August 5, 2020


By Alex Harrington, Executive Director

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently published a memo to executive department heads and agencies regarding the implementation of the Trump Administration’s Executive Order) on improving the federal hiring process by placing more emphasis on candidates' relevant knowledge, skills, competencies, and abilities.

This new OPM guidance promulgates in part the Administration's "Workforce for the 21st Century" agenda to streamline the current federal hiring practice "to recruit top talent" and "improve the ability to differentiate applicants’ qualifications, competencies, and experience."

The guidance sets out a timeline and procedures for agencies to implement – within 180 days of the Executive Order’s issuance – two key changes to federal hiring practices.

Agencies may no longer require applicants to meet a minimum education requirement when applying for a position unless that education is legally required, e.g., to practice law or medicine.

Agencies may not rely solely on candidate self-evaluation of their ability to meet a positions qualifications. They need to implement instead a valid and reliable objective assessment of candidate abilities.

What does this mean to job candidates and current feds?

This initiative to reform how the federal government recruits, evaluates, and hires will not only affect job candidates, but also federal employees who are seeking advancement – both will likely experience intense competition for those federal positions that do not require a "minimum level of education.” The large majority of federal jobs today fall in this category and thus will be open to all candidates who can demonstrate they have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities, regardless of their educational achievement.

My advice to those job candidates and current feds who are trying to break into government service or advance their federal careers is to embrace the powerful impact of highlighting your personal/professional brand by using the structured STAR stories (Situation – Task – Action – Results) model in your resume and interviews. The CCAR (Challenge-Context-Action-Result) framework is also a great way to highlight your personal/professional brand.

Further reading and resources

To learn more about how the federal government is improving the hiring process:

OPM Guidance


STAR / CCAR Stories

In the News

Alex Harrington
Chair & Executive Director
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