Exceptions to the Federal Hiring Freeze: An FAQ

February 17, 2017
By Kathryn Troutman, President, The Resume Place, Inc.
and author, Federal Resume Guidebook, 6th edition.

We’ve all heard that President Trump’s executive order of January 23, 2017, temporarily suspended the hiring of federal employees. But we’ve also heard that there are MANY exceptions – potentially hundreds of thousands of civil service jobs and political position – that are exempt from the freeze. What larger patterns are there in those exemptions, and how should job seekers proceed with their federal employment applications? Here are some common questions and common-sense answers.

Q: When I see a job posted on USAJOBS, does that mean it’s definitely not frozen?
It’s impossible to say for sure, especially since many department and agency officials are still working out their workforce policies, applying for exemptions to the
freeze, and so on. So it makes sense to apply and see what happens.

Q: If I’m not sure whether a particular vacancy is exempt from the hiring freeze, how can I find out?
Try calling the HR person listed on the USAJOBS announcement..Or the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memo about Exemptions. If your first contact can’t answer your questions, simply ask who can. And be persistent. Read the list of agencies and their exemptions here.

Q: The entire military is exempted from the hiring freeze. But what about the Department of Defense?
The Defense Department will create many exceptions to the freeze, and not just for those positions directly related to national security and public safety. Top Defense officials such as the secretaries of the Army and other services have the power to create additional exemptions as they see fit.

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Q: What other major departments of government are authorized to continue hiring?
Under the president’s order, the Postal Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence may continue hiring for all positions. Thousands of political positions, such as those listed in the
2016 Plum Book, can also be filled even while the freeze is in effect.

Learn how to apply for a Presidential Appointee with this article.

Q: I’ve heard that the Veterans Administration has exempted many jobs from the freeze. Is that correct?
Yes, the VA has exempted more than 100 positions, ranging from the obvious (doctors and nurses) to the unexpected (real estate experts who work on VA construction projects). The VA has more than 45,000 vacancies for health care providers, creating many critical shortages.

Q: If I applied for a federal job before the executive order was signed on January 23, what happens with my application during the freeze?
If you didn’t receive a job offer before President Trump signed the freeze, and the vacancy wasn’t otherwise exempted, your application may be frozen. If you were offered the position and accepted the position, your offer could still be good. You will hear from the offering Human Resources Specialist.

Q: When does Trump’s federal hiring freeze expire?
The OPM has until April 22 to write a long-term plan to reduce the federal workforce through attrition. When that plan is implemented – which could take months or longer – the hiring freeze expires.

Q: What’s the point of applying for a federal job now when it might be eliminated in a future workforce reduction?
No one can predict the future. But it’s likely that any permanent reductions in the federal workforce will be achieved mainly through attrition and voluntary buyouts rather than with layoffs. Over the past half-century, several presidents have promised to cut the federal workforce – but there are now approximately 2.7 million workers in the executive branch, about as many as in 1966.

More Federal Hiring Exemptions.

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