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Hiring Authorities Competitive Hiring

 

Overview

This section contains regulatory guidance for hiring job applicants under the competitive examining and hiring process.

Background

The Federal Government consists of three types of services, the Competitive Service, the Excepted Service, and the Senior Executive Service. The competitive service consists of all civil service positions in the executive branch of the Federal Government with some exceptions. The exceptions are defined in section 2102 of title 5, United States Code (5 U.S.C. 2102)

In the competitive service, individual must go through a competitive process (i.e. competitive examining) which is open to all applicants. This process may consist of a written test, an evaluation of the individual's education and experience, and/or an evaluation of other attributes necessary for successful performance in the position to be filled.

Appointments to the Excepted Service are civil service appointments within the Federal Government that do not confer competitive status. There are a number of ways to be appointed to the excepted service such as appointed under an authority defined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as excepted (e.g. Veterans Recruitment Appointment) or being appointed to a position defined by OPM as excepted (e.g. Attorneys) More information can be found about the excepted service in 5 U.S.C. 2103 and parts 213 and 302 of title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Types of Appointment (Status)

The Federal Government employs permanent and temporary employees. Permanent employees are generally hired under a career-conditional appointment (Permanent - Career-Conditional Appointment). Normally this is the first career-type of appointment and the appointee must complete a 1-year probationary period and a total of 3 years continuous creditable service to attain a career appointment (Permanent - Career Appointment).

Temporary appointments are defined as appointments expected to last for a specified period not to exceed 1 year (Temporary Appointment - Time limited not to exceed 1 year but could be less) or a specified period of time that is at least more than 1-year but not to exceed 4 years (Term Appointment - Time limited more than one year but not more than 4 years). Neither type of appointment is a permanent one, so they do not give the employee competitive/permanent status.

Delegated Examining (DE)

Delegated Examining Operations Updates and Information

Memo #Issue DateTitle/Subject
2013-01 February 25, 2013 Changes to Veterans’ Preference
2012-01 June 15, 2012 VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011
2009-13 August 26, 2009 Change in maximum entry-age requirements for Veterans' Preference Eligibles
2009-12 July 07, 2009 Official Documents
2009-11 June 18, 2009 Office of Personnel Management Assistance in Meeting Hiring Reform, Employee Satisfaction and Wellness Requirements Contained in the President's Fiscal Year 2011 Budget and Performance Plans
2009-10 June 04, 2009 Use of the Group Coverage Qualification Standard for Administrative and Management Positions for the Newly Established Investigative Analysis Series, 1805
2009-09 April 13, 2009 Issuance of Revised Qualification Standard for the Information Technology Management Series, 2210
2009-08 March 26, 2009 Final Job Family Standard for Administrative Work in the Inspection, Investigation, Enforcement, and Compliance Group, 1800;
2009-07 March 12, 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Schedule A Hiring Authority
2009-06 March 12, 2009 Clarification of Procedures for Passover of Compensably-Disabled Preference Eligibles in the Excepted Service
2009-05 March 6, 2009 Use of Validated Assessment Tools When Filling Positions in the Competitive Service
2009-04 February 9, 2009 Procedures for Passover of Compensably-Disabled Eligibles in the Excepted Service
2009-03 December 22, 2008 Template Job Announcement
2009-02 November 20, 2008 Reference Checking
2009-01 October 16, 2008 Career Pattern FY 2009
2008-06 September 10, 2008 Structured Interview Guide
2008-05 August 29, 2008 End-to-End Hiring Roadmap
2008-04 August 21, 2008 Revision of Standard Form 15, Application for 10-Point Veterans' Preference
2008-03 July 21, 2008 Applying Veterans' Preference for Applicants on Active Military Duty
2008-02 June 17, 2008 Template Vacancy Announcement
2008-01 March 13, 2008 Standard Governmentwide Vacancy Announcements
2007-06 November 15, 2007 Outstanding Scholar and Bilingual/Bicultural Authorities
2007-05 September 28, 2007 Assessment Decision Tool
2007-04 May 14, 2007 Consideration Under the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1988 (VEOA).
2007-03 March 21, 2007 Change in Service-Connected Disability Veterans' Preference Eligibility
2007-02 March 29, 2007 Assessment Delivery System
2007-01 January 30, 2007 Delegated Examining Operations Handbook Changes
2006-01 March 14, 2006 Category Rating Guidance
2005-01 May 9, 2005 Initiating Suitability Determinations
2003-01 July 18, 2003 Changes to the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, since April 2003

