OPM has told agencies to continue to work toward implementing an executive order issued by President Trump downplaying the roles of educational credentials in federal job qualifications and of self-evaluations in assessing candidates.
That order was notable by its absence from the long list of Trump directives regarding the federal workforce that President Biden revoked in his early days in office.
OPM “is evaluating its options for implementing this executive order,” a memo says, while reminding agencies that under the order they are to ensure that “candidate selection decisions shall include assessments that do not rely exclusively on educational attainment to determine the extent to which candidates possess relevant knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies.”
The memo notes that under the order, agencies to “develop or identify assessments to serve as alternatives to educational qualifications” and to “refrain from relying solely on candidate self-assessments of their qualifications (e.g., occupational questionnaires). Applicants are to clear other assessment hurdles in order to be considered qualified in examinations and thus eligible for preference and referral.”
Under the order, agencies are to continually evaluate the effectiveness of different assessment strategies to ensure the quality and integrity of their hiring process.
OPM said that while many agencies already use skills and competency-based assessments, many “also have expressed concern about implementation of this EO,” which required them to take those steps by now. The memo extends that deadline through year’s end.
OPM said it is finalizing a revisions to the general schedule qualifications policy “so that candidates will now be able to qualify for employment on the basis of competency-based assessments when there are no legal educational requirements to perform a job.” It added that it will “soon plan a session to provide agencies with an overview of our updated guidance regarding the implementation of the remaining sections of this EO, which will include a list of assessment tools and guidance that your agencies may use in the interim.”
Outside bodies such as the MSPB have questioned reliance on self-assessments as creating an incentive for candidates to over-rate themselves and have said that over-reliance on educational credentials can freeze out candidates who are otherwise well qualified, including in fields such as IT where candidates may have certifications rather than college degrees.