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Methods for Filling Vacancies in the Competitive Service

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Delegated Examining Procedures

Merit Promotion Procedures

When should this recruitment method be used?

Delegated Examining is the method used to fill competitive service positions with applicants that may or may not have prior Federal service.  Vacancy announcements are open to all U.S. citizens and appointments are subject to civil service laws and regulations to ensure fair and open competition, recruitment from all segments of society, and selection on the basis of an applicant’s competencies or knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Merit Promotion is the method used for internal placement of current and former Federal employees with competitive status, those eligible for noncompetitive consideration, and certain veterans eligible under the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998 (VEOA). 

Note: A status candidate refers to those individuals who are current or former Federal civilian employees who hold or held permanent appointments in the competitive service, not the excepted service.

Merit Promotion procedures can be used competitively through issuing a vacancy announcement, or noncompetitively when specific requirements are met.

What factors should be considered in determining the recruitment method(s) to use?

The goal is to open the vacancy announcement broad enough to ensure that it yields a highly qualified diverse pool of candidates.  When determining the recruitment method(s), examples of factors that should be taken into account may include:  the nature and level of the position; the specialized skills or knowledge that may be required to successfully perform in the position; whether or not the position in an occupation or geographic location that’s been hard to fill in the past; is there a large enough potential applicant pool with the necessary skill-set within the Federal government, etc.  The result can lead to advertising using only one of the methods or it may result in using both simultaneously.

Who is eligible to apply?

Any qualified United States citizen.

There are 3 options available when deciding how broadly to advertise a Merit Promotion Announcement:

Open Government-wide:

— Current or former Federal employees with status,

— Individuals eligible under a special or noncompetitive appointing authority such as veterans eligible under the Veterans Recruitment Act, individuals with disabilities, eligible Pathways Interns who are within their conversion period, former Pathways Interns noncompetitively converted to a term appointment and eligible for noncompetitive conversion to a permanent appointment, returning Peace Corps volunteers or personnel, etc. 

— Veterans eligible under the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, i.e., veterans who are preference eligibles or have been separated from the armed forces under honorable conditions after approximately 3 years or more of continuous active service.

Open Department-wide:

— Current DOI employees serving on permanent competitive service appointments;

— Current DOI employees, regardless of their current status, who are eligible for consideration under a noncompetitive authority such as those specific to 30% disabled veterans, Veterans Recruitment Appointment, appointment based on physical or intellectual disability, reinstatement eligibility, Pathways Interns and Recent Graduates who are eligible for noncompetitive conversion, etc.

Open USGS-wide:

— Current USGS employees serving on permanent competitive service appointments;

— Current USGS employees, regardless of their current status, who are eligible for consideration under a noncompetitive authority such as those specific to 30% disabled veterans, Veterans Recruitment Appointment, appointment based on physical or intellectual disability, reinstatement eligibility, Pathways Interns and Recent Graduates who are eligible for noncompetitive conversion, etc.

What types of appointments are available?

—  Temporary Appointment – Utilized when the work is temporary in nature; appointment can be made for up to 1-year with the possibility of extension up to a maximum of 2 years.

Term Appointment - Typically used for project work expected to last a minimum of 13 months but not more than 4 years.

— Permanent Career or Career-Conditional Appointment - Used for long-term work assignments expected to last for an indefinite period of time.

Permanent career or career-conditional appointments.

When is competition not required?

Competition is always required under delegated examining.

Current and former Federal employees with competitive status may be considered for positions without competition.  This can be a great way for managers to fill positions quickly with current or former Federal employees from within or outside of the agency. 

In order to be considered for a position noncompetitively, the individual must meet all of the following requirements:

— have competitive status; 
— meet the basic education and qualification requirements of the position;
— meet time-in-grade requirements (applies only to current employees; additional information included below.);
— have held the full performance level of the position being filled on a permanent basis at some point in their Federal career. 

Are there any other basic requirements that have to be met in order to be hired?

