OPM Sends Memo to Agencies on More Efficient Hiring

In a memo released to agencies on Friday from the Office of Personnel Management, OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert outlined ways agencies can change their hiring practices to better evaluate candidates. A key pillar of this plan is involving subject matter experts in the decision-making process.

“In accordance with the priorities established in the [President’s Management Agenda], this memorandum provides guidance to enable simple and strategic hiring by analyzing and improving methods of assessing applicant quality; involving subject matter experts in the assessment process; and applying more rigor in determining who may be considered for the position,” Weichert wrote in the memo. “Together, these processes should refocus our efforts to emphasize quality first.”

Weichert dispelled the “common myth” that determining minimum qualifications and rating and ranking applicants can only be done by Human Resources (HR) staff. Instead, she noted that it is “entirely appropriate” and “encouraged” for subject matter experts (SMEs) outside of HR to become involved in the process.

“SMEs can conduct structured interviews and determine the most highly qualified candidates, as long as these SMEs are not the selecting officials. SMEs may also work with HR to identify and document the competencies and proficiency levels required to perform the essential functions of a job – a process commonly known as job analysis,” Weichert explained.

Along with involving SMEs, the memo outlines other steps an agency can take, consistent with the law, to gain better control over their hiring practices.

Weichert called upon agencies to assess current assessment methodologies for effectiveness and
“revamp” the hiring process by completing job analysis to identify essential duties and competencies for inclusion in job opportunity announcements.

Acting Director Weichert also pushed agencies to reduce overreliance on self-rated occupational questionnaires by expanding assessment strategies and other effective assessment methods. The memo notes that on the 2015 Hiring Manager Satisfaction Survey, nearly 20 percent of federal hiring managers rates the questionnaire/rating tool used to assess candidates as “poor.”

The memo also provides OPM with action items for improving assessment strategies and resources to support agencies in their endeavor.

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