Federal Manager's Daily Report

OPM has previewed the Trump administration’s plans for changes to federal hiring practices, which would include amending a 2010 Obama administration memo that shifted the default method of assessing candidates from the “rule of three” system to “category rating.”

In category rating, candidates are grouped by broad levels of qualifications and the hiring manager may choose from among any in the highest level; in the rule of three, the manager had to choose from among the top three candidates in a numeric ranking. Both have provisions for veterans preference.


“Experience has shown numerical ranking can lead to more meaningful distinctions among applicants in certain circumstances than may be the case with category rating. OPM thinks agencies are best served when they have both methods at their disposal,” the agency said in a budget document recently sent to Congress.

“OPM will seek statutory changes modifying the ‘rule of three’ with the hope, through implementing regulation, of providing agencies authority to define the number of candidates to be considered at a time, using a cut-off score or similar mechanism. Veterans would still be granted preference points under this modified numerical ranking procedure,” it said.

Agencies could use category rating at their discretion, it said.

“OPM will also examine the definition of public notice as it relates to Excepted Service Pathways Programs, and consider, in consultation with counsel, what options may be available to address agency concerns when the number of applications received for the Intern Program impose a significant burden,” it said.