— Favorable results from a pre-employment fingerprint check must be received before a start date can be set.   Continued employment will be subject to the selectee’s successful completion of a background investigation and favorable adjudication.

— Examples of other requirements that are based on the position to be filled may include:  driver’s license and driving record; commercial driver’s license; SCUBA certification; pre-employment physical, drug testing, etc.

— Current Federal employees must meet time-in-grade requirements, i.e., must have held the next lower grade level for a minimum of 52 weeks under a non-temporary appointment before advancing to the next higher grade level.  This requirement does not apply at the GS-5 level or below.  

— In certain circumstances, favorable results from a pre-employment fingerprint check must be received before a start date can be set.  Continued employment may be subject to the selectee's successful completion of a background investigation and favorable adjudication.

— Examples of other requirements that are based on the position to be filled may include:  driver’s license and driving record; commercial driver’s license; SCUBA certification; pre-employment physical, drug testing, etc.

How are candidates assessed?

Category rating is used in the ranking and selection process.  At least two quality categories must be identified.  Applicants will be rated on the extent and quality of their experience, education, and training relevant to the duties of the position being advertised.  An applicant’s responses to the vacancy questions will determine their placement in the appropriate quality category.  Responses must be substantiated in the applicant’s resume.

Applicants will be rated on the extent and quality of their experience, education, and training relevant to the duties of the position.  Applicants who meet the eligibility and qualification requirements will receive a numerical rating based on their responses to the vacancy questions.  Responses must be substantiated in the applicant’s resume.

How are candidates referred to the hiring manager?

— Qualified candidates who are ranked in the highest quality category will be referred to the hiring manager in accordance with veterans’ preference rules.  

— When the hiring manager has decided to consider applications from individuals requesting consideration under a noncompetitive or special hiring authority, those who meet the minimum qualification requirements of the position, regardless of their ranking, and who submit proof of eligibility, will be referred to the hiring manager on a separate list in alphabetical order.  

— The servicing HR Specialist will work in consultation with the hiring manager to determine a best-qualified cut-off score.  Applicants who meet the qualification requirements of the position and earn a score equal to or higher than the established cut-off will be referred to the hiring manager in alphabetical order. 

— Applicants who requested consideration under a noncompetitive or special hiring authority who meet the minimum qualification requirements of the position, regardless of their score, and who submit proof of eligibility, will be referred to the hiring manager on a separate list in alphabetical order. 

Does veterans’ preference apply?

Yes, veterans’ preference rules apply under delegated examining procedures.  

No, veterans’ preferences rules do not apply under merit promotion procedures. 

Will applicants requesting consideration under a noncompetitive or special appointing authority be referred to the hiring manager?

Possibly.  The decision to consider applicants applying under a noncompetitive or special appointing authority will be made on a case-by-case basis during the pre-recruitment consultation between the hiring manager and the servicing Human Resources Specialist.

Yes. Individuals seeking consideration under a noncompetitive or special hiring authority will be given that consideration provided they meet the minimum qualification requirements of the position and submit proof of eligibility. 

When do displaced or surplus employees receive priority consideration?

Displaced or surplus employees are entitled to priority consideration when filling a position from outside the agency’s (DOI) workforce and the position is expected to last 120 days or more.  In order to receive priority consideration, these individuals must meet the eligibility requirements for the Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) or the Interagency Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) and must apply to the vacant position when applicable.

When a CTAP or ICTAP eligible applies to a position, meets all of the eligibility requirements, and is determined to be well-qualified for the position, they receive priority consideration.  This means that no other applicant can be considered for the advertised position unless the CTAP/ICTAP eligible is selected or declines consideration for the position.

NOTE:  When taking a noncompetitive action under Merit Promotion procedures, please consult with your servicing Human Resources Specialist to determine if CTAP/ICTAP must be cleared before taking such action. 

Related Reference Tools

OPM Delegated Examining Operations Handbook

USGS Merit Promotion Plan, SM 370.335.1
USGS Merit Promotion Handbook




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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 15-Jun-2016 09:41:13 EDT