What’s the difference between “rule of three” and “category rating?”

Traditionally, most candidate assessment in competitive hiring was based on the “rule of three” under which the examining office determined the three highest-rated candidates and presented that list to the hiring manager who typically had to choose from among them. That system has been generally replaced with category rating, although it still is used in some circumstances.

In category rating, the agency assesses applicants against job-related criteria and qualified applicants are assigned to a category—for example basically qualified, well qualified, or highly qualified. There is no limit to the number of candidates who may be placed in the top category, and within certain limits, any person in the top category may be selected.

Veterans’ preference applies in each, although in different ways.

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