NOAA Workforce Management Office
Serving NOAA's Most Valuable Asset - People
NOAA Supervisory Resource Guide
How Do I Fill a Vacancy?
Typical Scenario: One of your employees leaves, and you need to fill the position.
Principle: Managers have flexibility in filling vacancies,
but they must exercise that flexibility within budget constraints,
laws, and regulations designed to ensure that all placement decisions
are made on the basis of merit.
Do I Start? After you have checked to be sure that funds
are available to fill the position, call your WFMO Advisor and
explain your interest in recruitment.
and Flexibilities: As a Federal manager, you usually
have several choices in filling vacancies. These include: promoting
an internal candidate; hiring from outside the Government; reassigning
a current employee at the same grade level who qualifies for
your job; filling the job on a temporary basis through a detail
or temporary promotion of a current employee, or the temporary
appointment of someone from outside the Government; transfer
of a qualified employee from another part of your agency or another
Government agency; reinstatement of a prior career civil service
employee; or use of a special authority such as a summer hire or
handicapped appointment. Additionally, you have choices
such as length of time to advertise a position, recruitment sources,
recruitment methods, what grades to recruit for, and use of monetary
and non-monetary incentives to attract candidates.
of how you choose to fill the job, you must follow merit staffing
rules established in regulations and any applicable
labor agreement. The rules also require that you may have to
give selection priority to applicants who have veterans’ preference
or who are covered by a Career Transition Assistance Plan or
other programs designed to assist employees who have been terminated
or downgraded because of reduction-in-force.
Check with your WFMO Advisor/Specialist to determine when the situation
requires the posting of a vacancy announcement. Depending on
factors such as the work to be performed, duration of the job,
or special recruitment considerations, several programs offer
options for making noncompetitive, i.e., faster appointments.
The following are some examples.
Scholars: This program provides for permanent appointments
at the GS-5 and 7 levels in more than 100 non-technical,
non-scientific fields. Applicants must be college graduates
with either a 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale or rank
upper 10 percent of their college class. The program was
established to improve placement opportunities for minorities,
regular recruitment programs.
Management Interns: Students completing master’s
or doctoral programs who are nominated by their colleges
or universities, and selected as finalists through a rigorous
conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), may
be chosen for “excepted service” positions starting
at the GS-9 level. This is a two-year program and requires
that Interns attend various training activities sponsored
Your organization is expected to pay the cost of the training,
which may range from $3,500 to $5,000 over the two years,
depending on the number of Interns hired Government-wide.
of the program, Interns are eligible for non-competitive
conversion to regular civil service positions.
under the Inter-Governmental Personnel Act: Employees
of State and local governments, colleges and universities,
tribal governments, federally funded research and development
centers, and other eligible organizations may be given IPA
Assignment agreements can be made for up to two years, and
may be intermittent, part-time, or full-time. The agency
extend an assignment for an additional two years when the
extension will be to the benefit of both organizations. A
is required to spell out terms and conditions, including
Internship - Offers opportunities for college students
from two- and four-year institutions, as well as students
in post-graduate programs, to obtain paid internships.
Temporary Employment Program (STEP) - Provides experience
that is not directly related to the student’s education
program and career goals. Students may be employed year
round and can work a flexible work schedule.
Career Employment Program (SCEP) - Work experience is
directly related to the student’s educational program
and career goals. A written agreement is required with
the college/university, and the work responsibilities
not interfere with the student’s
academic performance. Students may be converted noncompetitively
to a career conditional or career appointment after meeting
certain prescribed conditions.
Scientist Program: This NOAA program is designed to provide
entry level employment opportunities and career
development to qualified undergraduate students in scientific
lack the qualifying course work for NOAA mission-related
positions. There is a one year planned developmental experience
the specialized course work at provider institutions.
Provides Federal employment opportunities to persons on welfare
using available hiring authorities.
The Worker-Trainee Program is the option most agencies use
people off the welfare rolls.
Program: Is aimed at unskilled workers to be hired into GS-1,
WG-1 and WG-2 positions in the Federal
It is designed to provide promising individuals an opportunity
to learn not only marketable skills, but good work habits,
e.g. punctuality, attention to duties, ability to follow
and dependability, attributes needed to succeed anywhere
in the working world. Worker-Trainees are provided formal
training, and appropriate mentoring and counseling.