 

Laws & Regulations

Appointments made by agencies are subject to civil service laws and regulations. This webpage contains the regulatory guidance for hiring job applicants under the competitive examining and hiring process. This regulatory guidance is to ensure fair and open competition, recruitment from all segments of society, and selection on the basis of the applicants' competencies/knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Recruitment and Selection through Competitive Examination (5 CFR Part 332) - Regulatory language that is the basis for general policy about filling positions in the Federal Government.

Examining System (5 CFR Part 337) - Regulatory language that is the basis for examining applicants.

Agency Accountability Systems; OPM Authority to Review Personnel Management Programs (Rule X) - The Office of Personnel Management maintains an oversight program to ensure that agencies, including work that is performed by contractors, are conducted in accordance with the regulatory guidance.

Types of Appointments

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides the following list of the primary appointing authorities agencies may use to make career and career-conditional appointments.  OPM prepared this list to assist Federal human resources specialists.  The list includes citations to applicable law.  It also provides the conditions for appointments made under interchange agreements entered into between an agency and OPM.  OPM also provides a partial list of statutory appointing authorities outside of title 5, United States Code (5 U.S.C.).  OPM does not regulate appointment authorities outside of title 5.  For a description of non-title 5 authorities, agencies should consult the cited laws.

Appointments under the authorities listed below may be subject to additional eligibility requirements, such as citizenship, which are not included in this information.

OPM reminds agencies they must report all vacancies to OPM and must give selection priority in hiring as required by the Career Transition Assistance Program for Surplus and Displaced Employees. See title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (5 CFR) Part 330, Subparts F and G.

Direct-Hire Authorities

Authorities: 5 U.S.C. Section 3304 and 5 CFR Part 337, Subpart B

Using OPM-approved governmentwide or agency specific direct-hire authorities, agencies may appoint candidates to positions without regard to the requirements in title 5 U.S.C. 3309 through 3318.  In order for an agency to use direct hire, OPM must determine that there is either a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need for a position or group of positions.

When using the direct-hire authority, agencies must adhere to the public notice requirements in 5 U.S.C. 3327 and 3330, and the displaced employee procedures in 5 CFR part 330, subparts B, F, and G.  When documenting appointments using a direct-hire authority, an agency must use two authority codes.  The first code is "AYM" and will automatically fill in with "Reg. 337.201."  The second authority code will be the individual one associated with the specific direct-hire authority.  These codes are listed below along with the information about each direct-hire authority.

Governmentwide Direct-Hire Authorities

Medical Occupations - All grade levels at all locations for the following occupations (GW001, issued June 20, 2003), Second authority code BAB:

  • Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist, GS-0647
  • Medical Officer, GS-0602
  • Nurse, GS-0610, GS-0620
  • Pharmacist, GS-0660

Information Technology Management (Information Security), GS-2210, GS-9 and above at all locations (GW002, issued June 20, 2003), Second authority Code: BAC

Positions involved in Iraqi Reconstruction Efforts that require fluency in Arabic or other related Middle Eastern languages at all WG levels, single-grade interval occupations in the General Schedule (GS), and two-grade interval GS occupations at GS-9 and above. Agencies may appoint U.S. citizens to positions at all locations. (GW003, issued July 1, 2003), Second authority Code: BAD

