State Department offices and bureaus are seeking data scientists to join their ranks and lead several major projects under the agency’s new data strategy.

The State Department, in a hiring announcement released Friday, is looking to hire at least 50 data scientists to its civil service workforce over the next year.

The agency seeks to hire candidates at the GS-13 and GS-14 levels. Some potential recruits may require a secret or higher security clearance.

The State Department will move to the next phase of the hiring initiative once it receives 250 applications, but will accept applications no later than April 28.

Joel Nantais, the agency’s chief data scientist, said the hiring effort reflects a growing need for data scientists and builds on the success of other recent hiring pilots.

“It’s really coming from the fact that there’s a growing demand for data scientists and data analytics here at the State Department, so it’s really based on a need for the department,” Nantais said during the last episode of All about data.

Last year, the Office of Personnel Management led a government-wide recruitment effort for data scientists. Participating agencies received over 500 applications in less than 48 hours.

The State Department hired about 25 to 30 data scientists as part of the OPM pilot project, more than any other agency that participated.

Similar to the OPM-led pilot, the State Department is leading this hiring effort through a Subject Matter Expert Qualifications Assessment (SME-QA).

The US Digital Service developed the SME-QA process to help agencies assess candidates’ qualifications for technical positions. The process requires agencies to bring in current employees who are experts in a given field to help the human capital office vet and hire candidates.

Once the agency has garnered enough applications, subject matter experts will guide applicants through a series of steps designed to verify their data science skills.

As part of the SME-QA process, Nantais said candidates go through a skills assessment, an “at-home test” of different data science skills and techniques, which Nantais said is more akin to what a data scientist would know in the private sector. .

“It’s an easier process for applicants, especially those who aren’t used to applying for federal government jobs, and we tend to get more applicants through the process who are in make good candidates,” said Nantais.

Candidates who pass these stages will be interviewed by hiring managers across the department.

At least 18 State Department offices and bureaus are participating in this initiative, and the work that data scientists will tackle, if they get the job, varies depending on where they are located.

New hires will typically strive to meet enterprise data strategy goals. Nantais said these include strategic competition with China and providing workforce data analytics for the agency’s recently elevated director of diversity and inclusion.

“Not everything in this discussion is a data analysis or data science project, but a lot of things can be supported by data analysis and data science. It really touches on the aspect culture to ensure that we are an informed and data-driven agency,” said Nantais.

Agencies looking to hire data scientists have a clearer standard of what a qualified candidate should bring to the job. Indeed, OPM released a new set of occupations for data scientists in government late last year.

Nantais said this series of jobs will help the agency recruit and retain in-demand data talent.

“It’s really exciting to see federal hiring and career paths catching up with the private sector, and recognizing that there’s a lot of need and demand for these skill sets, and really trying to build then not only what it’s like to be hired into a position, but what it’s like to have a career in the federal government as a data scientist,” said.

Nantes said the agency is looking for candidates with a variety of backgrounds and skills. The agency, he said, already employs many data scientists with a background in social science, foreign policy, international relations and political science – but also have the quantitative and methodological skills needed for data science. data.

“The State Department is not a statistical agency. We are a foreign policy agency, and therefore when we look at not only the data scientists we currently have, but also the data science skills and techniques that we are going to benefit most from, and the data scientists there who are most likely to be interested in working for the State Department — they’re not necessarily data scientists who have very strong degrees in statistics or math,” he said.

The agency is looking to hire immediately under this initiative. However, the agency will direct some candidates who did not receive a job offer in the first round of hiring to similar data scientist vacancies across the department for an extended period.

“We expect this pool of qualified and eligible candidates to be available for many months, so that even if a job is not open now but may be open in three months, this hiring manager can easily access to this pool of candidates, interview people who are still available, still interested in working with the State Department and make a selection from that,” Nantais said.