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How Agencies Can Recruit Better Candidates With a Skills-Based Approach

Agency hiring managers should focus more on what candidates can do, not what they have learned.

The Office of Personnel Management is trying to help agencies deal with the long-standing struggle of hiring the right people for vacancies with new guidelines released May 19.

“Skills-based hiring will expand talent pools by making it easier for candidates without a bachelor’s degree to demonstrate their skills and help break down barriers to employment for people who have historically…

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Agency hiring managers should focus more on what candidates can do, not what they have learned.

The Office of Personnel Management is trying to help agencies deal with the long-standing struggle of hiring the right people for vacancies with new guidelines released May 19.

“Skills-based hiring will broaden talent pools by making it easier for unlicensed applicants to demonstrate their skills and help remove barriers to employment for historically underrepresented groups,” said the director of the ‘OPM, Kiran Ahuja, in a May 19 press release.

To better compete with the private sector for hiring high-quality candidates, agencies should emphasize skills rather than education, the OPM wrote in a May 19 memo.

Competency-based hiring values ​​”all skills relevant to the role at hand, whether learned in the classroom, on the job, or on your own,” OPM wrote.

The new OPM guidelines come from a 2020 executive order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Candidates for Federal Employment, which calls on agencies to deepen their understanding of candidates’ qualifications for federal employment. beyond education, training and experience.

Federal hiring managers can use the guidance to better identify qualifications, develop questionnaires and screen the best candidates in the early stages of hiring, OPM said.

Early in the hiring process, agencies should broaden the questions and use plain language to allow for pools of more qualified candidates, OPM said. If the questions are too specialized, it can unintentionally weed out strong candidates without giving them the opportunity to pass on their skills.

By expanding the questions beyond the simple education review, agencies can find the best-suited candidates for a position. Early-stage hiring questions should be based on things like job-related work experience, education and training to reach the best candidates, OPM said.

Unclear language in a job advertisement, for example, can create pools of unsuitable candidates at the opening, but with guidance, OPM said managers can more easily find qualified candidates the first time around. thus avoiding the “unnecessary” need to repost posts.

A nine-step process will help agencies determine the minimum requirements for applicants to be accepted into the hiring process and weed out poorly-suited applicants, the OPM said.

From the Office of Personnel Management’s guide to better professional questionnaires

Professional questionnaires are not intended for all positions. They can help fill jobs quickly, but they can also lead to distorted responses, the OPM said. For example, it may not be ideal for entry-level positions.

When designing these questionnaires, agencies should avoid certain pitfalls. For example, when crafting questions, the OPM said it recommends writing succinctly, avoiding government jargon, and avoiding asking questions about overly specialized skills. These adjustments allow more candidates to show off their skills, especially if they come from outside the federal workforce.

From the Office of Personnel Management’s guide to better professional questionnaires

Using subject matter experts will also help hiring managers identify strong candidates, OPM said. These job-specific qualification experts include first-level supervisors and high-performing incumbents in the same or similar positions.

“SMBs will be better informed about what gets done in the job and what behaviors make their high performers successful,” OPM wrote in the guidelines.

Hiring managers should involve SMEs throughout the hiring process, OPM said. This includes, for example, using PME to help determine which skills to measure in questionnaires, as well as to assess the effectiveness of the questionnaire in selecting the best candidates.

The guidance also builds on a pilot project using a Subject Matter Expert Qualifications Assessment (SME-QA) in the hiring process.

The SME-QA process, developed by the US Digital Service, helps agencies assess candidates for technical roles. As part of the pilot project, agencies are using SMEs to help hiring managers hire quality and suitable candidates.

Competency-based and competency-based hiring is “a critical best practice for ensuring teams are properly equipped to do the important work at hand,” Mina Hsiang, administrator of the US Digital Service, said in the release. OPM press. “At US Digital Service, we have used the competency-based hiring approach to identify and hire talent since the beginning, as it has become the standard approach in the technology industry, based on its ability to hire qualified professionals, regardless of their formal training.”

The OPM guidelines also align with the President’s management agenda’s top priority, Strengthening and Empowering the Federal Workforce, which calls on agencies to attract the right talent for the right roles. The PMA aims to increase hiring managers’ satisfaction with the hiring process.

Additionally, by using a skills-based approach to hiring, Ahuja said she hopes to open doors to more underserved communities. By placing less emphasis on college education, for example, organizations can identify more quality candidates who have developed the same skills outside of the classroom.

“By tapping into the diversity of this country, agencies can be better equipped to meet the challenges ahead,” Ahuja said.

Joe Paiva, vice president of HireVue and former chief information officer at the International Trade Administration, said in an interview with Federal News Network that when you look at today’s federal workforce, it doesn’t necessarily look like the population it is supposed to serve, especially for high-level positions.

“One of the challenges in government is that we write job descriptions so narrowly that unless someone is an insider, they have no chance of getting the job,” Paiva said. “What ends up happening is that you recycle the same people over and over again.”

Congress is also pushing for similar candidate assessments: The Competition Act, which the House Oversight and Reform Committee passed in April, would increase the use of SMBs in the hiring process, while diverting attention from education when evaluating candidates.

Paiva said the OPM details will help agencies hire based on skills, but the new guidelines are just the start of reforming the process.

“That’s where it’s going to be up to the agencies to make it really work, so that we start hiring the best people,” he said.

For more information, the OPM said agencies can attend upcoming sessions to get more tools and resources to reform the hiring process.

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