Direct Hire Authority

Title 5 U.S.C. 3304 provides agencies with the authority to appoint candidates directly, without use of standard hiring procedures, into competitive service career, career-conditional, term, or temporary positions for which the Office of Personnel Management determines that there is a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need to fill positions that traditional hiring procedures aren’t filling.

Direct hire authority allows agencies to appoint candidates directly, without use of standard hiring procedures, into competitive service career, career-conditional, term, or temporary positions for which there is a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need to fill positions that traditional hiring procedures aren’t filling. The agency must use an assessment method to determine whether a candidate is qualified but after such a determination the candidate may be hired—subject to meeting suitability and security clearance requirements—without being formally ranked and without veterans preference applying.


OPM may decide on its own that a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need exists for specific occupational series, grades or geographic locations; it also at times grants authority for limited periods in certain agencies or occupations to respond to specially arising needs. A list of current authorities is at

Under 5 CFR 337 subpart B, individual agencies may use direct hire authority for positions in information technology series GS-2210 on their own determination that they are experiencing a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need. They must document its use to OPM, which can modify or revoke it under certain circumstances.

Further, the Defense Department has standing authority to use direct-hire for various scientific, engineering and research-type positions and under limited circumstances may directly hire college students and recent graduates in settings such as recruiting fairs by making conditional job offers on the spot. P.L. 115-232 extended similar authority for college students and recent graduates government-wide. It allowed non-competitive hiring into competitive service positions into limited numbers of professional and administrative positions at the GS-11 level or below of recent graduates deemed qualified for those positions; that law similarly allowed hiring of current students under the same circumstances into temporary positions, with the agency option to later convert them to competitive service positions.

In addition to those authorities, agencies may seek permission from OPM to use direct hire authority for positions for which they believe a severe shortage or a critical hiring need exists. To demonstrate that a severe shortage of candidates exists for a position or group of positions, an agency must provide information showing that it is unable to identify candidates possessing the competencies required to perform the necessary duties of the position despite extensive recruitment, extended announcement periods, and the use, as applicable, of hiring flexibilities such as recruitment and relocation incentives. To prove that a critical hiring need exists, an agency must demonstrate that it has a critical need to fill the position or positions to meet mission requirements brought about by an exigency such as a national emergency, threat or potential threat, environmental disaster, or other unanticipated or unusual event or mission requirement. Check with the hiring human resources office to determine if such an authority applies to a position in which you are interested


Pathways Program

The Pathways Program consists of three parts:

  • the Presidential Management Fellows program, which primarily places those with advanced degrees into fellowship type positions with the opportunity to convert to competitive service status after one year of satisfactory performance;
  • the Recent Graduates program for graduates of colleges, community colleges and vocational schools (typically within two years of graduation, but up to six years for those serving military duty), with the potential for conversion to competitive status after one year from the end of a training period; and
  • the Internship Program for high school and college students to familiarize them with government work with a potential route into federal employment.

Agencies can continue to use interns referred by third parties such as placement agencies and are to give those interns the same career developmental and job placement opportunities as those who contact an agency directly through Pathways.

Participants (and family members as pertinent) are eligible under the life, health and vision-dental insurance programs if their appointments are to last at least a year and they are to be in paid status at least a third of the period of their appointment.


In addition, the separate “Post-Secondary Students” hiring authority allows agencies to hire such students into time-limited positions in the competitive service at GS-11 and below with the option of later converting them into permanent positions non-competitively.


Rehiring of Annuitants in Special Circumstances

See Dual Employment for rules regarding the rehiring of federal annuitants and exceptions to general policies regarding offsets between their annuities and their salaries.

Other Special Hiring Authorities

Intergovernmental Personnel Act

Agencies may bring in employees of contractors or non-profit institutions for temporary assignments of up to two years. Extensions are permissible to allow an appointment for a maximum of four years. Cost-sharing arrangements are negotiated between the participating organizations.

IT Exchange Program

Rules at 5 CFR 370 allow an interchange program of information technology management employees between the federal government and the private sector. Federal employees who take such assignments under the program continue their federal employment rights and benefits. Such assignments come with written agreements that specify the duties and duration, whether the individual will be supervised by a federal or private sector employee, and employee responsibilities after the detail ends. Assignments typically are from three months to one year, with the option of extending by up to one additional year.

Military spouses

Executive Order 13473 of 2008, as expanded by Executive Order 13832 and P.L. 115-238 of 2018, gives hiring preference for federal jobs to the spouse of a member of the armed forces on active duty, the spouse of a 100 percent disabled member of the armed forces, or the spouse of a deceased member of the armed forces. The authority allows agencies to recruit and noncompetitively appoint eligible spouses into temporary, term or permanent positions that otherwise would require competition, although it does not establish selection priority. Those hired under this authority are converted to competitive service status after completing a probationary period. Also see a March 1, 2019 memo to agencies at

‘Schedule A’ appointments

Excepted service “Schedule A” appointments of individuals with severe physical, psychiatric, or mental disabilities are allowed in certain circumstances.



Experts and consultants

Special appointments can be made for those with specialized skills needed by an agency, commonly on a short-term or intermittent basis.