Central Recruiting System
Ministry of Civil Service

The Problem

Ministry of Civil Service (MoCS) is responsible for recruiting Omani job seekers for the 34 units (Ministries and Government Units) under the Civil Service Law. MoCS receives different requirements for recruitment from these units through the Human Resources Management System (HRMS). Traditionally, once these requirements were received, MoCS will place advertisements in the local newspaper as and when there were enough requirements. Now this is done 3 times a year to notify job seekers of available vacancies.
The response to these job advertisements is usually overwhelming. In 2010, 568 vacancies were advertised in the 1st notification which resulted in receiving 31,141 applicants.. Imagine going through this 3 times a year? Subsequently, applicants were required to submit their applications and CV’s by hand to the recruitment department situated in Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. This would mean that the applicant would have to travel from the various regions to the capital city. The Sultanate of Oman has a total land area of about 309,000 square km and is divided into 8 administrative regions. This would mean that an applicant from the Dhofar region in south would have to travel more than 1000 km to Muscat in north to submit their applications. This caused a lot of inconvenience for the applicants as they will have to travel from far off places, queue and wait for a long time to submit their applications and get approval from MoCS Recruitment department. The rush to submit their applications on time would turn the Recruitment department into a frenzy especially on the closing date of the application. Morale of the department staff were badly affected when they had to work long hours just to accept, endorse and process the applications.
In addition, after submitting the applications, all applicants would have to take a paper-based written qualification examination. It took a long time to grade the score, pre-qualify the candidates and select them for formal interviews. The candidates who cleared the written exam would then be called for an interview which was also manually documented. The whole recruitment process takes about 11 months. Also, there was not enough transparency in the process as the applicants do not know how they fare and why they did not get the desired job application. This led to suspicions and accusation that the recruitment process is not just and fair.
MoCS in our endeavors to embrace the eGovernment saw that improvement must be made to the recruitment process so as to benefit the applicants (job-seekers), the recruiting units and the Recruitment Department of the Ministry. As such an initiative was started to cut down on the recruitment time, streamline the process and utilize technology where possible to enhance efficiency.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Based on the problems faced in the traditional recruitment process, the MoCS introduced a new system of recruitment which used the Short Message Service of the mobile phone. In the Sultanate of Oman, the mobile penetration rate is about 120% and it is the most successful form of communication today given the vast area of the country.
In August 2007, the new recruitment system using SMS was introduced. Job seekers can apply for jobs in the Civil Service by sending an SMS with their Manpower Registration Number and the corresponding job identification number published in the advertisements. Through integration with the Ministry of Manpower, National Manpower System, the system validates the applicants’ data in seconds. The job seekers can apply for jobs in the Civil Service anytime, anyway, eliminating the need to travel to the capital just to submit the applications and sit for the entrance examinations.
The applicants’ qualification is verified electronically via the HRMS and records from the Ministry of Manpower. Qualified applicants then go through a computer based examination to test their aptitude and knowledge at designed regional centres nearest their home. The examination system contains a database of more than 9000 questions in different fields with different levels. The test is graded by the computer-based system and the individual score is given directly to the applicant immediately after the exam via a big screen in the waiting area and also the notice board. The best 5 candidates will be channeled to the interview on the same day. This is increases transparency, there will be no complains of favoritism as the test is electronically graded and applicants knows how they fare.
An integrated interview system is then used to record interview evaluations by 2 members (one from Ministry of Civil Service and one from Unit requesting the job). Candidates will be able to know if they are nominated after the interview. The Hiring Unit will be notified of the nominated candidate through the Human Resources Management System.
From an initial 11 months time frame, the whole process is shortened to less than a month and less than a week, from testing to nomination. This is a huge saving of 40 weeks plus the eradication of having to travel, queue for approval and anxiety in waiting for examination results.
Apart from time savings, the frenzy during each recruitment exercises is totally eliminated and now HR Departments in the respective units and in MoCS can focus on quality manpower planning and management. As such the morale of the staff are increased.
This also saved the MoCS about OMR 459,172 and the rest of the recruiting Ministry OMR 707,553 yearly from cost of advertisements, transportation and manpower. Total saving is OMR 1,166,725 or US$ 3,033,485 yearly.
While the objective of the system is not profit generation, the SMS service is bringing in revenue for MoCS which is then reinvested in new upgrades to the system. This is because the service is done in a Public Private Partnership model which revenue generated from the SMS is split between the MoCS and the vendors. Based on the latest statics there are 62,274 subscribers to the service.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The solution were proposed by Ministry of Civil Service Recruitment Department and IT department. This is part of their strategy to computerise their internal processes to improve the efficiency of the Ministry.
The SMS solutions were developed by a local company. The examination and interview systems were developed internally by MoCS IT Department. The integration of the solutions is done and project managed by MoCS IT Department. MoCS IT Department further extends the solution integration to the National Manpower System. This is essentially the system that contains national job seekers information. Through such collaborative efforts, we are able to simplify our recruitment processes.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Having understood the main problems and identified the viable solution, MoCS began working with the various stakeholders to first streamline the recruitment process. The objective here is to understand the whole recruitment process so as to identify the areas that caused bottleneck and seek solutions to eradicate them.
MoCS IT Department set out the project specifications having done the detailed analysis of the recruitment processes. The Recruitment module is developed as an extension of the Human Resource Management System which was implemented since 2003. We adopted a phase approach in implementing the Recruitment Module as it involved the actual recruitment process, the examination and the format interviews.
For the recruitment process, MoCS piloted the SMS technology in the first phase in 2007 to ascertain its effectiveness. In the first phase, SMS was offered as an option for applicant who wish to use it but with an option to also apply manually. We received overwhelming support for the first phase. In the next phase of implementation in 2008, SMS becomes the main avenue for all applications. Subsequently, the Examination and Interview systems were successfully tested and implemented in 2008.
SMS is selected as a medium because mobile is a common device and there will be minimal training and support needed as users are very familiar with the using the SMS for communication. Also, there are no worries for connectivity issues as not all of the Sultanate is internet ready.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Phase 1- In 2007, MoCS carried out the following key activities;
a. gathered users’ requirement and worked with various stakeholders to streamline the recruitment processes.
b. worked with Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education teachers and lecturers to develop 9000 multiple choice questions for the examination bank
c. worked with Ministry of Manpower to integrate the Recruitment System with the National Manpower System
d. developed the Recruitment Module as an extension of the Human Resource Management System
e. developed the examination and the interview modules
f. worked with a local company to test the SMS application solution
g. piloted the SMS application process for one of the recruitment exercises

