OPM hiring policy gives agencies new tool to more easily recruit recent graduates

The new policy from the Office of Personnel Management allows agencies to recruit and hire recent graduates without regard to traditional rating, ranking and ve...

In an ongoing effort to inject more young talent into the federal workforce, the Office of Personnel Management is out with yet another new hiring policy.

The latest policy, which OPM will publish as an interim rule Friday, is designed to help agencies more easily recruit and hire recent college graduates into administrative and professional positions in the federal government.

The new hiring policy means agencies can noncompetitively appoint qualified and eligible college graduates to permanent career positions at or below the General Schedule 11 level, OPM said. In a blog post on the new policy, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said recent gradates have a chance to earn up to $72,000 a year under this new authority.

“It creates dedicated pathways into federal employment for rising professionals who may not have an extensive resume to point to yet,” she said of the new hiring authority. “Civil servants enjoy fulfilling careers that offer great benefits, the opportunity for a secure retirement, and the chance to tackle some of America’s most pressing challenges. This new hiring authority extends that opportunity to Americans of all walks of life, and welcomes a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints.”

Individuals will be eligible if they’ve received a bachelor’s or advanced degree within two years of applying to one of these positions. The eligibility window starts on the date a college graduate receives his or her degree, not the graduation date, OPM said.

Agencies can review applications from college students who haven’t graduated yet, though they won’t start the job until they’ve completed their degrees.

Candidates still have to meet traditional OPM and governmentwide qualification standards. Recent graduates hired under this new authority will earn “competitive status” after completing a probationary period, OPM said.

The new hiring policy is notable for several reasons. First, it allows agencies to recruit and hire recent graduates without regard to rating, ranking and certain veterans’ preference policies.

Second, agencies don’t have to post these positions on USAJobs.gov, but they do need to notify OPM if they’re planning to use the authorities to recruit and hire recent graduates. They can advertise positions on platforms like LinkedIn and Monster, as long as they also post the job on their own public-facing website, OPM said.

“Federal agencies will determine recruitment sources and processes for the solicitation of applications and will be held responsible for merit-based selections,” the new rule reads. “This authority —when combined with agencies strategic recruitment plans— may help agencies better recruit to fill mission critical occupations.”

Agencies also have to advertise the positions “in a manner that provides for ‘diverse and qualified applicants,'” the new policy reads.

The policy, which stems from a provision in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, sets some limitations on how often agencies can use this particular authority. It caps the number of recent graduates agencies can hire under this authority to 15% of the number of individuals appointed by the agency to the competitive service at similar grade levels during the previous fiscal year.

Agencies will also have to report to OPM and Congress how they’re using the recent graduate hiring authority each year.

Ahuja teased this new hiring policy in an interview with Federal News Network last week. She said the new policy was an attempt to address some of the challenges agencies are currently experiencing with the Pathways Program, though this particular authority is separate from the government’s flagship internship and related programs for recent graduates.

This is the third significant hiring regulation from OPM within the last few months. One allowed agencies to rehire former federal employees to positions at a higher grade level than when they left government. Another allowed agencies to more easily recruit and hire student interns to time-limited or temporary positions.

The new recent graduate hiring policy goes into effect next month, though members of the public will have 30 days to provide comments.

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