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CHIPS Articles: OPM Takes Aim at Modernizing and Reforming Hiring for Federal Jobs

OPM Takes Aim at Modernizing and Reforming Hiring for Federal Jobs
By CHIPS Magazine - August 4, 2020
Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Michael J. Rigas, issued direction July 31 for the “Implementation of E.O. 13932; Determining Qualifications and the Use of Assessment Tools When Filling Positions.”

On June 26, 2020, Executive Order (EO) 13932 - Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates, was issued, directing important, merit-based reforms to expand the use of valid, competency-based assessments and narrow the use of educational qualifications in the Federal hiring process. The intent is to allow for skills- and competency-based hiring across the Federal government via assessments that carefully measure candidates’ ability to perform the job.

In accordance with 5 USC 3308, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or other examining agency may not prescribe a minimum educational requirement for an examination for the competitive service except when it is determined that the duties of a scientific, technical, or professional position cannot be performed by an individual who does not have a prescribed minimum education.” EO 13932 clarifies the rare circumstances when a position cannot be performed absent a minimum level of education and, where it is appropriate to establish a minimum education requirement for examination for the competitive service.

EO 13932 is aligned with the federal workforce-related priorities enumerated in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA), issued by OMB in 2018 to establish a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal government and improving its ability to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people. The PMA includes a Cross Agency Priority (CAP) goal Developing a Workforce for the 21st Century that highlights the importance of simple and strategic agency hiring.

In addition, on September 13, 2019, OPM issued a memorandum titled, “Improving Federal Hiring using Effective Assessment Strategies to Advance Mission Outcomes,” an agency guidance memorandum defining minimum qualifications, describing how agencies can determine the best assessment methods, and how they can involve subject matter experts in the hiring process.

Currently, many qualification standards permit applicants to qualify based on education/training, experience, or a combination of the two. Federal agencies analyze work and apply OPM qualifications standards to determine the education, training, experience and/or other requirements (e.g., licensure) that an applicant must possess in order to be considered for a position or occupation (5 USC 5112, 5 USC 5105, USC 5102 (5)(b)). At present, most agencies use federal résumés and an occupational questionnaire to screen applicants for minimum qualifications. A “deeper dive” needs to be taken to address the actual competencies needed to perform work successfully, according to the guidance.

The aim of the change is to level the playing field in federal hiring to give those who do not have a degree an opportunity to use their proven skills as a substitute in qualifying for a federal position.

While a college degree will remain a requirement for certain positions, the implementation is expected to contribute to a more diverse workforce and fairer hiring process.

OPM is proposing it will begin processes to change the General Schedule qualifications later this month. By Dec. 24, OPM plans to release an updated manual for federal hiring. See Figure 1 for the proposed timeline of events critical to the implementation of E.O. 13932.

Any questions about the guidance and requirements outlined above should be directed to or email If there are any questions about the strategies detailed above, please contact Kimberly Holden at .

TAGS: KM, Workforce
Figure 1. Timeline of key actions that will be critical for the implementation of the E.O. 13932
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