, each with its own job application form. Invariably, these forms are labor-intensive, and it's tedious for applicants to review all the pages.

More Web pages do not mean more and better job candidates. So if I headed up the Office of Personnel Management, here is what I would do:

  • Tell agencies to use USA Jobs at

  • Encourage them to write their own USA Jobs front-ends.

  • Make it easy for the job seeker with a big text box labeled, 'Paste Your Resume Here.'

  • Accept resumes in Microsoft Word, plain text and HTML formats. Give applicants the chance to use fonts and hypertext to communicate.

  • Install a real search engine; the current search feature is worthless.

  • Conduct usability tests of your sites.

  • Use the Human Resources Markup Language, a standard format for identifying the elements of a job application. HRML is defined at

  • Make your Web sites Section 508-compliant.

    Psst: Don't tell anyone, but here is a great job-hunting tip. USA Jobs profile e-mail lists will send you a daily message of pertinent job openings. OPM lets you tailor these messages by series, location and grade. Go to and let OPM find your dream job.

    Walter Houser is the webmaster of a cabinet agency. E-mail him at
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