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Arkansas Hiring Goes Digital

Improved applicant tracking system serves state agencies of all sizes.

by / August 8, 2012

A job posting system mandated by executive order in Arkansas nearly a decade ago has processed almost 2 million applications. But the largely manual process was in need of an update. Human resources administrators and hiring officers alike needed a better way to keep track of job applicants throughout the hiring life cycle.

Officials in the state’s Personnel Management Office wanted to transition to a complete applicant tracking system to streamline the process of filling vacancies in the state workforce. Arkansas was ready to go paperless.

Wendy Beadle, a manager in Arkansas’ Personnel Management Office, explained that the transition process started with a comprehensive input-gathering campaign from human resources staff across the state. Job application processing needs vary widely across more than 200 state agencies, she told Government Technology, with total employee counts ranging from just a handful to several hundred.

The state’s e-government contractor, the Information Network of Arkansas, an arm of NIC, steered clear of initial meetings to make sure feedback came in unfiltered.

By the Numbers

Number of Arkansas state agencies: 204

Job classifications within the state of Arkansas: 1,700

Average number of applicants per open position: 100-150

Source: Arkansas Office of Personnel Management

“It was an antiquated system,” said Cathy Heath of the Information Network of Arkansas. “It was time to make some enhancements and the best way to do it was to get some input from the people that were actually going to use it. It ensured that they would actually use it when we launched.”

Arkansas’ new automated system lets job-seekers apply for a position online and get automated communications confirming their application was received. When the deadline arrives for a specific opening, the human resources representative at the agency level is notified that they can now access applicant data. This automated, digital process means a layer of clerical processing is removed, in which staff would print out all applications received and mail hard copies to the appropriate agency. Hard copy notification letters were also sent to job applicants at various stages in the process. These have been replaced by automated notifications generated by the applicant tracking system.

Prospects with a significant application history used to overwrite all existing data every time they applied for a new opportunity. Now, the system captures the completed application submitted for each position, which can represent a significant time savings for staff reviewing resumes.

For example, an applicant once deemed unqualified for a position for being several months short of receiving a degree could be quickly established as qualified for a later position, once the degree was obtained, by comparing the new application with the prior one.

“It's made it a lot easier for the HR departments to process and screen and make those determinations,” Beadle said.

Officials estimate significant savings of about $250,000 each year on internal and external printing and postage with this new system. Personnel time saved and resulting process improvements bring added efficiencies throughout the organization.

In Arkansas, the new system is an idea whose time had come. A couple state agencies budgeted monies to purchase their own software to track job applicants. “After seeing what we developed, they chose to reallocate that money to different programs so they could free up those funds,” Heath explained.

A two-week training period preceded the launch of Arkansas’ new system in February. Supplemental materials are available online as well. Beadle is optimistic that new reporting and analysis tools now in development will help hiring officials throughout the state get the most possible benefit from the data being captured.

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Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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