GW-004, Effective September 30, 2012 is extended by Sec. 1103 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Federal Acquisition positions covered under title 41, United States Code 433(g)(1)(A). This authority is based on a severe-shortage of candidates. Prior to using this authority, the department and agency heads (other than the Secretary of Defense) must determine whether a shortage of highly qualified individuals exists. When determining the existence of a shortage of highly qualified individuals, agencies are required to use the supporting evidence prescribed in 5 CFR 337.204(b). The supporting evidence must be kept in a file for documentation and reporting purposes. In accordance with 5 CFR 337.206(c), OPM may request information from agencies on their use and implementation of this direct-hire authority. This authority expires on September 30, 2017. Agencies may not appoint any individual to a position of employment using this authority after September 30, 2017. The legal authority code for SF-50 item 5-E is “BAE.”

GW-006 (VMO) Issued on February 12, 2009 for Veterinary Medical Officer positions at the GS-11 through GS-15 grade levels (or equivalent) nationwide to include overseas territories and commonwealths including Puerto Rico, Guam, and Virgin Islands, may be used indefinitely or until OPM terminates this authority. This authority is based on a severe shortage of candidates. In accordance with 5 CFR 337.206(c), OPM may request information from agencies on their use and implementation of this direct-hire authority. On a periodic basis OPM will determine if continued use is supportable. The legal authority code for SF-50 item 5-E is "BAG."

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Competitive Examining

Authorities: 5 U.S.C. Chapter 33; 5 CFR Part 332; 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart C; 5 CFR Part 337

Competitive examining is the traditional method for making appointments to competitive service positions and requires adherence to title 5's competitive examining requirements.  OPM may delegate authority, by agreement, to an agency to examine for all of its competitive service positions (except administrative law judges).  Vacancies filled through the competitive examining process are open to the public.

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Current and Former Competitive Service Employees

Authorities: 5 CFR Part 315, Subparts D and E

Agencies may appoint current career and career-conditional employees by transfer (Subpart E).

Agencies may appoint former career and career-conditional employees by reinstatement, but certain time limits may apply (Subpart D).

Employees appointed by transfer or reinstatement may be required to compete under the agency's merit promotion program.  See 5 CFR Part 335.

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Noncompetitive Conversion

Several Governmentwide appointing authorities, listed below, permit or require agencies to noncompetitively convert employees to career or career-conditional appointments from excepted service or temporary appointments.  In addition, some agencies may have their own conversion authority(ies) based on specific provisions of law.

Veterans Recruitment Appointment

Authorities: 38 U.S.C. 4214; 5 CFR Part 307; 5 CFR 315.705

Disabled Veterans

Authorities: 5 U.S.C. 3112; 5 CFR 316.402(b)(4); 5 CFR 315.707

Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Physical Disabilities, or Psychiatric Disabilities

Authorities: Executive Orders 12125, and 13124; 5 CFR 3.1(b); 5 CFR 213.3102(u); 5 CFR 315.709

Student Career Experience Program 

Authorities: Executive Order 12015; 5 CFR 213.3202(b)

Presidential Management Fellows Program

Authorities: Executive Order 12364; 5 CFR 213.3102(ii); 5 CFR Part 362; 5 CFR 315.708

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Interchange Agreements With Other Merit Systems

Authorities: Civil Service Rule 6.7 (5 CFR 6.7)

Current Agreements

Under Rule 6.7, OPM and an agency having an established merit system in the excepted service may enter into an agreement prescribing conditions under which employees may be moved from the agency's system to the competivice service.  OPM has agreements with:

Tennessee Valley Authority

Covers employees in salary policy positions (trades and labor positions are not covered).  Agreement effective 10/16/57; extended indefinitely.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Agreement effective 10/1/75; extended indefinitely.

Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs

Covers employees who occupy medical or medical-related positions and were appointed under 38 U.S.C. 7401(1) or (3) [formerly 38 U.S.C. 4104(1) and (3)].  Agreements effective 10/31/79 and 5/12/87; extended indefinitely.

Nonappropriated Fund (NAF) employees of the Department of Defense

Agreement effective 9/20/91; extended indefinitely.  Also see the paragraph on the portability of benefits for nonappropriated fund employees.

