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Frequently Asked Questions Assessment Policy

  • A subject matter expert, or SME, is a "person with bona fide expert knowledge about what it takes to do a particular job.  First-level supervisors are normally good SMEs. Superior incumbents in the same or very similar positions and other individuals can also be used as SMEs if they have current and thorough knowledge of the job's requirements" (Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-authorities/competitive-hiring/deo_handbook.pdf).

    Other possible SMEs can include former supervisors or incumbents with recent experience; as long as they have bona fide expert knowledge about a particular job, they can serve as an SME.  If – and when – possible, reach out to as many resources as you can to increase the number of SMEs.  A larger number of SMEs not only ensures you are capturing all of the key requirements of the job, but it also provides multiple points-of-view regarding the criticality of the tasks and competencies.

    For more information regarding job analysis, please visit OPM’s Assessment and Selection site, http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/, or contact us at Assessment_Information@opm.gov.

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  • Yes, and one of those scales can be found in the Structured Interview Guide located on OPM's Assessment and Selection Policy website (http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/structured-interviews/).

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  • Some tips for writing structured interview questions include ensuring the questions are: 

    1) reflective of the job, 
    2) tied to competencies identified through a job analysis, 
    3) open-ended, 
    4) clear and concise, 
    5) at an appropriate reading level, 
    6) free of jargon or "Governmentese", and 
    7) written with superlative adjectives (e.g., ask for the most, last, worst, least, or best experience or example that demonstrates the competency).  

    It also helps to write the question using the STAR method.  Such questions should elicit a response that includes descriptions of:  
    -- Situation or Task:  the context or background 
    -- Action:  exactly what was done or what would be done
    -- Result:  the consequence of the candidate’s actions.

    Writing effective questions is an art and it does take time, effort, and practice.  We suggest having other people (hiring manager, job incumbents, etc.) review the questions and even read them out loud to ensure they'll be clearly understood by applicants.

    For more information about structured interviews, please visit the Structured Interviews page on the Selection and Assessment website (http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/structured-interviews/).

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  • Essentially, any question that is not job-related cannot be asked, such as asking (or commenting) about a candidate's age, sex, race, national origin, religion, marital or familial status, disabilities, or health status.

    However, if the ability to speak Spanish was determined to be an important, job-related task in the job analysis (for example, the job incumbent will need to be able to address customer concerns in both English and Spanish), then yes, it is fine to ask whether the applicant is fluent in Spanish.  It also would be appropriate to ask an applicant to describe situations in which he or she has used Spanish in a business setting and for what purposes.  

    It should be noted that, in general, the interview should not be used to assess the applicant’s level of fluency by requiring speaking in Spanish unless the interview was constructed for that purpose only and the method of scoring has been carefully constructed.

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  • As a general rule of thumb, structured interviews typically assess 4 – 6 competencies unless the job is unique or at a high level.  However, the number of questions must be balanced with the amount of time allotted for the interview.

    For more information about structured interviews, please visit the Structured Interviews page on the Selection and Assessment website (http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/structured-interviews/).

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  • The goal of writing occupational questionnaire questions, or items, is to write them in terms of observable and verifiable behaviors.  One tip is to use a strong action verb to begin the item (e.g., ‘writes’ instead of ‘develops’, ‘assembles’ instead of ‘prepares’).  Also, specificity is critical; therefore, you will want to write the item so that it is very clear to the applicant what you mean by someone being an expert in, for example, computer programming.

    Writing items is an art and it does take time, effort, and practice to write quality items.  We suggest having other people (hiring manger, job incumbents, etc.) review the items to ensure they are written clearly and are valid.  

    If you have additional questions regarding occupational questionnaires, please contact us at Assessment_Information@opm.gov

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  • No, you do not need to conduct a job analysis each time you fill a position.  However, if the position is unlike any other position in your agency or if the nature of the position is such that its requirements are likely to change with relative frequency (e.g., information technology positions), you may want to review the position at least annually to ensure that your selection tools are still valid.  After performing the review, you can determine whether a new or updated job analysis is needed.

    For more information regarding job analysis, please visit OPM’s Assessment and Selection website, http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/, or contact us at Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • The greater the hiring manager's involvement and contribution to the selection process, the more likely it is that the Human Resources Specialist will be aware of the key job requirements and be able to properly screen the candidates.

    Also, the more involved hiring managers (and supervisors) are in the recruiting and assessment processes, the more likely they are to receive high-quality candidates. Their input ensures the correct (and critical) tasks and competencies are being included in the job analysis and assessment measures, which, in turn, ensures those are the critical competencies addressed by the candidates.

    Hiring managers should also be aware of the May 11,2010, Presidential Memorandum entitled "Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process." Section 1 of that Memorandum (Directions to Agencies) requires hiring managers and supervisors to be "more fully involved in the hiring process, including planning current and future workforce requirements, identifying the skills required for the job, and engaging actively in the recruitment and, when applicable, the interviewing process." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-improving-federal-recruitment-and-hiring-process)
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  • Scores for a structured interview are based on the proficiency levels, where each interviewer will record the score he or she gave a candidate for each competency (content area).  For example, if a 5-point proficiency scale is being used, each competency will receive a score ranging from 1 (Awareness) to 5 (Expert) from each interviewer.  

    It is recommended you assign equal weights to each competency (content area).  Using equal weights is generally the most effective and defensible course of action in the absence of a clear and documented rationale for doing otherwise. 

    If you do give different weights to competencies (content areas), be sure to document the justification for doing so.

    The Structured Interview Guide is located on OPM's Assessment and Selection Policy website and provides additional information on scoring structured interviews (http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/assessment-and-selection/structured-interviews/).

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  • The number of content areas and questions will vary depending on how complex the position and competencies are, but a general rule of thumb is to have 4 – 8 competencies (content areas) and 10 to 40 total questions.

    If you have additional questions regarding occupational questionnaires, please contact us at Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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