9337.1A CPO Category Rating and Selection Procedures
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
Washington, DC 20417
April 15, 2011; Extended August 16, 2021
SUBJECT: Category Rating and Selection Procedures
1. Purpose. GSA Order 9337.1, Category Rating and Selecting Procedures, is being revised to incorporate the following changes:
a. Allow for the certification of only those candidates who are eligible for veterans’ preference when the number of candidates eligible for veterans’ preference makes it virtually impossible to consider non-preference eligible candidates. Par. 1.d.(4) is added to define the conditions under which only candidates eligible for veterans’ preference will be referred for consideration.
b. Specify the number of categories and category names that may be used. Par 1.b.(2) is added to specify the number and names of the quality categories.
c. Identify score ranges for placement of applicants into the established categories. Par 1.b.(3) is added to establish the score ranges for the categories.
d. Update organizational names and symbols based on most recent changes (e.g., Chief Human Capital Officer to Chief People Officer).
e. Delete references to the Federal Career Intern Program.
a. As defined in 5 U.S.C. 3319, and 5 CFR, Part 337, Subpart C, January 1, 2005, category rating is an “alternative” ranking or rating and selection method to assess job applicants for positions filled through competitive examining (i.e., under Delegated Examining procedures) and certain Excepted appointing authorities. However, as part of federal hiring reform initiatives, the use of category rating is requiredeffective November 1, 2010, in accordance with Presidential memorandum and OPM implementing guidance, both dated May 11, 2010, when competitive examining procedures are used. The purpose of category rating is to increase the number of qualified applicants from which a hiring manager can make a selection to fill a vacant position. The category rating process places candidates into two or more pre-defined categories based on an evaluation of job-related competencies instead of ranking candidates by numerical score order for selection consideration. Managers may then select any applicant from the highest quality category without regard to the “rule of 3”, although preference eligible applicants will continue to receive first consideration.
b. Original guidance issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) required that all candidates in the highest quality category must be referred to the selecting official for selection consideration, “allowing managers to select from among applicants in the highest quality category without regard to the “rule of three”(from OPM’s fact sheet).” OPM has recognized that (1) the extraordinary number of individuals applying for vacant positions places an undue burden on operating Human Resources Offices to conduct qualifications determinations, and (2) referring non-preference eligibles when there is no opportunity for selection raises false expectations because if a preference eligible is in the category, an agency may not select a non-preference eligible unless the agency requests to pass over the preference eligible in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 3318, and the request is approved. Therefore, OPM has reconsidered its original position, and on September 15, 2010, revised its guidance to allow agencies the discretion to decide whether to send all the names (veterans and nonveterans) or only the names of all the veterans in the highest quality category if agency policy specifically allows this option.
3. Applicability. The provisions of this policy order apply to all GSA appointing offices. Category rating will be used in place of traditional rating and ranking procedures for any position being filled through competitive examining, and may also be used for hiring in the Excepted Service when candidate ranking is used.
4. Cancellation. GSA Order CPO 9337.1, Category Rating and Selection Procedures, dated May 14, 2010, is hereby cancelled.
a. Limitations on Usage – Servicing Human Resources Divisions may implement the use of category rating procedures locally if they meet all the following conditions.
(1) Training – Human resources staff members who will be utilizing the category rating method must complete initial formal training in the use of the category rating procedures and regulations. Workshops are generally available through organizations such as the USDA Graduate School or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Successful completion of OPM’s Delegated Examining Certification and Re-certification classes meets the requirement for formal training since the category rating method is included the course material.
Hiring managers must be instructed on the administration and appropriate use of category rating. Attachment 3 has been developed for use as a reference for managers. The HR Specialist should present and discuss this information with selecting officials to explain proper procedures prior to initiating a recruitment action utilizing the category rating method and review the requirements when issuing a certificate of eligibles. Servicing Human Resources Divisions should notify the Director, Office of Human Capital Management (CH), as to the type of training conducted with managers prior to using category rating procedures upon request.