There are also other special programs for hiring the disabled, some veterans,
and experts and consultants.
to Consider: The following issues should be resolved
in coordination and consultation with your WFMO Advisor once your
budget contact has confirmed that funds are available:
make certain that you have an accurate position description
for the position you plan to fill.
whether the position will be filled on a permanent or temporary
your strategy on grade level(s) to be advertised (e.g., if
the grade range of the position is GS 5-12, it can be advertised
at GS-5/7/9/11/12 or any of those grades concurrently).
with your WFMO Advisor/Specialist to determine the appropriate position
sensitivity. Sensitivity level will determine the type
and timing of any required background investigation.
the area of recruitment from a variety of options (i.e.,
from within the bureau, within DOC, Government-wide, or
outside the Government) and how long the vacancy will be
announced. The open period is flexible, depending on the
kind of position
to be filled and the anticipated response to the announcement.
Generally, announcements should be open for at least 5 days.
recruitment sources to target (e.g., colleges and professional
organizations) and recruitment methods to be used
in addition to the vacancy announcement (e.g., job fairs,
paid advertisements, Internet, and/or commercial firms to
applicant search). By law, competitive service positions
for which applications from individuals outside the agency
accepted must be posted on the OPM USAJOBS website. This
vacancy information system provides job information through
of electronic means, including the Internet, telephone, and
touch screen computer kiosks located in many Federal agencies
buildings. If you recruit solely from within NOAA, your WFMO
Advisor can tell you whether you must also advertise the
the position is very difficult to fill because of special
requirements, consideration can be given to offering financial
incentives such as travel for interviews, relocation
costs, recruitment and relocation bonuses, or a higher step in grade
based on superior
qualifications. Budget is a consideration — make sure
funds are available.
Steps: Once the basic questions are answered, use
the following steps to do the actual recruitment and make
a Request for Personnel Action (SF-52) and a copy of the position
description with a new cover sheet (CD-516) to your WFMO Advisor/Specialist. Work
with him/her to establish evaluation criteria (education, training,
experience) for the on-line vacancy posting through the automated hiring system.
- The Department uses an automated vacancy announcement
and application system. It is a web-based system that
provides for the on-line announcement of vacancies;
by candidates for vacant positions; automatic ranking
of applicants against the criteria established and
advertised in the announcement;
on-line issuance of the certificate of eligibles to the
selecting official; on-line completion of the certificate
and automatic notification of the WFMO when the certificate
- Three days after the vacancy announcement closes, the WFMO will issue to the selecting official (on-line) a certificate of best qualified
candidates for interview and selection.
should be aware that the certificate may contain notations
about veterans preference as well as priority placement
programs such as the Career Transition Assistance Plan or
Priority List. You need to discuss with your WFMO Advisor
the specifics of how these programs affect your selection.
- Interview applicants and conduct reference checks as you determine
appropriate. You should only ask job-related questions sufficient
to elicit information
to determine the candidate’s qualifications. Questions such as the candidate’s
religion, age, family status (e.g., number of children, child-care arrangements),
or national origin are not job-related, and should be avoided.
your selection on-line, and forward the completed selection
electronically to your WFMO Advisor/Specialist.
the employee can be cleared to report for work, the sensitivity
designation of the position may require the completion
of certain procedures, such as confirmation of a prior
investigation, review of completed security forms, or a drug
test. These actions
are initiated by the WFMO.
After completion, the WFMO makes the offer and notifies
the manager when a reporting date has been arranged.
This is generally two
weeks from the date
the offer is accepted, but can be longer depending on factors such
as the new employee’s need to relocate to a
different geographic area, or whether he/she needs
to remain at the prior job to complete a project.
Frames: Filling a vacancy can take from several weeks
to several months depending on a variety of circumstances including,
but not limited to the flexibilities you consider utilizing,
the length of time the announcement is open, the area of consideration
for the job, etc. Please consult your WFMO Advisor/Specialist regarding realistic
time frames given the manner/methods you would like to consider
in filling the position.
