Federal Manager's Daily Report

OPM has told agencies to apply “more rigor” in assessing job candidates, including better defining in the vacancy announcement a job’s responsibilities and the competencies needed; reducing reliance on self-assessments by the candidates themselves; and increasing involvement in the hiring process of subject matter experts.

“During the 2019 agency strategic review meetings with Office of Management and Budget, the majority of agencies identified hiring top talent as one of the most significant risks and challenges to achieving their mission,” a memo says. It also cites the annual federal employee survey where only four-tenths believe that their work unit is able to recruit people with the right skills, and a recent survey by the MSPB in which managers rated getting high quality candidates as their most difficult task.

Said the memo, “It is critical to an efficient and effective process that agencies write minimum qualification requirements clearly and accurately to enable raters to screen out applicants lacking the minimum experience or education required from further consideration at the outset of the process. At present, most agencies use the occupational questionnaire to screen applicants for minimum qualifications. Screening minimum qualifications using an occupational questionnaire is fine, but a “deeper dive” needs to be taken in order to address the actual competencies needed to perform the work successfully.”

“Screening an applicant for minimum qualifications is not the same as assessing applicants against the competencies and proficiency levels necessary to perform the job,” which is a job for HR, it adds. “After determining minimum qualifications applicants may be assessed to make sure they have the required level of proficiency in key competencies to be successful in the position.”

It recommends using “cut scores” which result in referring to the hiring manager “only applicants who have the required level of proficiency in key general competencies to be successful in the position.”