(2) Systems/Definitions – Servicing Human Resources Divisions must establish a system for evaluating applicants that provides for at least two, and usually no more than five, quality categories. Each quality category must be defined through a job analysis and have a clear and meaningful definition distinguishable from other quality categories.
(3) Notice/Evaluation – It must be communicated to applicants within the “Basis of Rating” section of the announcement that the category rating method will be used to rank candidates, and that applicants will be placed into these categories based upon their demonstrated possession of job-related competencies or their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). For purposes of providing information to applicants concerning the categories, it is sufficient to only identify the names of the categories.” As always, under no circumstances should crediting plans and/or rating schedules with scoring keys be divulged.
(4) Documentation – record-keeping procedures for reconstruction purposes must be established. For additional guidance on using category rating, please refer to the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook on OPM’s website at www.opm.gov/deu.
Anthony E. Costa
Chief People Officer
1. Procedures. Following are general guidelines/methods on the implementation and use of category rating.
a. Usage. Category rating and selection procedures must be used for any position being filled through competitive examining, and may also be used for hiring in the Excepted Service when candidate ranking is used.
b. Quality categories.
(1) Quality categories are groupings of individuals with similar levels of job related competencies or similar levels of KSAs. Quality categories are defined, through the job analysis process, to differentiate between the relative quality of the candidates in each category, and are developed in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (29 CFR Part 1607 and 5 CFR Part 300). Applicants assessed with similar levels of competencies, or KSAs, for the position will be placed in the same category or group.
(2) For most positions at GSA, 3 categories will be sufficient for applicant rating and selection, and the definitions and point values shown below will be used.
Best Qualified – Applicants who have a score between 95 and 100;
Well Qualified – Applicants who have a score between 85 and 94 (also Well-qualified for ICTAP);
Qualified – Applicants who have a score between 70 and 84.
(3) If, based on previous recruitment results, it is apparent additional categories are necessary to adequately assess applicants and provide the best quality candidates to the selecting official, an additional category may be established. The categories would then be identified as Superior, Best Qualified, Well Qualified and Qualified, and score range values would be adjusted accordingly. Justification must be developed and filed in the recruitment case file to document the reasons for using the additional quality category.
Superior = 98 - 100;
Best Qualified = 90 - 97;
Well Qualified - 85 - 89;
Qualified = 70 – 84.
(4) Only applicants who meet the basic qualification requirements established for the position will be placed in a quality category. A “not-qualified” category may not be established. The number of quality categories and definitions may differ among recruitment actions/case files, as determined by consultation between the staffing specialist and subject matter expert considering the requirements of the position, i.e., HR offices are not limited to using the same number of quality categories for all positions, but are limited to the categories and score ranges identified in par.b.(3). The quality categories must be identified in the vacancy announcement.
(5) Some factors to consider when developing quality categories may include all or some of the following and/or others deemed appropriate for the position being filled:
(a) Breadth and scope of competencies/KSAs required for successful performance;
(b) Increased levels of difficulty or complexity of competencies/KSAs;
(c) Successful performance on the job;
(d) The grade or level of the job.
(6) Numerical scores can be used as a basis for defining the quality categories to which applicants will be assigned.
(7) When using category rating to fill positions that require the Administrative Careers With America (ACWA) examination, or when using any assessment that results in a numerical score, categories can be defined by the score ranges. Candidates would be placed in the appropriate category based on the score achieved on the assessment. The following is an example that shows how this could be applied where three categories are used.
|Examples of Quality Categories Using Numerical Scores
||Between 95 and 100
||Between 85 and 94
||Between 70 and 84
c. Rating and ranking.
(1) The job-related competencies or KSAs of each applicant who meets minimum qualification requirements for the position will be evaluated, and each applicant will be placed into one of the pre-defined quality categories for selection referral. Evaluation methods may include any one or more of the following: self-assessment (automated or manual), behavioral assessment, structured interview. Since candidates are not assigned numeric ratings, preference eligibles do not receive additional points, but all qualified preference eligibles must be placed at the top of the category within which they are placed.
