OPM clears up category rankings process

Monday - 6/28/2010, 5:32pm EDT

By Rachel Stevens
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management published an online guide to help agencies better understand the new category rating system.

President Obama ordered this new approach in a May executive order. Category rating will completely replace the "rule of three" system by November.

The category rating system is meant to "increase the number of qualified applicants an agency has to choose from for selection while preserving veterans' preference rights," according to a newly-created fact sheet.

Quality categories are determined through consideration of the traits necessary to do any particular job. Agencies will group candidates into one of at least two categories based on possession of needed skills and experience, according to a presentation meant to introduce the guidelines for the new system.

For example, the presentation says, candidates with many desired attributes might be labeled "qualified," while candidates possessing all desired traits might be called "highly qualified."

Hiring managers can interview as many or as few candidates as they wish, the fact sheet states. All candidates in the same category are considered to be equally qualified.

However, veterans eligible for preference must be listed ahead of others in their categories. They cannot be passed over for another applicant without prior approval from OPM. And qualified veterans with service- related disabilities automatically "float" to the top of the highest category, regardless of which category they are initially placed into.

The guide also says agencies will be required to submit yearly reports to Congress on their category rating procedures for the first 3 years after they are implemented. These will describe the number of employees hired using category ranking, the way managers were trained in the system and the impact of category ranking on the hiring of veterans and minorities.

The Hiring Reform website also includes copies of relevant chapters in the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, an introductory video, and a template to help agencies write their own category rating policy.

Rachel Stevens is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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