A new OPM memo to agencies on hiring practices says that prior memos on the same topic “focused on making it easier for individuals to apply for federal jobs and streamlining the hiring process” but possibly to the detriment of the quality of the candidates coming forward.
It said that for example, since the 2010 elimination of the “knowledge, skills and abilities” (KSA) narratives as an up-front screening, agencies have increased their reliance on self-rated occupational questionnaires as an assessment instrument. “It is difficult to use this assessment tool solely to determine who can actually perform the duties of the position or, further, to make meaningful distinctions among candidates, it says, because of the “possible response distortion or applicant inflation.”
The MSPB recently raised the same concern, saying 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.”
OPM also said that contrary to a common belief, “it is entirely appropriate – and encouraged – to use subject matter experts outside of HR, with diverse backgrounds and relevant experiences, to work with HR to perform determinations of whether applicants are qualified.” Such persons for example can conduct structured interviews and determine the most highly qualified candidates, as long as they are not the selecting officials, it said.
It said that HR should coordinate with hiring managers or supervisors “to determine the appropriate types of positions and stages of the hiring process” to involve those experts.
Whichever assessment method is used, “agencies are encouraged to take the critical first step of reexamining available assessment techniques and methods, and identifying the best tools in the toolkit to assess applicants to make meaningful distinctions and determine highly qualified talent,” it said.