Changing Focus of Federal Hiring from College to Experience

President Trump has signed an executive order on the federal hiring process that focuses more on qualifications and less on receiving a college degree.

President Trump has signed an Executive Order shifting the focus for hiring into federal jobs from college degrees to the qualifications an applicant would bring to the job. The Order will result in reducing reliance on college degrees when hiring new federal employees.

The change is not a surprise as it was a topic covered in the fiscal 2021 budget proposal. In that proposal, the White House wrote:

[T]he Administration intends to eliminate degree requirements for Federal jobs when not inherently necessary to perform the duties of a position and to identify other instances where degrees are used as a poor proxy for specific competencies sought in job candidates. Over-reliance on degrees can be a barrier to entry into Federal service, and it can also prevent current civil servants who possess relevant skills, training or experience from transitioning into emerging fields within the Federal sector.

President Trump signed the order Friday afternoon at an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting. Ivanka Trump co-chairs this Board with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Ms. Trump described the order as following Congress in providing paid family leave for federal employees.

Ms. Trump stated that “This will ensure that we are able to hire based on talent. The president built the most inclusive workforce in the history of the country prior to the pandemic and we will rebuild it.”

The trend of moving away from placing so much emphasis on a college degree is not unique to the federal government. A recent article noted that companies from Apple and IBM to Google and J.P. Morgan have been loosening degree requirements in recent years as more employers question the dominant role of a college education in hiring decisions. 

The Executive Order comes at a time as some large companies are questioning whether college graduates are ready for work, and Americans who attended college often question the relevance of their college education in today’s workforce. At the signing, President Trump stated “The federal government will no longer be narrowly focused on where you went to school.”

The job of implementing the new Order will at least initially reside with the Office of Personnel Management which will write the implementing regulations for the revised hiring process.

The Executive Order states that “All changes to job classification and qualification standards shall be made available to the public within 120 days of the date of this order and go into effect within 180 days of the date of this order.”

Executive Order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates by FedSmith Inc. on Scribd

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47