(2) For positions other than professional or scientific positions at the GS-9 level and above, 10-Point 30 Percent Compensable Disability Preference eligibles (CPS) and 10-Point Compensable Disability Preference eligibles (CP) are placed at the top of the highest quality category. This provision also applies to candidates for the position of Contract Specialist, which is not considered “professional” for this purpose and such candidates are placed at the top of the highest quality category for Contract Specialist positions. See OPM’s Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, Appendix K, for a complete list of Professional and Scientific Positions.
(3) Within the GSAjobs automated system, candidates complete a self-assessment by responding to specific vacancy questions. Based on this applicant self-assessment, which is verified by HR review of applicant resume, qualified applicants are placed in the appropriate quality categories based on “cut-off” scores (values) identified for each category. Depending on the quality categories identified for the vacancy and the scoring results, this may vary for each vacancy. See par. b.(2) and (3).
d. Referral and selection.
(1) Once candidates have been placed in the appropriate quality categories, the names of eligible candidates may be listed in any order (for example, alphabetical order), with the names of preference eligibles placed above non-preference eligibles within each quality category. A selecting official may select candidates from the highest category, or if fewer than three candidates have been assigned to the highest quality category, from a merged category consisting of the highest and the second-highest quality categories.
(2) If the situation occurs where there are fewer than three candidates in the highest quality category, the hiring manager, in consultation with the HR Specialist will make the decision whether to merge the categories. Once the decision is made and the referral is issued, the decision to merge the qualities in that staffing/recruitment case cannot be reversed.
(3) An appointing official may not select a non-preference eligible as long as there is a preference eligible in the same quality category unless procedures, as defined in OPM’s Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, Chapter 6, for passing over a preference eligible are followed and requirements for passing over a preference eligible are met. When the category rating method of evaluating candidates is used, qualified preference eligible candidates are placed in the appropriate category as determined by evaluation of their knowledge, skills and abilities, ahead of non-preference eligibles and must be considered first, but when there are fewer than three candidates in the category, the selecting official can consider candidates who are in a lower category when categories have been merged.
(4) When the highest category contains a large number of preference eligibles making it impossible to reach non-preference eligibles for selection, a certificate of eligibles may be prepared listing only the preference-eligible candidates. In that situation, all preference eligibles from the highest category will be referred to the selecting official. If non-preference eligibles are included on a certificate of eligibles, all non-preference eligibles from the category must be referred. Any time the certificate of eligibles includes both preference and non-preference eligibles, preference eligibles must be selected before non-preference eligibles. There is no cut-off within categories that permits limiting the certificate of eligible to certain non-preference eligibles within that category. Several scenarios, described below, have been provided by OPM.
Example 1. The number of veterans in the highest quality category exceeds the number of jobs to be filled.
Situation: You have one job to fill and your highest quality category contains 10 veterans and a number of nonveterans. In this case, only the 10 veterans could be sent to the hiring official because the chances of selecting a nonveteran (in accordance with the law) are minimal.
Example 2: There are fewer veterans in the highest quality category than the number of jobs to be filled.
Situation: You have 10 jobs to be filled and your highest quality category contains 5 veterans and 10 nonveterans. In this case, all the names (veterans and nonveterans) in the highest quality category could be sent to the hiring official.
Example 3: The number of veterans in the highest quality category equals the number of jobs to be filled.
