Defining Proficiency Levels and Required Experience

Define proficiency levels for each competency and then SMEs and HR will decide which level is required for the GS level in this hiring action.

We recommend using the following four levels for each competency:

  1. Unfamiliar
  2. Familiar
  3. Experienced
  4. Master

Each level needs a definition of what that level entails. The proficiency definitions should be consistent, involving these types of differences:

  • Scale of activity: The applicant did something at a small organization -vs- did something at a large organization.
  • Seniority: The applicant did something as part of a group -vs- lead the group that did something.
  • Level of detail: The applicant can explain a general concept -vs- can discuss the concept in detail.

Setting the required proficiency level

Once proficiency levels are defined, HR and the SMEs will decide at which level you would require applicants to have one year of experience in order to qualify for the grade in question. For example, they made decide that to qualify for a GS13, applicants must have one year experience at the “Experienced” level. See the example below.

Example Competency: Collaboration

The ability to work cooperatively with others to accomplish objectives and build inclusive and mutually beneficial partnerships.

  • Unfamiliar: Has not worked in cross-functional teams or collaborated closely with people from other disciplines or worked in teams that encourage diverse perspectives.
  • Familiar: Has experience constructively discussing and integrating design feedback from peers, clients, or stakeholders.
  • Experienced (Required): Demonstrates success in working with large organizations, highly regulated domains, or highly bureaucratic environments.
  • Master: Leads projects with changing priorities or competing interests. Is skilled at negotiating or mediating conflicts. Coordinates across group boundaries to achieve organizational as well as design goals.

Using proficiency levels across grade levels

The same set of competencies and proficiencies can be used for different grade levels because roles that require more seniority set the required proficiencies higher than junior roles.

For more information about how applicants are considered qualified in this process, see our minimum qualifications definition.

Number of reviewed resume work experience pages

Longer, government style resumes take longer for SMEs to review and can increase bias against shorter, private sector resumes. During the job analysis workshop when SMEs are practicing resume review, ask them to agree on how many pages of work experience they will review on each resume submitted. We recommend limiting reviewed pages to two or three at most. If an applicant submits a longer resume, they will not be penalized but the SMEs will not review past the documented limit.

Tech recency requirements

Technology changes quickly, and depending on the needs of your agency, SMEs may determine that applicants should demonstrate knowledge of modern technical methods, platforms, and languages within a certain number of the most recent years. We recommend that this type of technical recency be documented at between three and five years.