Issuing Office: OD/OM/OHR Phone: 301-443-5324
Release Date: 5/19/11: partial update 7/20/12*
Remove: NIH Manual 2300-335-1, dated 07/24/96.
PLEASE NOTE: For information on:
This Plan outlines the competitive procedures to be used in selecting best- qualified applicants to fill vacancies on the basis of merit and qualifications, without regard to political, religious, or labor organization affiliation or non-affiliation; marital status; race; gender; sexual orientation; national origin; non-disqualifying disabling condition; or age and shall be based solely on job-related criteria. The Plan does not guarantee promotion but is intended to ensure that basically qualified available applicants receive fair consideration for positions filled under competitive procedures.
Employees of certain organizations within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are covered by collective bargaining unit agreements. When the terms of the applicable agreement conflict with this policy, the terms of that collective bargaining agreement take precedence over this policy.
This NIH Manual 2300-335-1 is available to all NIH employees on the NIH Manual Chapters Website. Employees should review the Plan in order to understand its basic provisions and how to apply for promotion consideration. Supervisors and managers must also review the Plan in order to properly carry out their responsibilities.
The requirements and procedures outlined in this Plan apply to actions involving Title 5 positions in the competitive service, GS-1 through 15, and Federal Wage System equivalents. The policies and procedures of this Plan apply to:
The OHR Client Services Division (CSD) Director has the authority to approve promotions based on accretion of duties.
The area of consideration must be sufficiently broad to ensure the availability of a reasonable number of high quality applicants, taking into account the nature and level of the position to be filled, merit principles, EEO principles, and applicable regulations and requirements of negotiated union agreements. The area of consideration must be identified in the merit promotion vacancy announcement and may not be changed while a vacancy announcement is open.
Prior to recruiting for a newly established position, the Selecting Official, in consultation with their servicing HR Specialist and an OEODM staff member, should determine the appropriate recruitment strategy to ensure a diverse pool of qualified applicants.
In most circumstances, the area of consideration shall be at least Institute/Center (IC)-wide. The following are examples in which it may be appropriate to limit the area of consideration to less than IC-wide:
1) Announcement number, opening and closing dates, and organization and geographic location of position;
2) Area of consideration;
3) If the position is being advertised as open continuous, cut-off dates for receipt of applications based on closing date of the vacancy;
4) Point of contact for vacancy, including mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number;
5) Number of positions available;
6) Position title/series/grade and salary range, including identification of full performance level of the position;
7) Work schedule; if part-time, must include hours per week;
8) A summary of the duties of the position;
9) Complete minimum qualification requirements including selective factors (if applicable), applicable educational requirements, and any other factors that must be met in order to qualify for the position;
10) A statement that indicates that qualification requirements must be met within 30 calendar days of the closing date of the vacancy announcement;
11) For positions that have a minimum education requirement or allow applicants to be determined as basically qualified based on their education, a statement indicating the requirement to submit transcripts;
12) A description/definition of specialized or qualifying experience;
13) Whether relocation expenses will be provided;
14) Statement indicating that additional vacancies may be filled if they arise;
15) Statement indicating that applicant information may be shared with additional areas of the organization if additional vacancies arise;
16) For supervisory and managerial positions, a statement that the selectee must serve a supervisory or managerial probationary period, unless exempt based on previous completion of such probation or service in a supervisory or managerial position, as appropriate, prior to the effective date of the probationary period requirement;
17) Evaluation method(s) to be used;
18) Supporting documentation receipt requirements;
19) If the position requires clinical privileges, the following statement must be included: “The selected individual is required to obtain and maintain medical staff clinical privileges;”
20) Statement that PHS Commissioned Officers may indicate interest in performing the duties of the position within the Commissioned Corps by submitting a resume and complying with all other application requirements;
21) Any unusual conditions of employment, e.g., shift work, frequent travel, physical exam, etc.;
22) When the area of consideration is government-wide, Veterans’ Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA) information, including documentation required for proof of eligibility;
23) CTAP and ICTAP (if applicable) information, including documents required for proof of CTAP/ICTAP eligibility and the definition of “well-qualified;”
24) Privacy Act information;
25) EEO statement;
26) NIH Ethics statement;
27) Reasonable accommodation statement;
28) Relay service information;
29) Background investigation statement; and
30) Selective Service statement.
Employees within the area of consideration who are absent from their positions for legitimate reasons (such as detail, authorized leave, temporary duty, training, Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments, transfer to a public international organization, or military service) are eligible to receive consideration for promotion under the provisions of this Plan. Employees are responsible for seeking information on positions of interest and applying for such positions by the required application deadline. The employee may identify someone to search and apply for positions on his/her behalf during the absence period.
