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Recruitment Policy Studio

Federal Section
Hiring Toolkit

Hiring Authorities/Other Hiring Options


Merit Promotion


In addition to filling positions from among members of the general public, agencies often reassign or promote a current employee, or transfer an employee from another agency when filling vacant positions. In addition, an agency might choose to make use of the myriad of special non-competitive appointing authorities to fill a competitive service job. 5 CFR 335 contains the procedures for filling competitive service positions using one of the methods just mentioned.

NOTE: One thing to remember about positions being filled under merit staffing procedures, the regulation provides the basic framework only and agency policy and negotiated agreements prescribe the specific details on how these hires will be made.

Under 5 CFR 335, agencies are authorized to:
  • Promote, demote, or reassign a career or career-conditional employee
  • Reassign an employee serving under a temporary appointment pending establishment of a register to a position to which his original assignment could have been made by the same appointing officer from the same recruiting list under the same order of consideration
  • Promote, demote, or reassign an employee serving under an overseas limited appointment of indefinite duration or an overseas limited term appointment to another position to which an initial appointment under §301.201, §301.202, or §301.203 of this chapter is authorized
  • Promote, demote, or reassign (1) a status quo employee and (2) an employee serving under an indefinite appointment in a competitive position, except that this authority may not be used to move an employee:
    1. From a position in which an initial overseas limited appointment is authorized to another position; or
    2. To a position in which an initial overseas limited appointment is authorized from another position
  • Promote, demote, or reassign a term employee serving on a given project to another position within the project which the agency has been authorized to fill by term appointment
  • Make time-limited promotions to fill temporary positions, accomplish project work, fill positions temporarily pending reorganization or downsizing, or meet other temporary needs for a specified period of not more than 5 years, unless OPM authorizes the agency to make and/or extend time-limited promotions for a longer period
    1. The agency must give the employee advance written notice of the conditions of the time-limited promotion, including the time limit of the promotion; the reason for a time limit; the requirement for competition for promotion beyond 120 days, where applicable; and that the employee may be returned at any time to the position from which temporarily promoted, or to a different position of equivalent grade and pay, and the return is not subject to the procedures in parts 351, 432, 752, or 771 of this chapter. When an agency effects a promotion under a nondiscretionary provision and is unable to give advance notice to the employee, it must provide the notice as soon as possible after the promotion is made.
    2. This paragraph applies to a career, career-conditional, status quo, indefinite, or term employee and to an employee serving under an overseas limited appointment of indefinite duration, or an overseas limited term appointment.
The procedures and requirements for filling jobs under these merit staffing procedures are very similar to the procedures made under competitive examining. Agencies are required to afford consideration first to surplus or displaced employees and others owed priority consideration, then publicize the opportunities, evaluate/assesses applicants, and make selections from among those determined to be best qualified. Veterans’ preference is not considered when filling positions under 5 CFR 335. However, there is a veterans’ hiring authority in this regulation. In accordance with 5 USC 3304 (f)(1) –

(f)(1) Preference eligibles or veterans who have been separated from the armed forces under honorable conditions after 3 years or more of active service may not be denied the opportunity to compete for vacant positions for which the agency making the announcement will accept applications from individuals outside its own workforce under merit promotion procedures.

