Federal Manager's Daily Report

MSPB has raised the issue of candidates overstating qualifications on self-assessments.

One unintended consequence of the Obama administration’s hiring reforms that eliminated the “knowledge, skills and abilities” evaluation as an initial screen is that agencies have candidates fill out self-assessments in which they often overstate their qualifications, MSPB has said.

The KSA process—in which candidates had to write narratives about their qualifications and experience in specific job-related areas such as communication—was considered a burden on candidates that dissuaded some qualified persons from going through with a federal job application process.

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As a replacement, MSPB said, many agencies turned to occupational questionnaires that ask applicants to self-rate their level of expertise in specific areas in a multiple-choice format ranging from no experience to being an expert. It said that in its research for a study, “agency representatives expressed concerns that applicants are rating themselves as experts in every category because they have learned that is the only way they will make it to the next phase of the hiring process.”

“These types of inflated ratings negatively affect the agency’s ability to make valid distinctions among candidates if sufficient controls are not in place to validate the self-reported ratings. Many agencies just do not have the resources to commit to that validation effort— especially with the rise in the number of applications they have been receiving since the application process has been streamlined,” it said.

It said that some agencies are responding by moving to customized responses based on expertise benchmark levels while some also have paired occupational questionnaires with “other assessments that have higher validity, like structured interviews and reference checks.” However, developing good benchmarks “is not an easy task and will take additional skill and expertise from human resource and assessment staffs,” and not all agencies have the HR or other resources to use more thorough types of assessments, it said.