Wednesday, February 18, 2015

There are three hiring methods that are exempt from competitive hiring requirements, but have a merit basis for their hiring decisions. The merit basis of these methods derives from the fact that either the selected individuals undergo some sort of job-related examination before receiving a permanent appointment, or the selected individuals receive a hiring advantage established by law to meet a public policy goal that is blind with respect to race, national origin, gender, or other prohibited employment factor. These three methods are:

Cooperative Education Program.
This program allows students enrolled in 2- or 4-year college programs to work for Federal agencies while enrolled in college. Through a formal agreement between an agency and a college, the work experience is treated as part of the student’s overall educational program. While participating in the program a student serves on an excepted service appointment. Upon completion of all requirements of his or her academic program, a student may—without competition—be converted to a competitive service appointment at the discretion of the agency. Neither veterans preference nor the Rule of Three applies to these conversions. The conversion to a permanent, competitive service appointment is not guaranteed when the student enters the program. Rather, the agency’s decision about converting a cooperative education participant is based on observation and assessment of the individual’s performance on the job. The professional literature suggests a high level of validity for this type of selection criterion.

Veterans Readjustment Appointments, or VRA, Program.
This program permits Federal agencies to hire qualified veterans into the competitive service without competition. Veterans are eligible for these appointments for specified time periods following their separation from the armed forces. Agencies decide whether the applicant meets experience and education requirements for the job and whether to require an examination. Individuals originally are hired for a 2-year period, and a permanent appointment is not guaranteed. Following 2 years of observing the individual’s performance on the job, the agency decides whether to make the appointment permanent through noncompetitive conversion. This is essentially the same assessment process that is applied to cooperative education conversions and, as we noted, uses a selection criterion for which the professional literature suggests a high level of validity.

An “Other” category. This is a residual category we established for the purposes of this report. It includes a large number of special appointing authorities established by statute, executive order, or civil service rule. Some of these authorities permit noncompetitive appointments into the competitive service. An example of the special authorities included in this category is the authority to noncompetitively appoint former Peace Corps Volunteers to competitive service positions. No single authority in this category represents a large number of appointments, but collectively they do account for a relatively large number of hires each year. Appointments in this category are made without applying veterans preference or the Rule of Three. The agency making the appointment determines the individual’s qualifications for the job by evaluating the training and work experience the individual gained in whatever job established the eligibility for the appointment. (This assessment method also is widely used by Federal agencies for hiring and internal selection under merit promotion programs.)

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