Before taking any of the actions authorized, an agency must have adopted and be administering a program designed to insure a systematic means of selecting for promotion and other internal actions according to merit. The programs must conform to the following:
  • Requirement 1. (READ MORE)
    Each agency must establish procedures for promoting employees which are based on merit and are available in writing to candidates. Actions under a promotion plan—whether identification, qualification, evaluation, or selection of candidates—shall be made without regard to political, religious, or labor organization affiliation or nonaffiliation, marital status, race, color, sex, national origin, nondisqualifying physical handicap, or age, and shall be based solely on job-related criteria.
  • Requirement 2. (READ MORE)
    Recruitment efforts must be sufficiently broad to ensure the availability of high quality candidates, taking into account the nature and level of the positions covered. Agencies must also ensure that employees within the area of consideration who are absent for legitimate reason, e.g., on detail, on leave, or in the military service, receive appropriate consideration for promotion.
  • Requirement 3. (READ MORE)
    To be eligible for promotion or placement, candidates must meet the minimum qualification standards prescribed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Methods of evaluation for promotion and placement, and selection for training which leads to promotion, must be consistent with instructions in part 300, subpart A, of this chapter. Due weight shall be given to performance appraisals and incentive awards.
  • Requirement 4. (READ MORE)
    Selection procedures will provide for management's right to select or not select from among a group of best qualified candidates. They will also provide for management's right to select from other appropriate sources, such as reemployment priority lists, reinstatement, transfer, individuals with disabilities, or Veteran Recruitment Act eligibles or those within reach on an appropriate OPM certificate. In deciding which source or sources to use, agencies have an obligation to determine which is most likely to best meet the agency mission objectives, contribute fresh ideas and new viewpoints, and meet the agency's affirmative action goals.
  • Requirement 5. (READ MORE)
    Administration of the promotion system will include recordkeeping and the provision of necessary information to employees and the public, ensuring that individuals' rights to privacy are protected. Each agency must maintain a temporary record of each promotion sufficient to allow reconstruction of the promotion action, including documentation on how candidates were rated and ranked. These records may be destroyed after 2 years or after the program has been formally evaluated by OPM (whichever comes first) if the time limit for grievance has lapsed before the anniversary date.
Now, all advancement or promotion actions must be competitive unless OPM has granted an exception. Let’s review the circumstances under which competition is required, waived or discretionary. Note: If the action is not covered in the list of actions below, it must be competitive. (READ MORE)
Competition is required for: (READ MORE)
  • Time-limited promotions for more than 120 days to higher graded positions(prior service during the preceding 12 months under noncompetitive time-limited promotions and noncompetitive details to higher graded positions counts toward the 120-day total). A temporary promotion may be made permanent without further competition provided the temporary promotion was originally made under competitive procedures and the fact that might lead to a permanent promotion was made known to all potential candidates;
  • Details for more than 120 days to a higher grade position or to a position with higher promotion potential (prior service during the preceding 12 months under noncompetitive details to higher graded positions and noncompetitive time-limited promotions counts toward the 120-day total);
  • Selection for training which is part of an authorized training agreement, part of a promotion program, or required before an employee may be considered for a promotion as specified in §410.302 of this chapter;
  • Reassignment or demotion to a position with more promotion potential than a position previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service (except as permitted by reduction-in-force regulations);
  • Transfer to a position at a higher grade or with more promotion potential than a position previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service; and
  • Reinstatement to a permanent or temporary position at a higher grade or with more promotion potential than a position previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.


Competition is not required for: (READ MORE)
  • A promotion resulting from the upgrading of a position without significant change in the duties and responsibilities due to issuance of a new classification standard or the correction of an initial classification error; and
  • A position change permitted by reduction-in-force procedures in part 351 of this chapter


Competition is discretionary – based on agency policy or negotiated agreement (READ MORE)
  • “Career Ladder” - A promotion without current competition of an employee who was appointed in the competitive service to a position intended to prepare the employee for the position being filled (the intent must be made a matter of record and career ladders must be documented in the promotion plan);
  • A promotion resulting from an employee's position being classified at a higher grade because of additional duties and responsibilities;
  • temporary promotion, or detail to a higher grade position or a position with known promotion potential, of 120 days or less;
  • Promotion to a grade previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service (or in another merit system with which OPM has an interchange agreement approved under §6.7 of this chapter) from which an employee was separated or demoted for other than performance or conduct reasons;
  • Promotion, reassignment, demotion, transfer, reinstatement, or detail to a position having promotion potential no greater than the potential of a position an employee currently holds or previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service (or in another merit system with which OPM has an interchange agreement approved under §6.7 of this chapter) and did not lose because of performance or conduct reasons;
  • Consideration of a candidate not given proper consideration in a competitive promotion action; and
  • Appointments of career SES appointees with competitive service reinstatement eligibility to any position for which they qualify in the competitive service at any grade or salary level, including Senior-Level positions established under 5 CFR Part 319—Employment in Senior-Level and Scientific and Professional positions.


Employees have the right to file a complaint relating to a promotion action. Such complaints shall be resolved under appropriate grievance procedures. While the procedures used by an agency to identify and rank qualified candidates may be proper subjects for formal complaints or grievances, non-selection from among a group of properly ranked and certified candidates is not an appropriate basis for a formal complaint or grievance.


Resources (READ MORE)