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Michael Rigas, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management, explains the new executive order from President Trump encouraging agencies to base hiring decisions more on skills and less on educational credentials

Francis: A new executive order from President Trump encourages agencies to base hiring decisions more on a candidate’s skills and less on her educational credentials. The Office of Personnel Management will work with agencies over the next four months to reassess the qualification standards. Michael Rigas is Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management and Acting Dputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mike, welcome back, thanks very much for coming on the program – what do agencies have to do now and what will they have to do in the future that they didn’t do before the executive order, Mike?

Mike Rigas: Thanks, Francis, good morning and thank you for having me with you today, it’s good to be with you again today. What the executive order is that President Trump signed, it requires agencies to develop and offer skills and competency-based assessments as distinct from self-assessments for every job that they advertise in the competitive service. So what that means is that we’re moving away from candidates basically being able to rate themselves as the most qualified in the number of skills and attributes required for success in a position, and have a more objective assessment of a candidate’s skills before they are deemed qualified for a position.

Francis: Do we have a sense yet of what that will look like? OPM made a big deal in previous administraitons about trying to transition from knowledge, skills and assessments to a more resume-based format of hiring, and there are some fears that I’ve heard this week that this is maybe a transition back toward the agencies administering some kind of assessment that they develop on their own. Is that what we’re looking at here or do you think this is going to go in a different direction, Mike?

Mike: Well, there are a number of ways that agencies can achieve this result. Two of the ones that have been used very successfully in the past and even currently are these online assessments OPM offers to agencies through USA Hire – agencies can also procure these on their own, but OPM does a great job with our industrial psychologist and there’s a lot of work that goes into creating these assessments to ensure they rate a candidate’s skills and abilities to be able to do the job. Another method that is used is using subject matter experts to conduct quality assessments on candidates when they apply to positions. This is a pilot program that has been incredibly successful that the US Digital Service has worked with, the Department of Interior and other agencies to qualify candidates who are applying for technical positions and technology poistions within agencies. Subject matter experts will look at their resumes, do a review, conduct preliminary interviews and then they will be able to assess a candidate’s qualifications for a job before they get put on a cert. for the hiring manager to review, and that results in a much higher number of qualified candidates on the certification that are available for hire to agencies than the current system.

Francis: It also strikes me that that gives you an opportunity for this to be vertical as well as horizontal, not just an agency-by-agency review of what these positions should look like and how they should be skilled, but you’ll be able to put these into skillset buckets, where it’s possible that a worker at one department will need pretty much the same skills as the same type of worker in another department, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again. Am I reading that right, Mike?

Mike: That’s exactly right, and that’s exactly what has happened in these pilots that we’ve done with the subject matter expert qualifications. Once a pool of candidates have been determined to be qualified for the position, they’ve been able to be available to multiple agencies for hiring, and those agencies have been able to hire within days, reducing the hiring process from 80 days to 7-10 days on some of these positions, and it’s an incredibly powerful tool for not only reducing the amount of time it takes to hire candidates, but also increasing the quality of applicants, candidates that are on the certificates.

Francis: That candidate visibility, Mike, from agency to agency is a breakthrough that people have been talking about for years. Are there other aspects of some of these long-term hiring reforms people have been talking about that you think maybe this executive order could potentially lead to?

Mike: Yeah, so just by doing some tehcnical fixes, I’m looking right now, OPM sort of owns and runs USA Jobs, the website that interested applicants looking for federal jobs apply to, and right now it is not easy technically or otherwise to be able to allow candidates to share their resume with other jobs at other agencies should the particular position that they’re applying for at a particular agency not come through for them. So for instance, if I’m at OPM, and I want to hire a technology expert for a particular position, but I only have one opening, and the Department of Commerce has four openings for that exact position, if we interview a number of candidates and determine we have five highly qualified candidates but are only able to hire one, under the current system those four candidates who are qualified but we just didn’t have a position for them at our agency, would now basically be discarded, and they would have to go apply on their own at another agency for that same position. What we’re looking to do is basically take those four candidates, and say, hey, these are highly qualified, they’ve been certified as qualified candidates for this position, and the Department of Commerce or any other agency looking to hire would be able to snap them up within days, so we really eliminate a lot of sort of waste and time and resources in the hiring process, so that results in better candidates for hiring at agencies and better mission outcomes at agencies, a stronger workforce, and better outcomes for the federal government.

Francis: Mike, HR experts have been looking for that in government for many years; if you can crack that nut, good luck to you. Thank you very much for joining me this morning, I appreciate it.

Mike: Thank you very much, Francis, great to be with you.

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