Employees and outside applicants should apply for an advertised position by submitting application information through the NIH Jobs Page. Information concerning the duties and responsibilities of the position, application procedures, and evaluation method(s) will be specified within the vacancy announcement.
Applicants should read the entire vacancy announcement as it contains information regarding the specific application procedures. Applicants must adhere to those procedures in order to be considered for the vacancy.
Resumes, responses to selective factors, CTAP/ICTAP documentation, Schedule A documentation, and DD-214s or written documentation from the armed forces (if applicable) MUST be received by midnight Eastern Time on the closing date of the vacancy announcement in order to receive consideration. For HHS Careers vacancies, all applicant assessment questions must be answered in order for applicants to receive consideration. For manual cases, all resumes received must be kept in the case file (and Official Personnel Folder (OPF), if selected) (see Records Retention and Disposal Section).
Applicants with Federal status are encouraged to submit a copy of a Notification of Personnel Action, SF-50, or equivalent, preferably showing the full performance level or career ladder of their current or former Federal position. Status applicants who do not submit their SF-50s at the time of application, but are deemed tentatively best qualified, will be considered and referred to the selecting official. A copy of the applicant’s SF-50 must be received prior to the extension of a final job offer. If the applicant fails to provide a copy of the SF-50 within the specified time period, a final job offer shall not be made and the applicant will be removed from further consideration. All SF-50s and related correspondence received must be kept in the case file (and OPF, if selected) (see Records Retention and Disposal Section).
Whenever there is a minimum education requirement or an applicant can be determined as basically qualified based on his/her education, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit transcripts or a list of applicable courses with his/her application package. This also applies to status applicants who are applying to a position in a different occupational series than that in which they serve currently or to which they were previously appointed. Applicants who do not submit their transcripts at the time of application will be evaluated based on the information provided in their resume along with their response to a self certification question (included in the announcement) asking if they meet the basic qualifications listed in the vacancy announcement. Those deemed tentatively best qualified will be considered and referred to the selecting official. The applicant’s official transcript(s) must be received prior to the extension of a final job offer. All transcripts and related correspondence must be kept in the case file (and OPF, if selected) (see Records Retention and Disposal Section). If the applicant fails to provide a copy of their transcript(s) within the specified time period, a final job offer will not be made, and the applicant may be removed from further consideration. The HR Specialist must verify that schools are accredited prior to making job offer(s) when using education to qualify applicants. Visit the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Post Secondary Institutions and Programs to verify that schools are accredited.
Education completed in a foreign institution/university must be evaluated by an accredited organization to ensure that the foreign education is comparable to education received in accredited institutions in the United States. Visit the Department of Education’s Web site for a listing of credential evaluation services that can perform this evaluation. When applicable, applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their foreign education equivalency at the time of application. Applicants who do not submit their equivalency at the time of application will be evaluated based on the information provided. Those deemed tentatively best qualified will be considered and referred to the selecting official. A copy of the applicant’s foreign education equivalency will be requested by the HR Specialist prior to extending a job offer. If the applicant fails to provide a copy of the equivalency within the specified time period, a job offer shall not be made and the applicant may be removed from further employment consideration. All equivalencies and related correspondence must be kept in the case file (and OPF, if selected) (see Records Retention and Disposal Section).
Applicants claiming eligibility for CTAP/ICTAP MUST submit a copy of their Reduction in Force (RIF) Notice or other equivalent agency notifications, a copy of their current (or most recent) ratings of record, and a copy of the Notification of Personnel Actions, SF-50s, showing the full performance level or career ladder of their current or previous positions at the time of application. Applicants who do not provide this proof by midnight Eastern Time on the closing date will not be considered as CTAP/ICTAP eligibles and are to be considered as typical applicants. All CTAP/ICTAP documentation must be kept in the case file (and OPF, if selected) (see Records Retention and Disposal Section).
Applicants with disabilities claiming non-competitive eligibility under Schedule A MUST submit proof of their disability at the time of application. Applicants who do not provide this proof by midnight Eastern Time on the closing date will not be considered as Schedule A eligible and are to be treated as a typical applicant. Acceptable proof of an individual’s intellectual disability, severe physical disability, or psychiatric disability is appropriate documentation (e.g., records, statements, or other appropriate information) issued from a licensed medical professional (e.g., a physician or other medical professional duly certified by a state, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory, to practice medicine); a licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist (i.e., state or private); or any Federal agency, state agency, agency of the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory that issues or provides disability benefits.