Good Management Practices:
a recruitment action as soon as you know a vacancy will occur.
closely with your WFMO Advisor/Specialist at all stages of the recruitment
process to ensure that your needs and expectations are articulated
are not required to interview all applicants or to interview
them all the same way (phone or face-to-face), but it is
a good idea to be consistent where possible. It is important
any complaints arise) that interview questions be documented,
and job-related, and that the same core questions are asked
of each interviewee.
may conduct reference checks with former or current supervisors
(some candidates request that you notify them before contacting
their current supervisor), and any other sources you think
will provide information.
may request writing or work samples, but you cannot administer
a formalized test to the applicant. Reference check questions
must be work-related and you should be aware that information
you receive may be requested by the applicant. Be mindful
of the privacy rights of applicants, and be careful about
your findings or conclusions to any persons not involved
in the selection process.
should not discuss a candidate’s rating, qualifications
or your selection except as necessary to complete the process.
It is a good idea to refer questions asked by applicants
to your WFMO Advisor/Specialist.
that not acting quickly on a certificate of eligibles may
cause you to lose a good candidate. Make your selection within
30 days of receiving the list of candidates.
description cover sheet (CD-516)
for Personnel Action (SF-52)
experience questions for
the automated vacancy announcement
are rated and ranked automatically, and are referred for
in 3 days
and make selection
A Note on SES:
- Recruitment: The area of consideration for SES recruitment
generally includes both the Federal and private sectors.
Each agency conducts merit
initial career appointments under
the direction of an Executive Resources Board. SES positions
are not yet announced
utilizing the automated announcement system.
An OPM Qualifications
Review Board reviews and certifies
the managerial qualifications of new SES career
appointees. There is a one-year probationary
career appointment to the SES.
Agencies may make non-career and limited appointments
Veteran’s preference and the "rule of three" as
applied to the selection of candidates
for competitive service appointment do not apply.
initiate an SES recruitment action, the following information
SF-52 requesting recruitment signed by the appropriate
requesting official (usually the Assistant Administrator),
and naming the Under Secretary as the approving official.
WFMO will forward the SF-52 to the Under Secretary for
CD-516 signed by the first and second line supervisors
in Part A (Position Description) ONLY.
diskette and hard copy of the Position Description (PD)
including any revisions and/or updates. SES Pds are not
included in the PD Library system. Review the position
description thoroughly to ensure its content is current.
At a minimum, be certain the Executive Core Qualifications
(ECQs) and Supervisory Controls sections are up-to-date.
diskette and hard copy of the Rating and Evaluation (Crediting)
Plan. NOAA uses a standard crediting plan for all SES
positions which must be submitted with all SES recruit
position justification memo from the Assistant Administrator
to the Under Secretary which outlines: 1) how and where
the job fits into the Commerce strategic plan and bureau
operating plan; 2) the benefits of filling the position;
3) anticipated consequences of not filling the position;
and 4) your recruitment outreach strategy, including
identification of candidates in under-represented groups.
specifically, any publications in which you would like
to advertise the position, any monetary limitations,
accounting/appropriation codes to pay for advertising,
and name of the approving official. Remember, when justifying
your selection to the Appointing Authority/Under Secretary
you must describe what has been done to recruit for a
advice as to how long you would like the vacancy announcement
open (minimum 30 days), and the area of consideration
(either All Qualified Persons or Federal Employees Only).
FYI - most of NOAAs vacancies are open to all qualified
sensitivity designation (e.g., critical sensitive with
access to secret information).
recruiting for a position which is not yet vacant, the
current incumbent must provide a memorandum in writing
giving formal notification of intent and a proposed date
Note on the Commerce Alternative Personnel System (CAPS):
The CAPS authorizes management to use two delegated examining
processes to fill positions, in addition to the Merit Assignment Program noted
above. The Direct-Hire option may be used with certain restrictions to hire
employees in identified critical shortage occupations or employees that qualify
as critical shortage highly qualified candidates. The Direct-Hire option requires
the use of open vacancy announcements rather than individual vacancy announcements
and is designed to streamline the hiring process for hard-to-fill positions.
The Agency-Based option is used to recruit candidates from outside the Federal
government, and functions in the same manner as the delegated examining authority
granted to Federal agencies from the Office of Personnel Management. All Merit
Systems Principles are observed in using either.
Page last edited: October 27, 2008