Federal Aviation Administration

Agreement effective 11/6/97; expires 12/31/15.

Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration

Agreement effective 01/31/13; expires 01/31/18.

Corporation for National and Community Service

Agreement effective 03/04/13; expires 02/11/16.

This agreement includes employees assigned to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Appointment Conditions

An agency may noncompetitively appoint an employee covered by an interchange agreement to a career or career-conditional appointment subject to the conditions listed below.  Each interchange agreement specifies these conditions.  The conditions do not appear in the Code of Federal Regulations.  Individuals who do not meet the requirements for appointment under the interchange agreement may apply for a position under competitive examining or other appointment procedures, provided the individual satisfies all applicable eligibility requirements.

Qualifying for appointment in other merit systems

To be eligible for career or career-conditional appointment, a person must:

  1. Be currently serving under an appointment without time limit in the other merit system or have been involuntarily separated from such appointment without personal cause within the preceding year; AND

  2. Be currently serving in or have been involuntarily separated from a position covered by an interchange agreement (some agreements do not cover all positions of the other merit system); AND

  3. Have served continuously for at least 1 year in the other merit system prior to appointment under the interchange agreement

    1. A person who previously met this requirement, separated, and later returned to an appointment without time limit, is considered as having met this requirement, regardless of length of service under the current appointment.  (See paragraph on type of appointment received when appointed to a competitive service position.)

    2. Eligible employees under appointment without time limit in the Department of Defense Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities (NAFI) system may include flexible employees, who work the equivalent of a part-time, intermittent, or on-call schedule.  To determine their creditable service, apply the rules in 5 CFR 315.201(b)(4)

Appointment requirements

A person must be appointed to the competitive service without a break in service of 1 workday, except that a person may be appointed within 1 year after being involuntarily separated from the other merit system.  The qualification standards (including internal placement provisions, subject to 5 CFR Part 335) and requirements, appointing documents, and determinations for these appointees are the same as for transfer of employees within the competitive service.

Selection

Eligible persons may be considered for appointment to positions in the same manner that other individuals are considered for noncompetitive appointment.  The appointments are not subject to the merit promotion provisions of 5 CFR Part 335 unless required by agency policy.

Type of appointment

Persons appointed to competitive positions under the interchange agreements will receive career or career-conditional appointments, depending on whether they meet the 3-year service requirement for career tenure or are exempt from it under 5 CFR 315.201(c).  Service that begins with a person's current permanent appointment in the other merit system counts toward the 3-year service requirement for career tenure.  Interchange agreements do not authorize temporary or term appointments.

Probation and status

Persons appointed under these agreements are not subject to probation under 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart H, but acquire civil service status on appointment.  Appointees are subject to the supervisory or managerial probationary period in 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart I, but appropriate service in the other merit system may be considered in determining the applicability of the probationary period and creditable service toward completion of probation.

Appointment in other merit systems

Interchange agreements provide for two-way movement.  This means that career and career-conditional employees are eligible for employment in the other merit systems with which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has agreements under conditions similar to those described in the preceding section.  A career or career-conditional employee who is not eligible for appointment under an interchange agreement may be eligible for appointment consideration under other appointment procedures of the other merit system.

Portability of Benefits for Nonappropriated Fund Employees

The Portability of Benefits for Nonappropriated Fund Employees Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-508) permits service with a nonappropriated fund instrumentality (NAFI) to be considered when establishing pay and benefits of a Department of Defense (DOD) NAFI employee who moves to a civil service appointment within DOD and of a Coast Guard NAFI employee who moves to a civil service appointment within the Coast Guard on or after January 1, 1987--but only if the employee moves between the two appointments without a break in service of more than 3 days. Also, Public Law 104-106 (February 10, 1996) amended the Portability Act to allow certain retirement benefits with a break in service of not more than 1 year.  To be covered by these provisions, an appointment may be based on the interchange agreement or any other valid appointing authority.

