Federal Employees News Digest

Fed hiring to emphasize education experience

In June, President Trump signed an executive order directing agencies to broaden the criteria  considered in the hiring of federal employees—to still consider the weight of relevant education and experience, but to add skills assessments as an equal measure in the process.

Since then, the Office of Personnel Management has been developing job slots that may be the most appropriate for requiring agencies “to increase the use of skills assessments and interviews with subject matter experts, rather than relying purely on educational attainment and length of job experience.” That’s how OPM’s acting director, Michael J. Rigas, summarized the matter at hand in a Sept. 25 memo, and request for comments, directed at agency Chief Human Capital Officers.

“Currently, candidates for federal employment may qualify for employment by holding formal educational credentials or through relevant experience (e.g., training),” Rigas wrote in the memo. “In accordance with EO 13932 Sec.2(a)(i)(ii), OPM is updating General Schedule Qualifications Policy so that candidates will now be able to qualify for employment on the basis of competency-based assessments when there are no legal educational requirements to perform a job.”

Rigas noted that the order is not altogether a new thing, and that many agencies already use “skills and competency-based assessments”—but these are usually utilized at a later stage, after the pool of qualified applicants is assembled on the basis of education and experience only.

Under the revised system envisaged under Executive Order 13932, the intention is—from the outset—to widen these pools by accepting into them some candidates who may lack some of the education or experience, but who can demonstrate the necessary skills for many jobs. This early stage is known as “pre-certification.”  

By making this change where possible the hope is to gain larger able pools of candidates to draw from—”thereby enabling highly skilled workers with non-traditional educational paths to serve the American public,” as Rigas phrases it. 

The memo also offers as a companion document—a draft list OPM is also developing, specifying jobs (including certain medical, legal and scientific positions) that will continue to require certain educational degrees and certificates for an applicant to even be considered for them.  

OPM is seeking comment through Oct. 16 from agency human capital officers on all matters related to this process.


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