Selecting Subject Matter Experts

The success of your hiring action depends on the strength of your subject matter experts (SMEs). Your strongest potential SMEs likely have many responsibilities; however, their time investment will result in a stronger certificate.

Choosing SMEs

To choose SMEs, work with the hiring manager to find the best-suited SMEs to participate in your hiring action. Any civil servant with bona fide expert knowledge about a particular job can serve as an SME. While the number of SMEs needed to represent a job will depend on the nature of the work and characteristics of the workforce, it's always advisable to gather as many SMEs as possible. 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. SMEs will not be able to apply for the position.

SMEs should reflect a representative sample of the job including demographics (e.g., age, gender, race and ethnicity, veteran status), location, organization (e.g., department if applicable, agency, office, work unit), and so forth. Lack of representation will make assessments less effective for fair and equitable hiring, and can impact the defensibility of your assessment strategy. You especially need a wide and diverse range of SMEs present for job analysis. Potential SMEs should complete a background information form and submit a resume as part of the selection process. Document this information in the case file for the hiring action.



Generally, SMEs should be:

Once you choose SMEs, they must sign the Confidentiality Agreement and agree to protect all testing material, including interview questions and required proficiency levels.

Setting Time and Effort Expectations

SMEs will participate throughout your hiring action at various levels, depending on the phase. Use these descriptions of their efforts to set expectations with hiring managers and SMEs you’re considering for participation.

It’s critical for you to identify a project manager to manage the deliverables required from each phase of your action (this person could also be the HR specialist assigned to the action), in addition to the hiring manager who will make selections off of your resulting certificate.

  • Job Analysis: With guidance from HR, SMEs will spend up to 16 hours within a one week period creating the competencies, proficiency levels, and structured interview questions they’ll use during resume review and interview assessments. Ideally, all SMEs conducting the assessments should take part in the job analysis. These exercises work best when all SMEs attend in person.
  • Follow-up: The week after job analysis, a subset of SMEs who participated in that workshop will spend up to four hours composing the language for the job announcement with HR. They’ll also test and refine the interview questions developed during the job analysis phase.
  • Resume Review Training: Before SMEs begin reviewing resumes, HR will conduct a mandatory two-hour resume review training, followed by 1 hour of reviewing actual resumes in their list with HR present to answer questions.
  • Resume Review: HR will divide applicants evenly among groups of two SMEs. They will have four days to review all the resumes in their list. Each resume requires two reviews.
  • Resume Review Tiebreaker: Over a two-day period, an additional SME will be assigned to each divided list of applicants to break any ties between the first two assessments.
  • Assessment Training: While assessments are being set-up with applicants, HR will conduct a mandatory two-hour training for all SMEs conducting assessments such as structured interviews, written assessments, demonstration projects, etc. This training explains how to conduct an interview or written assessment review, and assess an applicant’s proficiency with the required competencies based on their responses.
  • Assessments: Over a 2-3 week period, SMEs will review assessments or conduct interviews with applicants. The time required will vary depending on the number of SMEs, how many applicants moved forward past the resume review stage, and how many applicants move from the first round of assessments to the second. For more information on time commitments, refer to this page.