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Operating Manual for Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions

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Policies and Instructions

General Policies:
E. Application of Qualification Standards

  1. Selecting the Appropriate Qualification Standard
  2. Implementing New or Revised Standards
  3. Experience Requirements
  4. Educational and Training Provisions or Requirements
  5. Crediting Combinations of Education and Experience
  6. Using Selective Factors
  7. Using Quality Ranking Factors
  8. Special Inservice Placement Provisions
  9. Other Requirements or Provisions
  10. Supervisory Positions

6. Using Selective Factors

It is critical that agencies clearly and adequately identify the requirements of a position in the vacancy announcement so that applicants understand the basis on which their application will be evaluated. In most instances, this explicit description of required general or specialized experience in the vacancy announcement will ensure that applicants possess the necessary KSA's to perform the work of a position. (See E.3.(c).)

There are some positions, however, where specific qualifications are absolutely required because a person cannot perform successfully in the position without such qualifications. These can include requirements for specific KSA's or Federal or State requirements for licensure or certification. In such instances, it may be appropriate to consider the use of selective factors. A selective factor becomes part of the minimum requirements for a position, and applicants who do not meet it are ineligible for further consideration. A selective factor can be used for positions at any grade level where its use would be appropriate.

The use of selective factors is especially helpful in situations where an agency uses an OPM list of eligibles, since individuals on the register would meet the requirements of the published qualification standard, but might not meet any additional, agency-specific requirement(s). Their use would also be helpful in those situations in which an agency has a nationwide vacancy announcement, but has a special requirement for positions in a particular location because a duty performed is not routinely associated with the occupation, e.g., a contact representative position that requires fluency in Spanish.

If an agency wishes to use a selective factor when filling a vacancy through use of a civil service list of eligibles, it must complete a request and provide justification for the examining office's consideration and approval. The request should list the selective factor(s), include the position description or other official communication describing the duties and responsibilities of the position, and describe why selective factors are necessary for successful performance.

Selective factors cannot (1) be so narrow that they preclude from consideration applicants who could perform the duties of the position, (2) require KSA's that could be learned readily during the normal period of orientation to the position, (3) be so specific as to exclude from consideration applicants without prior Federal experience, or (4) be so restrictive that they run counter to the goal of placing applicants from priority placement lists established to assist in the placement of employees affected by reductions in force.

It is essential that any selective factors used in filling a particular vacancy be included in the vacancy announcement. Agencies cannot require applicants to meet selective factors that were not established prior to advertising a position, nor can they require selective factors that were not made known to applicants.

The KSA's gained from experience and education may be used as selective factors in accordance with the following instructions:

  1. Experience -- Agencies can request that examining offices honor selective factors that could have been acquired only through experience where the position requires program, regulatory, and/or procedural knowledge, such as knowledge of personnel, budget, laboratory, or purchasing procedures. Education alone may not have provided all the KSA's required for such a position; however, education supplemented by work such as internships, field work, and cooperative education that provided the program, regulatory, or procedural knowledge may be qualifying for the position. It is important to note that agencies cannot make experience requirements so specific that only employees of the agency could meet the minimum requirements, as this would inappropriately restrict competition.

  2. Education -- If the applicable standard allows for qualifying either on the basis of experience or education, an agency cannot require that applicants qualify on the basis of education only. However, the restriction in title 5 U.S.C. 3308 does not preclude agencies from evaluating an applicant's education to determine if it provided the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to meet selective or quality ranking factors. Additionally, agencies can request that consideration be limited to fields of study that provide the specific KSA's for a particular position when considering the qualifications of individuals applying on the basis of education. (For example, an agency has a vacancy for a physicist position specializing in a branch of solid state physics. Although the standard permits qualifying on the basis of a major in physics or a related field, the agency may wish to limit consideration to those applicants with educational backgrounds that provided knowledge of the particular branch of solid state physics.)