The following lists some of the more common actions and where instructions can be found on giving credit for NAFI benefits and service.  These provisions apply to any agency subject to a particular law. For example, an agency subject to the reduction in force provisions of chapter 35 of title 5, United States Code, would apply the instructions below relating to service credit for reduction in force purposes.

Setting basic pay.  See 5 CFR 531.216.  Also, a Department of Defense (DOD) Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentality (NAFI) employee moving within DOD and a Coast Guard NAFI employee moving within the Coast Guard, without a break in service of more than 3 days, are NOT eligible for a superior qualifications appointment under 5 CFR 531.212.  A NAFI employee moving to civil service employment under any other circumstance (and with a break of at least 90 days since his or her last period of Federal or certain District of Columbia employment) may be considered for a superior qualifications appointment.

Creditable service for a within grade increase.  See 5 CFR 531.406(b)(4).

Creditable service for time-in-grade purposes.  See 5 CFR 300.605.

Eligibility for grade and pay retention.  See 5 CFR Part 536 Subparts B and C, respectively.

Eligibility for severance pay.  See 5 CFR 550.705 and 550.708.

Credit for leave accrued in NAFI leave system.  See 5 U.S.C. 6308(b).

Service credit for leave purposes.  See the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Operating Manual, The Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, Chapter 6, section 1-7c.

Service credit for reduction in force purposes.  Public Law 104-106 (February 10, 1996) gives service credit for reduction-in-force (RIF) purposes to employees of Nonappropriated Fund (NAF) instrumentalities who moved, on or after January 1, 1966, without a break in service of more than 3 days, from a position in a NAF instrumentality of the Department of Defense or the Coast Guard to a non-NAF instrumentality position in the Department of Defense or the Coast Guard, respectively.

Retirement coverage.  Public Law 104-106 (February 10, 1996) amended the Portability Act to allow certain retirement benefits with a break in service of not more than 1 year. See the implementing regulations published in the Federal Register (FR) on August 9, 1996 (61 FR 41713-41728). This publication amended various provisions of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulation (5 CFR) and added a new 5 CFR Part 847, Elections of Retirement Coverage by Current and Former Employees of Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities.

Thrift Savings Plan Coverage.  See 5 CFR Part 1620, Subpart G, published by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board in the Federal Register on August 9, 1996 (61 FR 41485-41488).

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Appointment of Foreign Service Employees

Authorities: Executive Order 11219 (5/6/65); Executive Order 12292 (2/23/81); 5 CFR 315.606

Current Agreements

Agencies may noncompetitively appoint to career or career-conditional appointments current and former Foreign Service employees who meet the criteria under appointment conditions below.

Appointment Conditions

Note:  These appointment conditions do not appear in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Qualifying appointment

To be eligible for a career or career-conditional appointment, a current or former Foreign Service employee must:

(a) Have served in the Foreign Service under an unlimited, career-type appointment;

(b) Immediately before separation from that appointment, have completed at least 1 year of continuous service without a break of a workday under one or more nontemporary Foreign Service appointments, which may include the service that made the employee eligible for career-type appointment;

(c) Meet the qualification standard and other requirements governing appointment to the competitive service, except the individual is not required to compete in a competitive examination, or under internal merit staffing procedures unless an agency's policies require the individual to do so; and

(d) Be appointed to the competitive service within 3 years of separation from a Foreign Service career-type appointment, but the time limit does not apply to an individual entitled to veterans' preference or one who has completed 3 years of substantially continuous service under one or more nontemporary Foreign Service appointments immediately before separation from an unlimited, career-type appointment. [To compute the 3 years of service, apply the rules on breaks in service and leave without pay contained in 5 CFR 315.201(b).]

Nontemporary Foreign Service appointment means (i) an appointment without condition or limitation or, (ii) a limited appointment that made the employee eligible for an unlimited, career-type appointment without a break in service of a workday between the two appointments.