Applicants claiming eligibility for special veteran’s appointment authorities, such as VEOA or the Veterans Recruitment Authority (VRA), MUST submit a copy of their DD-214s at the time of application. Prior to discharge or release from active duty service, applicants may submit written documentation from the armed forces that certifies they are expected to be discharged or released under honorable conditions not later than 120 days after the date the documentation is signed. Applicants are encouraged to identify the specific authority under which they are applying (VEOA/VRA). Applicants who do not provide this proof by midnight Eastern Time on the closing date will not be considered as eligible for the position. All DD-214s or armed forces documentation received must be kept in the case file (and OPF, if selected) (see Records Retention and Disposal Section).
In some vacancies there may be other mandatory application requirements; therefore, it is important that applicants pay careful attention to the “How to Apply” section of the vacancy announcement to determine all required application materials for any given announcement.
Applicants must meet all U. S. citizenship requirements by the closing date of the vacancy announcement. Applicants who are current status employees must meet time-in-grade requirements within thirty (30) calendar days after the closing date of the vacancy announcement.
Applicants must meet the minimum qualification requirements as prescribed by the OPM Operating Manual – Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions. In addition, applicants must meet any positive education requirements and selective and/or other factors identified in the announcement as being essential to establish basic eligibility for consideration. Applicants will be considered basically qualified if they will meet all of the requirements within thirty (30) calendar days after the closing date of the vacancy announcement, with the exception of U.S. citizenship requirements, which must be met by the closing date. Applicants may not be permanently placed in the position until they meet all of the requirements. See “Application Processing Procedures” in section 9 below for additional information.
Note Regarding Applicants Recently Hired through Delegated Examining or a Direct Hire Authority: Employees may be promoted or reassigned to a different line of work or to a different geographical area only after 90 calendar days have elapsed since the employee’s latest non-temporary competitive appointment.
The method(s) used to evaluate applicants must be identified in the vacancy announcement. The evaluation process assures that the selection is made from the best qualified applicants. Evaluations must be based on job-related requirements and applied fairly and consistently. Evaluation methods may include the use of crediting plans or rating guides, questionnaires, and/or other assessment tools such as structured interviews and performance exercises.
The evaluation process may be performed by the HR Specialist (or Assistant); subject-matter experts (SME); or a Qualifications Review Board (QRB), Search Committee, and/or Evaluation Panel (see below for additional information on the requirements for convening committees or panels). Using the assessment tool(s) designated for the vacancy, the HR Specialist or panel members review each applicant’s background to assess the degree to which the applicant possesses the required KSAs of the position. In doing this, they must consider the applicant’s quality and type of work experience, education and training, awards and accomplishments, and related outside experience. Based on this review, a point value is assigned for each evaluation criterion, and an overall rating is ultimately assigned to each applicant.
Note: When there are 10 or fewer basically qualified applicants per grade level, formal rating and ranking is not required, and all qualified applicants will be referred in alphabetical order to the selecting official for equal consideration among all of those referred.
The selecting official, in collaboration with the HR Specialist, determines when a QRB, Search Committee, or Evaluation Panel is needed to evaluate the basically qualified applicants. Factors to be considered in making this decision include the complexity and organizational level of the vacant position, and the number of applicants received in response to the advertisement. If convened, these panels consist of SMEs at an equivalent or higher grade level than the full performance level of the position being filled who are not supervised by the position. The following procedures will be followed to ensure equitable review of the applications:
Note: An SME, QRB, or Panel will not be used, unless required by collective bargaining agreements, when there are 10 or fewer basically qualified applications per grade level since all qualified applicants will be referred to the selecting official for consideration. (See Section 6 – “Determining Minimum Qualifications”).
Once a vacancy announcement closes, the HR Specialist will:
Competitive Applicants: Applicants must be listed in alphabetical order without their scores unless the bargaining unit agreement covering the position indicates otherwise. A separate certificate must be issued for each grade level and geographic location advertised unless it is an interdisciplinary position.
Non-Competitive Applicants: Applicants eligible for non-competitive consideration will be identified on a referral certificate/list separate from the list of promotion applicants. Selection may be made at any time from either list.
Should the original area of consideration fail to produce a sufficient amount of highly qualified applicants, the selecting official may decide to re-advertise the position using a wider area of consideration. Selecting officials have the right to select or not select and to consider applicants from any appropriate recruitment source (e.g., merit promotion certificate, reassignment, transfer, reinstatement, delegated examining certificate, etc).
When a request for reconsideration is received from an applicant, the HR Specialist must review the case and forward a summary of his/her initial rating decisions and any proposed changes along with the reconsideration request to the next higher Branch level, i.e., his/her Team Leader or Branch Chief (whoever is the next level) for decision and the Team Leader or Branch Chief will respond in writing with his/her decision directly to the applicant.
