Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Standard Form 171 (SF-171)

The fact that a lot of candidates no longer use the Government’s old application form, Standard Form 171 (SF-171), also makes informed judgments more difficult. Without exception, officials of DEU’s with heavy workloads said that case examining was easier, and that applicants got fairer consideration, when applicants had to submit SF- 171’s. The requirement for that form was dropped by OPM as part of an effort to make the Federal job application process less forbidding to prospective candidates. DEU officials do recognize that eliminating the need to file a complicated and daunting form does encourage more people to apply for Federal jobs. Still, many staffing specialists miss the SF-171. It instructed applicants to include, in specific areas where personnel employees were used to looking for them, the very types of detailed information that personnel officials consider in matching an application against the Government’s selection criteria.

Without the SF-171, DEU officials say, applicants often fail to submit enough detailed information and, therefore, do not get as much credit as they deserve for their training and experience. DEU officials say that this is particularly true for applicants who do not currently work for the Federal Government because they have no idea how agencies evaluate applications. Therefore applicants from outside the Government often act upon the conventional wisdom that an interesting cover letter accompanied by an abbreviated resume is an appropriate way to apply for a job. That frequently is not true for Federal jobs: DEU officials all agreed that well-qualified applicants who do not submit SF-171’s, or comparably detailed applications, often placed themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Further, in DEU’s with heavy workloads, the extra time it takes for overworked staffing specialists to look for necessary information in non-SF-171 applications is time that they cannot devote to the judgment calls that need to be made about candidates’ qualifications.

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