Phase 2 - In 2008, the IT Department revised and updated the Recruitment System based on the lessons learned from the pilot test in Phase 1. MoCS began deploying the system nationwide including the examination module and the interview module.
With the successful implementation by end 2008, MoCS was able to eradicate the real problem of long waiting time for civil service job application.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
In the initial phase of deployment, MoCS team faced some problems with manpower applicants’ data, which are used to validate and match the job requirements. They started to validate the data manually but it was still taking too much time. The problem was solved in a meeting between MoCS and the Ministry of Manpower. Basically, the solution was to fix the data fields and validate any new entries. Other than that MoCS did not face any other major obstacles as all stakeholders and users are greatly relieved with the implementation of the new ways of applying and processing of jobs in the civil service. It is to everyone’s advantage to have an effective, efficient and transparent process and system.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Most of the systems were developed by internal resources (MoCS IT department and recruitment department). For the examination database, MoCS contracted University lecturers and Ministry of Education teachers to prepare the questions bank and they were paid based on number of questions. The systems were implemented using the local resources. By sharing revenue with vendor and mobile companies, the cost was also kept to very minimum.
The cost of hardware and licenses is about OMR 17,000 or US$44200. The cost for manpower is about OMR28800 or US$74880. So, the total investment to the system is OMR 305,000 or US$793000.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The solution also created confidence and transparency between MoCS and citizens. This solution is transferable and can be used by any organisation who may wish to use it in their recruitment procedure. The organisation can create their own questions bank and specify interview criteria in this solution. In fact organization like the Diwan Royal Court is already looking at implementing the system in their hiring process.
Civil Service is an essential part of any country; there are always public services that cannot be carried out by a private orgainisation. Oman has a young population; about 50% is still in school. As such there will be continuous citizens joining the workforce especially the Civil Service. This will ensure the continuity of the system and the process

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
There are many lessons that we learned, some of them are:
- Using single source of data saves time and effort spent in entering the data. This also eliminates the duplication of data over multiple systems.
- The medium and technology chosen no matter how good and efficient can only be successful if there are good user rate. Keeping things simple is the best way and using technologies that are familiar is important. The mobile technology delivery services are very well received as nearly everyone has a mobile phone and there is no need to relearn. Also, not everyone has a computer and internet connection.
- Transparency creates a confidence between service providers and clients. The credibility of the Government and the recruitment process is greatly enhanced. This is very important as the citizens need to be confident with the Civil Service and know that it is just and fair.
- Synergistic working relationships with other Ministries and Government Organisations for more integrated eGovernment Services. Follow up to the implementation surveys were done and on the average, 90% the users surveyed are extremely satisfied with the new Recruitment process and system.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Civil Service
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Fatma Al-Balushi
Title:   System Analyst  
Telephone/ Fax:   00-968-92081235
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   al_belushifatma@hotmail.com  
Address:   Oman
Postal Code:   112
City:   Ruwi
State/Province:   Muscat
Country:   Oman

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