If the applicant requests a second level review, that request, along with the decision documentation from the first review is to be forwarded to the HR Specialist’s second higher level, i.e., the Branch Chief or the Director, CSD (or designee), for additional review and a final decision. The Branch Chief or Director, CSD, will then respond in writing with his/her decision directly to the applicant.
The process above also applies to reconsideration requests from selecting officials.
In an effort to promote efficiency in the hiring process, every effort is to be made to share resumes of successful applicants among HR staff. HR Specialists are strongly encouraged to conduct pre-recruitment surveys of other CSD Branches (prior to posting an announcement) to see if an opportunity exists to share. To ensure a valid opportunity exists, all aspects of the vacancies must be the same, including the title, series, grade, promotion potential, general job responsibilities, location, selective factors, KSAs documented in the job analysis, and any testing requirements stated in the original announcement.
When considering applicants from a Merit Promotion Certificate, if one applicant is interviewed, managers are encouraged to interview all applicants.
Interview arrangements are coordinated by the selecting official. Interviews may be accomplished either in person or telephonically, although in person is preferable.
To further ensure fairness and equity in the hiring process, managers must develop standard questions for each vacancy. Follow up questions may be asked.
Selecting officials and/or OHR staff may receive requests for reasonable accommodation for the interview process from applicants with disabilities. Requests for reasonable accommodations should be responded to quickly and effectively. The NIH Disability Employment Program Manager, OEODM, may be contacted to assist with these provisions.
Additional guidance on the interview process may be obtained at:
http://hr.od.nih.gov/hrguidance/employment/interview/default.htm. Sample interview questions are available at http://www.hr-guide.com/data/A302.htm and http://www.bing.com/search?q=hr.od.nih.gov%2Fhrguidance%2Femployment%2Finterview%2Foccupation%2F361-interview.doc&src=IE-SearchBox&FORM=IE8SRC .
Selecting officials are responsible for conducting reference checks prior to making a final selection. Checking references before making a final decision can save time, money, and effort, since it reduces the likelihood of making an inappropriate selection. Selecting officials should prepare a Reference Check form in advance and write notes on it while completing a reference check. Additional information on conducting reference checks is available to all NIH staff on the NIH Web site at http://hr.od.nih.gov/employment/Interview/default.htm.
The selecting official has the right to select any applicant referred or not to select anyone. Each applicant referred must be given full consideration, and the selection must be based on job-related reasons. While a selecting official is free to inform an applicant of his/her interest, no final commitment or job offer is to be made by other than a member of OHR.
Management reserves the right to determine whether or not to fill a vacancy through merit promotion or to select from other appropriate sources. When vacancies arise, the procedures outlined in this Plan will normally be followed to identify applicants for merit promotion consideration. However, there will be situations in which a selection from another source (e.g., reassignment, transfer, reinstatement, or appointment under one of the special appointing authorities) will more appropriately meet the program’s objectives.
Such situations will be considered, by the servicing HR Specialist and the selecting official, on a case-by-case basis. If the selecting official is interested in applicants outside of HHS, advertisement for CTAP/ICTAP is required; however, using a shared certificate in these situations meets CTAP/ICTAP requirements.
Additional selections may be made from the referral list(s) as long as those selections occur before the expiration of the certificates, which is 60 calendar days from date of issue, unless an extension has been granted.
Reminder: Certificates do not need to be extended as long as selections are identified before the expiration date.
There is a 6-month time limit on effecting appointment actions for selection decisions made via Merit Promotion Certificates, i.e., the entry on duty date (EOD) must be within 6 months from date selection decision was made. Any extensions to the EOD date (beyond 6 months) must be approved by the Director, CSD (or designee). To request an extension, the manager must submit an e-mail to the CSD Branch Chief, who will then forward it to the Director, CSD, for final decision. The request should include the reason the extension is needed as documentation for the case file (See Records Retention and Disposal Section).
Once a release date is requested and an employee is leaving for a promotion, he/she can only be held for up to one full pay period. If the employee is not leaving for a promotion, he/she may only be held for up to two full pay periods. Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Applicants are notified four times during the hiring process through the automated staffing system. Information regarding notification requirements when a position is to be re-advertised and final outcome notification requirements may be accessed by OHR staff on the NIH Portal in the Title 5 Staffing Index.
If, due to an administrative/procedural error, an applicant fails to receive proper consideration for a merit promotion vacancy announcement, the following procedures will take place:
Selection priority is to be given to eligibles under the Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) and Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) placement programs. This means that a CTAP eligible employee must be selected over any other candidate for vacancies within the local commuting area. An ICTAP eligible must be selected over any other candidate outside of HHS for vacancies within the local commuting area except as noted in 5 C.F.R. 330.705(c).
