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U.S. Office of Personnel Management - Ensuring the Federal Government has an effective civilian workforce

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Job Qualification System for Trades and Labor Occupations



WHAT THE APPLICANT CAN DO is the keynote of the Job Qualification System for Trades and Labor Occupations. Under this system, how applicants gained their skill and knowledge or the length of time they have spent in a line of work are not as important as the fact that they have the required ability or potential to do the job.

The objectives in determining what the applicant can do are:

To provide selecting supervisors with eligibles who have the skills, knowledge, abilities, and personal characteristics needed for the particular job being filled.

To rank eligibles in terms of their qualifications so that the best qualified are considered first when there are more eligibles than vacancies.

In this system, the job element method is used to match what applicants can do against what the work calls for. The knowledge, skills, and abilities of applicants are compared with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (called job elements) needed for success. If applicants have the ability to do the work, they are considered eligible for the job.

Job element examining procedures permit flexibility in identifying the best qualified candidates with minimum time and effort. Alternative techniques can be used at the local level to better serve both the needs of management and the best interests of the general public, e.g., basic procedures and forms can be modified for use in in service placement, shortage recruiting, broadband examining, etc.


Step 1: Identifying job elements necessary for success on the job

The skills, knowledge, abilities, and personal characteristics important to success on the job vary according to the level and kind of job being filled. Some examples are as follows:

Apprentice jobs. Elements measure potential to learn and advance.

Jobs (other than trainee) requiring little or no skill knowledge. Elements typically measure:

  • reliability and dependability.

  • ability to follow simple directions.

  • ability to work safely.

  • possession of some degree of dexterity.

  • ability to do strenuous work.

Jobs requiring specialized skills, training and experience. Elements measure knowledge, abilities, and personal characteristics directly associated with the job.

Of the elements selected, every job has one critical, overall element called the screen-out element. Applicants who clearly fail to meet the lowest acceptable requirements in the screen-out element can be rated ineligible without further review of their applications since this element measures the critical ability needed to successfully perform the duties of the job.  All necessary requirements and description of major duties should be in the job announcement.

Step 2: Developing the plan to measure qualifications of applicants

To decide which of the applicants are qualified, a plan must be devised to measure the applicants' skills, knowledge, abilities, and characteristics against the job elements identified in Step 1.

Kinds of acceptable experience, training, or other information for each element are grouped according to their relative worth to the job as follows:

Point Value Description Points
Information indicating demonstrated superior ability 4
Information indicating demonstrated satisfactory ability 3
Information indicating barely acceptable or potential ability 2
Information which is of some value, but less than barely acceptable or potential ability 1
Information of no value 0

Step 3: Rating applicants

Sufficient job information must be obtained to show the extent to which the applicant has acquired specific skills, knowledge, and abilities. Information requested must clearly relate to each of the elements being measured.

Sources of information used vary with the complexity of the job, size of the labor market, urgency in filling the job, and the extent of information needed to make judgments of an applicant's qualifications. Low level trades and labor jobs usually require little information while complex jobs require more.

Questions to applicants should be easy to understand and answer. To the extent possible, questions should permit simple responses such as checking a box or answering "yes" or "no."

The information is evaluated according to the plan developed in Step 2. A decision is made as to the applicant's degree of ability in each of the job elements. A final rating is then assigned to show the applicant's demonstrated or potential ability to do the job. This permits the selecting supervisor to give first consideration to the best qualified eligibles when filling a particular job.


Job grading standards describe levels of work in terms of the skills and knowledge, responsibilities, physical effort, and working conditions required at each level.

All jobs under the Federal Wage System will be graded on the basis of standards and instructions published by the Office of Personnel Management.

Qualification requirements should be basically consistent with the corresponding grade-level criteria in job grading standards. They are not identical, however. For example, certain personal characteristics such as "interest in the work" may be very useful in a qualification standard for predicting an applicant's potential for success on the job, but be of little or no use (and hence not included) in distinguishing between grade levels in the job grading standard.

Since any significant change in qualification requirements for a job may affect the grade of the job, staffing and position classification specialists should coordinate with each other to ensure that the relationship between qualification requirements and grade levels remains consistent.

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Page Updated 11 July 2000