Some of you may remember a recent post, 21 Things I Irrationally Love. In that post I expounded upon some stuff that I love, but that may not be for everyone. One of those things is Human Resources work. It’s a thankless job to say the least, but it is my chosen profession and I love it. Some might call it a career, I consider it a vocation.
So why HR? At least one person queried the subject in their comment on that post. The other day at work I had an issue come up. It took quite a bit to track down the answer I needed. When I finally did figure it all out it was really quite satisfying. WARNING, THE FOLLOWING IS A DISCUSSION OF ACTUAL HR WORK. IT MAY BE SO DULL THAT YOU’LL WANT TO SCRAPE YOUR EYES OUT AFTER READING IT, IF YOU’RE STILL AWAKE.
The set up for this case takes a little time to explain but I’ll try to do so as succinctly as possible, because let’s face it, this is some mind numbing stuff here. Let’s say you’re a hiring manager in a federal office and you need to hire someone. It’s a competitive service position and it just so happens that you already have the perfect candidate. The person is federal employee with the perfect experience and they have what we call status, meaning they are already a tenured employee in a competitive appointment. This is great that means you can hire the person without making them compete for the position, you can just transfer them over. Except for one small little hiccup, the candidate works at another agency.
According to the law you have to do an announcement, but you only have to clear certain people in this job advertisement. You only have to clear ICTAP eligible candidates. ICTAP is the Inter-Career Transition Assistance Program. Basically it’s a program that gives people who have been downsized from their government positions a right to a new position over everyone else, even your perfect candidate. But that’s okay. Because very few people are ever downsized, much less are qualified for the work you’re hiring for. The odds of finding an eligible and qualified ICTAP person who will actually apply for your announcement are extremely rare. In five years of doing this work I’ve never had one come up.
So the HR office doing their due diligence posts the ICTAP announcement. Suddenly you get it kicked back from the policy office. HR is told they have to redo the announcement, because they didn’t add an eligible category of applicants. HR is told they have to allow veterans to apply. HR argues back and forth with the audits team. We know the law, in this case we don’t have consider veteran’s preference. In the end we post the announcement with the language allowing veterans to apply. But the language is vague. It says “eligible veterans”. It doesn’t explain which veterans are eligible.
Finally the announcement closes. Low and behold there are no ICTAP eligible candidates. This is great, we can now hire the perfect candidate without any further consideration. But what about the veterans that applied? When you have a non-competitive eligible we don’t have to consider veterans preference, so we simply don’t refer them even though they applied. The law allows us to do this. But on what basis, why give them the opportunity to apply if we’re not even going to consider them?
Shortly after the announcement closes and we make our hiring decision HR immediately has two conversations in short succession.
Conversation 1: Phone rings…
HR Specialist: Hello
Applicant: Hi, I applied for your announcement and I wasn’t referred to the hiring manager. I would like to know why.
H: The announcement was for ICTAP applicants only. You are not an ICTAP candidate, so we didn’t refer you.
A: But I’m a vet, and the announcement said vets could apply.
H: It said eligible vets.
A: What does that mean? I have veteran’s preference and I meet the qualifications for the job.
H: I’m sorry but we’re not required to refer you in this case. The announcement was strictly for ICTAP clearance. We don’t have to consider veterans.
A: Then why allow us to apply?
H: Because we were told we have to.
A: But why?
H: I don’t know.
Conversation 2: HR specialist calls HR policy office.
HR Specialist: Why do we have to allow veterans to apply to ICTAP announcements?
Policy: Because that’s the law.
H: But which law?
P: It’s required by OPM.
H: Where is that written?
P: It’s in the CFR.
P: You just have to do it.
H: But why? We don’t have to refer them, why allow them to apply?
P: You just have to. It’s agency policy.
So what are we left with. An angry applicant, and a policy office that can’t give us a solid answer on why we have to allow veterans to apply. We don’t know what “eligible” veterans are and if they differ from those with veteran’s preference. We can’t justify to the applicant why we don’t have to refer them, and that can get us in trouble if they decide to bring a case against us. So much of HR is about is about justifying personnel decisions with clear references to the law. So far we haven’t been able to do that. What we have is a puzzle, a problem, a mystery, and this is why I love HR. I love solving the unknown. In order to do that, we must do research. This is where I excel, this is what makes me a good HR specialist. Time to use the almighty power of Google.
After a brief search regarding ICTAP announcements I come across the OPM Employee’s Guide Career Transition, which includes ICTAP eligible employees This guide has a brief reference to 5CFR 330.401. Now where getting somewhere. Here is where it gets interesting. I look up the regulation. It states that in certain positions (restricted positions) we have to consider veterans who have been displaced from those restricted positions, i.e eligible veterans. So what are the restricted positions? They are custodian, elevator operator, guard, and messenger. In other words, not our position and not any position held by the veterans who applied for our position. We made a mistake. This whole time we thought they were eligible to apply and it turns out they weren’t. They weren’t because they weren’t eligible veterans. Yes they had veteran’s preference but that’s not the same thing as eligible veterans and now we have it in writing. We can now cite the law that protects us from being sued, and to an HR person there is no greater feeling.
This is gold. This is why I love HR. It’s probably one of the most obscure regulations that could have possibly helped us defend our position and I found it. It took some serious research skill and a willingness to read the small print. But I found it. Now I can take the bit of knowledge with me forever and use it as needed. What’s more is I can use that piece of trivia to write awful blog posts and maybe even train other HR specialists who wonder about such things. I love HR.
That would be me saving the day once again. Faster than a policy wonk, more powerful than an obscure law reference, able Google anything in single search…It’s SuperHRman