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OPM Extends Deadline for Agencies to Implement Competency-Based Hiring

By Erich Wagner for Government Executive

he Office of Personnel Management last week announced that it would extend the deadline for agencies to implement a Trump-era executive order aimed at overhauling the federal hiring process.

Last June, Trump signed an executive order that requires agencies to increase the use of skills assessments and interviews with subject matter experts, rather than relying purely on educational attainment and length of job experience. The edict followed the success of multiple pilot programs experimenting with the simplification of the resume submission process in favor of a series of job interviews and skills assessments, spearheaded by the U.S. Digital Service.

Following the issuance of the order, OPM has been working with agencies on an effort to implement its provisions, including holding listening sessions with experts and chief human capital officers and developing a draft list of qualifications required for the various jobs across the federal government. Although the executive order set a six-month deadline for implementing its provisions, OPM has yet to issue its final policy on the matter. A draft version of the policy went out to agencies for review and feedback last November.

In guidance to agency heads last week, Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan said as a result of the delays and in response to “concern” from agency officials about their ability to implement the final policy quickly, she would extend the deadline to meet the executive order’s requirements until Dec. 31.

“OPM is currently finalizing the General Schedule Qualifications Policy so that candidates will now be able to qualify for employment on the basis of competency-based assessment when there are no legal educational requirements to perform a job,” she wrote. “While many agencies already use skills and competency-based assessments, many agencies also have expressed concern about implementation of this EO.”

In a statement, OPM spokeswoman Shelby Wagenseller said the agency is still committed to implementing competency-based hiring across the federal government, but that OPM wants to ensure agencies have the tools they need to move to the new system.

“Competency-based assessments can be a valuable tool for effective and inclusive hiring for the federal government,” she said. “However, we also want to make sure agencies can implement these assessments effectively. We will continue to evaluate our policies to give agencies the time, flexibility and support they need.”

McGettigan wrote that OPM will hold a session with agencies “soon” to outline updated guidance on the issue and highlight a list of tools that agencies can use to navigate the switch.