Situation: You have 5 jobs to be filled and your highest quality category contains 5 veterans and 10 nonveterans. In this case, only the veterans in the highest quality category may be sent or all of the veterans and nonveterans in the highest quality category may be sent (in case one or more of the veterans are not available) to the hiring official.
e. Documentation and record keeping. The documentation file (whether electronic or paper copy) should include position descriptions, job analysis, quality level definitions, criteria used to distinguish qualifications/levels and a copy of the actual rating schedule used. In addition, any other materials developed or used in the course of the category rating process should be included (e.g., OPM qualification standards used, supplemental forms) as well as identification of subject-matter experts and human resources professionals who participated in the development of the examining plan.
f. Reporting requirements. In accordance with 5 CFR 337.305, any Servicing Human Resources Division using category rating must collect and retain the following information in order to submit an annual report to the Office of Human Capital Management/Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, who will in turn compile agency-wide information for a consolidated report to OPM upon request: 1) the number of employees hired under the system; 2) the impact the system has had on the hiring of veterans and minorities, including those who are American Indian or Alaska Natives, Asian, Black or African American, and native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders; and 3) a description of the way managers were trained in the administration of category rating.
g. Actions taken using category rating procedures may be subject to review by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and/or the Office of Human Capital Management during a Delegated Examining audit.
CATEGORY RATING AND TRADITIONAL RATING METHODS*
Rank & Select Using
. HR Specialist and selecting official define quality categories (2 or more) (for example, Best-Qualified, Well-Qualified, Qualified)
- Review applications for basic qualification requirements established for the position
- Administer assessment tool(s) (written test or other type of tool)
- Rank by placing eligibles in pre-defined categories
- Apply veterans’ preference by placing preference eligibles ahead of non-preference eligibles within same quality category in which they were placed
- Select preference eligibles before non-preference eligibles within same category
- Exception: Qualified CPS and CP eligibles “float” to top of highest quality category for positions other than scientific & professional at GS-9 level & above
- Select from highest quality category; no rule of 3
Rank & Select Using
. Review applications for basic qualification requirements established for the position
- Administer assessment tool(s) (written test or other type of tool)
- Generate numerical score
- Apply veterans’ preference by adding points (5 or 10) to numerical score
- Rank by score order (highest to lowest)
- Select preference eligibles with same or higher score before non-preference eligibles
- Exception: Qualified CPS and CP eligibles “float” to top of the Certificate of Eligibles list for positions other than scientific & professional at GS-9 level & above
- Rule of 3 applies
CATEGORY RATING and SELECTION PROCEDURES
Information for Hiring Managers
Category Rating is an optional method you may use instead of the traditional numerical rating and ranking for evaluating candidates for position vacancies.
What is Category Rating?
- Category Rating is an alternative to the traditional numerical rating, ranking, and selection procedures used in Delegated Examining. HR Specialists must follow OPM rules governing category rating procedures,
- Under category rating applicants are placed in categories based on an assessment of their qualifications and possession of competencies /KSAs for the position being filled, but are not given a numerical score. Veterans are placed ahead of other candidates in the category to which assigned based on evaluation of their competencies for the position.
- Managers may select any candidate from among those referred in the highest quality category, but cannot select a non-preference eligible over a non-preference eligible unless procedures for passing over the preference eligible are followed and all requirements for the pass-over are met.
- The “Rule of Three” does not apply. In other words, managers are not limited to choosing from among the top three ranked candidates as they are under the traditional process.
- Allows You To Draw From a Wider Pool of Candidates. .
Excerpt from OPM, Federal Hiring Flexibilities Resource Center:
Features of Category Rating
. Applicants who meet or exceed minimum qualifications will be assigned to categories
- All eligibles in the highest quality category will be referred to you for selection, unless agency policy provides for referral of only those candidates entitled to veterans’ preference.
- Within each category, preference eligibles will be listed at the top of the category
- For some positions compensable service-connected preference eligibles will be placed in the highest quality category
- You may select from among any of the applicants referred in the highest category without regard to the rule of three
- When there are fewer than three applicants in the highest category, candidates will be merged with the next category and certified for selection
- You may not select a non-preference eligible as long as there is a preference eligible in the category
- Procedures to pass over a preference eligible under category rating are the same as in the traditional “rule of three” process