Federal Manager's Daily Report

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OPM has issued guidance to agencies for carrying out a recent executive order downplaying the importance of educational credentials in hiring for most competitive service positions and which also required agencies to assure that their methods for screening and assessing job candidates meet certain standards.

A memo notes that the order requires reviews by year’s end to assure that “qualifications standards are consistent with principles including that education is a prerequisite “only when a minimum educational qualification is legally required for the performance of the position’s required duties” such as for certain scientific, technical or professional occupations; and that education is an allowable substitute for required experience “only where education directly reflects the specific skills or competencies necessary to perform the job.”


“Position descriptions and job postings published by agencies should be based on analysis that emphasizes the specific skills and competencies required to perform the work of the position successfully,” it says.

The order further requires a review of how agencies candidates who are deemed to meet a job’s minimum qualifications to assure that they “do not rely exclusively on educational attainment to determine the extent to which candidates possess relevant knowledge, skills, competencies, and abilities,” the memo says.

In assessing candidates, agencies may use tools such as “cognitive ability tests, work samples, situational judgment tests, job knowledge tests, and structured interviews,” it says. However, they may not “rely solely on candidate self-evaluations of their qualifications (e.g., resumes and occupational questionnaires). Applicants must clear other assessment hurdles in order to be considered qualified and eligible for preference and referral.”

The memo lays out requirements for conducting those reviews including designating lead points of contact and coordination with OPM and OMB. OPM plans to issue draft changes to GS qualifications policy by August 21 and finalize them by the end of October, it adds.

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