Substantially continuous service means creditable service without a single break of more than 30 calendar days; except for breaks or other employment specifically defined in 5 CFR 315.201(b)(3).

Type of appointment

A career appointment is given to a person who has completed 3 years of substantially continuous service immediately before separation from an unlimited, career-type Foreign Service appointment or who meets a requirement of 5 CFR 315.201(c) for career tenure.

Others appointed under this authority receive a career-conditional appointment. Service that begins with a nontemporary Foreign Service appointment counts toward the 3-year service requirement for career tenure only if the person is appointed under this authority within 30 days after separation from the career-type appointment in the Foreign Service.

Probation and status

Appointees are not subject to a probationary period but acquire civil service status on appointment.

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Miscellaneous Authorities Regulated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Career or Career-Conditional Appointment Under Special Authorities

Authority: 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart F

This subpart contains noncompetitive appointing authorities covering a variety of situations and individuals, such as Peace Corps volunteers, former overseas employees, and incumbents of positions brought into the competitive service.

Conversion to Career or Career-Conditional Employment From Other Types of Employment

Authority: 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart G

This subpart contains authorities to noncompetitively convert certain current employees from nonpermanent to permanent employment, such as employees formerly appointed via competitive examining and appointments leading to noncompetitive conversion.

Employment in Senior-Level (SL) and Scientific and Professional (ST) Positions

Authority: 5 CFR Part 319

This subpart covers appointments to competitive service positions above the GS-15 level that are subject to SL and ST salary rates. (See 5 CFR Part 317 for appointments to Senior Executive Service (SES) positions.)

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Miscellaneous Authorities Not Regulated by U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

What follows is a partial list of appointing authorities authorized by statutes outside of title 5 U.S.C.  Because OPM does not regulate these authorities, they do not appear in 5 CFR.  For a description of these authorities, agencies should consult the cited statutes.

Using these authorities, an agency may appoint an eligible individual to any position for which the person meets the qualification standard and other requirements governing appointment to the competitive service, except the individual is not required to compete in a competitive examination.  Nor is the individual required to compete with career and career-conditional employees under internal merit staffing procedures unless an agency's policies require the individual to do so.  The agency must verify applicant eligibility.  To determine whether an appointee must serve probation, see 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart H.  To determine when an appointee acquires career tenure, see 5 CFR Part 315, Subpart B.

Postal Career Service Employees

Authorities:  (39 U.S.C. 1006)

Postal Rate Commission Employees

Authorities:  (39 U.S.C. 3604(e))

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Employees

Authorities:  (31 U.S.C. 732(g))

Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Employees

Authorities:  (28 U.S.C. 602, Public Law 101-474)

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Category Rating

The Presidential Memorandum - Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process issued on May 11, 2010, requires agencies to use the category rating approach (as authorized by section 3319 of title 5, United States Code) to assess and select job applicants for positions filled through competitive examining. Agencies would evaluate candidates and place them into two or more pre-determined quality categories. For additional guidance on using category rating, please refer to Chapter 5 of the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • The purpose of category rating is to increase the number of qualified applicants an agency has to choose from for selection while preserving veterans' preference rights. The category rating approach gives agencies the flexibility to assess and select from among applicants in the highest quality category without regard to the "rule of three."
  • Yes. The Presidential Memorandum directs agencies to use the category rating approach in place of the "rule of three" approach.
  • An agency is required to have a category rating policy in place that describes how applicants will be evaluated and placed in two or more quality categories.
  • Quality categories are defined through job analysis. The categories should be written to reflect the requirements to perform the job successfully and to distinguish differences in the quality of candidates' job-related competencies or knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). Each category has eligible candidates who have demonstrated through an assessment(s) similar levels of proficiency on the critical job-related competencies/KSAs. Some factors to consider when developing categories may include:
    • Breadth and scope of competencies/KSAs;
    • Increased levels of difficulty or complexity of competencies/KSAs;
    • Successful performance on the job; and
    • Level of the job.
    The highest quality category definition should not be written in broad terms solely to increase the number of eligible candidates who may be considered for selection. Instead, the highest quality category definition should be written to identify the best qualified individuals for the position.

