It’s no surprise that many people interested in Federal jobs often are discouraged by the amount of time it can take to complete the hiring process. Following the closing date of a job announcement, the hiring timeline is affected by the rating and ranking process including the application of various hiring preferences, the interview process, reference checks, and the necessary background investigation. Despite efforts by the Obama administration, through the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to streamline the process, it may still take several months from the submission of an application until the first day of work.
A Direct-Hire Authority (DHA) is perhaps the most effective tool currently available to agencies seeking to expedite the hiring of qualified people in positions that must be filled quickly. The following discussion provides information on current government-wide authorities; outlines the nature of a DHA; indicates what an agency must do to obtain the authority; and explains what applicants should do in order to take advantage of a DHA.
Current Government-Wide Direct-Hire Authorities
At this time, agencies may take advantage of government-wide DHA related to the following occupations:
- Medical positions (Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist, Medical Officer, Nurse, Pharmacist)
- Veterinary Medical Officer
- Information Technology Management (Information Security) positions
- Federal Acquisition positions covering a broad range of contracting and purchasing jobs
- Iraqi Reconstruction positions requiring fluency in Arabic or other Middle Eastern languages
Description of Authority
Under a DHA, an agency must demonstrate a severe shortage of candidates or critical hiring need. If one of these conditions applies, the agency is free to hire any qualified applicants into a competitive service position without regard to:
- the normal rating and ranking process,
- the application of veterans’ preference, or
- the “rule of three” selection requirement, under which managers may only select from among the three highest-scoring applicants.
Although OPM may independently authorize a DHA for certain positions/locations, it is more common for individual agencies to submit a request based on their own unique sets of circumstances.
In making a Direct-Hire request, an agency must be as specific as possible about the positions it seeks to fill in particular locations, as well as define the time-frame needed for use of the authority.
When making a request based on a severe shortage of candidates, the relevant regulation provides detailed guidance as to how an agency can demonstrate that the position(s) are difficult to fill. OPM finds the following to be the most significant types of evidence: documented results of relatively recent recruitment and training efforts including the use of other hiring authorities and incentives; reports from government organizations and trade associations regarding employment trends and skill shortages; and unique position requirements such as security clearance and medical training.
Under a critical hiring need request, an agency must document the basis for the need and submit evidence as to why the use of existing hiring authorities is impracticable or would be ineffective. Specifically, an agency must point to a provision of law, Presidential directive/initiative, declaration of national emergency, or other unforeseen circumstance that requires the immediate filling of vacancies. OPM also requires the agency to fully describe why other hiring authorities, or options such as transfers, details, or reassignments, cannot meet the immediate need.
Finding a Direct-Hire Position
Don’t be discouraged If you do not qualify for one of the available government-wide Direct-Hire positions. There are likely to be many more positions available as a result of specific agency grants of authority. Agencies must post all Direct-Hire vacancies on usajobs.gov. A recent search revealed over 300 Direct-Hire job postings. In order to insure that you’ve captured the full range of available positions, you should also visit the job postings portal on the website for any agency that hires people with your qualifications and is located in your geographic area(s) of interest.
By way of caution, the use of DHA is not free from controversy. As indicated above, its application negates veterans’ preference, and Congress recently scrutinized HHS’s filling of approximately 1800 Direct-Hire positions in connection with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
For detailed information regarding DHA, please see the fact sheet on OPM’s website.
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The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.