CTAP – For a surplus or displaced HHS employee to receive special selection priority under CTAP he/she must:
1) A current HHS career or career-conditional (tenure group 1 or 2)competitive service employee at the GS-15 or equivalent level and below;
2) A current HHS Schedule A or B excepted service employee, serving on an appointment without time limit, at the GS-15 or equivalent level and below, who has been given non-competitive appointment eligibility and selection priority by statute for positions in the competitive service;
CTAP eligibility begins on the date that HHS issues the employee a RIF separation notice, notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area, a CES, or other official certification issued by the Department (e.g., a notice of position abolishment or a notice stating that the employee is eligible for discontinued service retirement).
CTAP eligibility expires on the earliest of:
ICTAP – For a displaced Federal employee to receive special selection priority under ICTAP s/he must:
1) A displaced current or former career or career-conditional (tenure group 1 or 2) competitive service employee, at the GS-15 or equivalent level and below who:
a) Received a specific RIF separation notice; or
b) Received a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area; or
c) Separated because of a compensable injury or illness under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 81, Subchapter I, and whose compensation has been terminated former agency certifies that it is unable to place; or
d) Retired with a disability under 5 U.S.C. Sections 8337 or 8451, whose disability annuity has been or is being terminated because the Office of Personnel Management considers him/her recovered; or
e) Upon receipt of a RIF separation notice, retired on the effective date of the RIF and submitted a Standard Form 50 that indicated “Retirement in lieu of RIF” or retired under the discontinued service retirement option.
2) A current or former displaced Executive Branch agency Schedule A or B excepted service employee, serving on an appointment without time limit, at the GS-15 or equivalent level and below, who has been given non-competitive appointment eligibility and selection priority by statute for positions in the competitive service who:
a) Received a specific RIF separation notice; or
b) Received a notice of proposed removal for declining a transfer of function or directed reassignment outside of the local commuting area;
3) A former Military Reserve Technician or National Guard Technician who is receiving a special disability retirement annuity from OPM under 5 U.S.C. Section 8337(h) or 8456.
ICTAP eligibility begins:
ICTAP eligibility expires:
Employees may have rights to file a complaint relating to a merit promotion action and may consult their ICs’ OHR, Workforce Relations Division, Employee Relations/Labor Relations Branch contacts; OEODM; or the Office of the Ombudsman/Center for Cooperative Resolution (CCR) for details and the applicable procedures. Grievance Procedures are available at: http://www.hhs.gov/ohr/manual/95_1.pdf.
The right of bargaining unit employees to grieve a merit promotion action under a collective bargaining agreement will be spelled out in the applicable agreement.
Employees and applicants who believe they have been
discriminated against because of race, sex, sexual
orientation, color, national origin, religion, age,
disability, or retaliation may file a pre-complaint
within 45 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory
incident, its effective date, or the date that the
employee or applicant knew, or reasonably should have
known, of the event or personnel action. Please contact
OEODM at 301-496-1551 or 301-480-3122 (TDY) for more
information or to file a complaint. EEO Complaint
Procedures are available at:
Unless otherwise instructed, all records are to be kept for 2 full fiscal years (See Records Retention and Disposal Section). Each merit promotion case file is to contain the following:
OHR staff may access NIH Vacancy Case File Checklist on the NIH Portal.
The purpose of this manual issuance is to establish policy and procedures for conducting merit promotion personnel actions under 5 C.F.R. 335.
Reports should indicate that controls are in place and working well or indicate any internal control issues that should be brought to the attention of the report recipient(s).
All records (e-mail and non-e-mail) pertaining to this chapter must be retained and disposed of under the authority of the NIH Manual Chapter 1743, “Keeping and Destroying Records,” Appendix 1, NIH Records and Control Schedule, Section 2300 Personnel, Item 2300-355 – Promotion and Internal Placement.
NIH e-mail messages including attachments that are created on NIH computer systems or transmitted over NIH networks that are evidence of the activities of the agency or have informational value are considered Federal records. These records must be maintained in accordance with current NIH Records Management guidelines. Contact your IC Records Liaison for additional information.
All e-mail messages are considered Government property, and if requested for a legitimate Government purpose, must be provided to the requester. Employees’ supervisors, NIH staff conducting official reviews or investigations, and the Office of Inspector General may request access to or copies of the e-mail messages. E-mail messages must also be provided to the Congressional Oversight Committees, if requested, and are subject to the Freedom of Information Act requests. Back-up files are subject to the same requests as the original messages.
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