    Example: Agency uses two quality categories: Highly Qualified and Qualified. In filling a Human Resources Specialist, GS-201-14, policy position, the agency might define the Highly Qualified category as experience in a senior level HR position writing regulations or agency policy or providing guidance to an agency on staffing, downsizing, realignment, classification, or compensation. The Qualified category might include senior level HR operations experience in staffing, downsizing, realignments, classification, or compensation. More information on how to define quality categories, including examples, is located in the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook in Chapter 5, Section B, Rating Procedures (Category Rating).
  • Yes. Agencies may use test scores as part of the job-related criteria used to place candidates into categories, as long as the test assesses job-related KSAs/competencies. When establishing a category definition with numerical scores, agencies must be consistent with the technical standards in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (see 29 CFR Part 1607) with respect to the development of any applicant assessment procedure and comply with the laws, regulations, and policies of merit selection (see 5 U.S.C. § 2301 and 5 U.S.C. § 2302).
  • Agencies make selections from within the highest quality category regardless of the number of candidates (i.e., the rule of three does not apply). However, preference eligibles receive absolute preference within each category. If a preference eligible is in the category, an agency may not select a non-preference eligible unless the agency requests to pass over the preference eligible in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3318, and the request is approved.

    If there are fewer than three candidates in the highest quality category, agencies may combine the highest category with the next lower category and make selections from the merged category. The newly merged category would then constitute the highest quality category. Preference eligibles must be listed ahead of non-preference eligibles in the newly merged category. Once again, as long as a preference eligible remains in the merged category, an agency may not select a non-preference eligible unless the agency receives approval to pass over the preference eligible in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3318.

  • Veterans' preference applies after the candidates are assessed.
  • Preference eligibles who meet the qualification requirements are assessed and placed in the appropriate quality categories. Preference eligibles receive veterans' preference by being listed ahead of non-preference eligibles within the same quality category in which they are placed. No preference points, i.e., 5 or 10 points, are added to the preference eligibles' rating. An agency may not select a non-preference eligible if there is a preference eligible in the same category unless the agency receives approval to pass over the preference eligible in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3318.
  • Preference eligibles who meet the qualification requirements for the position and who have a compensable service-connected disability of at least 10 percent must be listed in the highest quality category (except in the case of scientific or professional positions at the GS-9 level or higher). As noted above, an agency may not select a non-preference eligible over a preference eligible in the same category unless the agency receives approval to pass over the preference eligible in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3318.
  • Yes. The procedures used to pass over a preference eligible under category rating are the same as those used in the traditional "rule of three" process. In the traditional and category rating processes, an agency may not select a non-preference eligible over a higher ranked preference eligible or a preference eligible within the same category, respectively, unless the agency receives approval to pass over the preference eligible in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3318.
  • No. The "three consideration" rule that is prescribed in 5 CFR 332.405 does not apply in category rating.
  • OPM does not require the hiring manager to interview everyone within a category. All candidates within a category are considered equally qualified. The hiring manager may interview one or more applicants. Managers should refer to their agency-specific policy on this issue because it may vary by agency.
  • Yes. Applicants will have the same right of appeal (reconsideration) on an examination rating as they do now. The agency must explain to the applicant why the applicant was placed in a particular category (see 5 CFR 300.104(b)). Each agency is required to have an appeal/reconsideration procedure in place.
  • Yes. Agencies who have not already implemented their category rating policy must submit a report to Congress in each of the 3 years following the implementation of their policy.
  • Under 5 U.S.C. 3319(d), agencies must include the following information:
    1. the number of employees hired under category rating;
    2. the impact category rating has had on the hiring of veterans and minorities, including those who are American Indian or Alaska Natives, Asian, Black or African American, and native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders; and
    3. the way in which managers were trained in the administration of category rating.
  • The reports are sent to the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate.
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