OPM answers more of your hiring freeze questions

Agencies have a few more answers now from the Office of Personnel Management about implementing the short-term federal hiring freeze. Specifically, the guidance...

Agencies have a few more answers now to more specific questions about the President’s short-term federal hiring freeze.

The Office of Personnel Management addressed 43 frequently-asked-questions about the hiring freeze. Specifically, the Feb. 11 guidance addresses what recruitment activities agencies may choose to continue to begin during the freeze.

Agencies can continue to participate in recruitment fairs, post job announcements, conduct interviews or review applications for positions that are subject to the hiring freeze, but they cannot make job offers.

“Agencies should consider the timing of posting new jobs openings for positions that are subject to the freeze in order to help manage applicant expectations,” OPM said.

OPM emphasized that agencies can continue recruitment efforts during the hiring freeze at their discretion but encouraged hiring managers to give regular updates to their applicants and candidates.

The memo also addresses questions related to the Senior Executive Service, personnel actions and interns and temporary appointments.


Agencies can continue to submit qualifications packages for SES candidates, according to the OPM.

The memo goes into more detail about the kinds of SES qualifications packages it will review during the freeze.

But generally, OPM will continue to process Qualifications Review Board (QRB) certification packages or QRB moratorium exemption requests if agency chief human capital officers tell OPM that it made an SES offer before noon on Jan. 22, 2017.

“The current agency head has reviewed the recruitment and selection of the candidate for career appointment to an SES position and has decided to proceed with a request for OPM’s QRB certification to enable the agency to appoint the candidate to the SES position for which he or she was selected,” the memo said.

Personnel actions

Agencies cannot make competitive promotions during the hiring freeze, unless the position in question was exempted.

They can’t use merit promotion procedures to fill vacancies with candidates from inside or outside the agency’s workforce.

But agencies can reappoint, reassign or promote an employee if the organization must take some kind of personnel action to comply with a decision from the Merit Systems Protection Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or other third party adjudicative agency, the memo said.

In addition, agencies may not hire re-employed annuitants, often civilian retirees, during the freeze.

Term, temporary and interns

Employees with a term, temporary or time-limited appointment may get an extension, if an agency decides that it needs those individuals to “meet highest priority needs of the agency, ensure that essential services are not interrupted or maintain national security,” the memo said.

Exemptions apply to most interns under the Pathways Program but do not apply to interns appointed to an agency’s rolls. However, this is an exception:

“Interns secured via a contractual agreement with a third party internship provider (e.g., interns from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) are not appointed, and accordingly are not subject to the hiring freeze,” the memo said.

OPM and the Office of Management and Budget released a list of exemptions in a detailed Jan. 31 memo. Agencies may ask for additional exemptions but must explain their mission needs in writing to OPM. The OPM director itself may grant other exemptions.

So far, the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have announced specific exemptions to the hiring freeze. Cyber specialists are among DoD’s 16 major exemptions, while VA exempted medical professionals, doctors, nurses and some construction and project management specialists.

The hiring freeze is supposed to last for roughly 90 days, or until OMB develops a long-term plan to reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition. In one of the first moves of his presidency, President Donald Trump signed off on the freeze in an executive memorandum Jan. 23.

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