Are you a career counselor? Do you provide services to students with disabilities? Are you a vocational counselor or vocational rehabilitation professional? Are you an employment navigator? Do you work in any capacity to assist individuals with disabilities obtain meaningful employment? If so, this guide is for you! The federal government wants you to know how to help your clients get in our doors!
There are many advantages to having your clients work for the federal government. Federal employees serve in a wide variety of exciting jobs, earn good wages, receive medical benefits, and make a difference through public service. The federal government hires people in many different fields, from accounting to public affairs, health care to law enforcement, and everything in between.
This guide will educate all types of service providers about a special hiring authority - Schedule A - which is used in the federal government to quickly bring individuals with disabilities on board. This guide will show you, step by step, how to work with your local federal agencies to successfully place your clients with disabilities using Schedule A.
The Schedule A hiring authority for individuals with disabilities streamlines the often complex federal hiring process. Agencies can hire qualified individuals with disabilities without posting a job announcement.
Your client may be eligible to apply for federal employment using Schedule A if he or she is a person with:
In order for your client to be selected, your client will have to show that he or she meets the qualifications of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations).
Want more information? Read on!
By following the steps outlined below, you will be able to provide opportunities for your clients to seek federal government employment.
Work with your client to identify open positions that are compatible with his or her knowledge, skills, experience, and interests.
Most federal vacancies are advertised on the USAJOBS web site found at www.usajobs.gov. This is the federal government's official site for job information and includes thousands of job postings. Not all agencies use USAJOBS to announce job vacancies, so it is important to check specific agency web sites for additional information on employment opportunities. A listing of agency sites can be found at www.usa.gov.
Quick Tips and Helpful Hints:
Once your client identifies the position(s) for which he or she wishes to apply, your client should start preparing his or her application.
For most of your clients, this will typically mean creating a resume. Resumes should connect an applicant's skills and abilities with the requirements listed in the vacancy announcement.
In addition to the resume, many (if not most) federal vacancy announcements ask for other documents to be submitted as part of the application package. It is very important that both you and your client read all job announcements very carefully. Make sure your client submits all of the documents required (such as a writing sample, cover letter, transcripts from high school or college, or a professional certification/license) as the application may be rejected without them. Additionally, many agencies require applicants to complete an occupational questionnaire to determine whether an applicant has the requisite skills and experience for the position.
Remember: Applications will be considered "incomplete" if your client fails to provide all required documentation or fails to complete any required questionnaires. An agency will not give applicants the opportunity to provide the missing information once they have submitted their application; instead, the "incomplete" application will be rejected.
Quick Tips and Helpful Hints:
In addition to the typical application materials mentioned above, to be considered for a Schedule A appointment, an applicant will also be required to submit documentation proving that he or she has an intellectual disability, severe physical disability, or psychiatric disability. This is often referred to as "Proof of Disability Documentation." Proof of disability will typically come in the form of a letter. Such a letter simply needs to say that your client has an intellectual disability, severe physical disability, or psychiatric disability.
Your client can get this letter from:
The letter does NOT need to detail your client's medical history or need for an accommodation. To view sample Schedule A proof of disability letters, visit: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/disability-employment/getting-a-job/sampleschedaletters.pdf
Once your client's resume and references are in order, he or she has obtained the proof of disability letter, and has all the other required application materials ready to go, the next step is to apply for the job.
Your client should start by applying for the position he or she is interested in through the USAJOBS web site or the specific federal agency's web site. When applying electronically, your client should follow the application instructions listed in the job posting and submits the required documents. There may be a place for your client to upload their Schedule A proof of disability documentation.
Your client should submit their application materials as quickly as possible. Sometimes agencies will only accept a limited number of applications. Finally, every job posting will only accept applications for a specific amount of time.
Most agencies have a DPM or SPPC whose role is to help the agency recruit, hire, and accommodate people with disabilities. Your client should contact the Disability Program Manager (DPM) or Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) at the relevant federal agency where they wish to work and ask them for guidance on the best way to apply for the identified vacancy using the Schedule A hiring process for persons with disabilities. The DPM or SPPC will work with your client to make sure their resume/application is considered through Schedule A.
You (or your client) can find the appropriate person or office by either using the contact information included in the vacancy announcement itself (all announcements include a phone number or e-mail address to be used for questions) or by searching a directory of SPPCs maintained by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
It is advisable to apply for a position through the regular vacancy announcement (on USAJOBS or the agency's web site) AND THEN follow-up with the SPPC/DPM or appropriate office. Contacting the appropriate agency person responsible for overseeing Schedule A applications can take time. You and your client should factor this in as a part of the application deadline.
Quick Tips and Helpful Hints:
Once you or your client connects with the appropriate agency official, ask him or her for guidance on the best way to proceed with applying for the identified vacancy using the Schedule A hiring authority.
Generally, the agency will contact your client about his or her application status. If, after a reasonable period of time he or she has not heard from the agency about his or her application, your client should follow up with the DPM, SPPC, or the HR professional listed on the job vacancy. If the agency is interested in interviewing your client for the open position(s), someone from the agency will contact your client to set up an interview. At this point, your client should let the DPM, the SPPC, or the HR professional listed on the job vacancy, know if he or she needs a reasonable accommodation for the interview.
If the agency wants to hire your client, he or she will be offered the position. It is always advisable for your client to ask for the offer of employment in writing. The person extending the offer - typically an HR professional - should be able to clearly explain the offer and answer any questions you or your client may have.
If an offer of employment is accepted and your client believes he or she will need an accommodation to perform the job duties, encourage your client to give the agency reasonable notice, so that the agency can have what is needed on his/her first day.
A1. No. First, the applicant must be qualified for the job he or she is applying to. Second, an agency has to decide if the applicant is suited for the job. If your client is not selected for a position, encourage him or her to keep applying for federal jobs! Your client should follow-up with the DPM or the SPPC to find out if there are other vacancies for which he or she may be qualified. Even better, if you have built a relationship with the hiring manager, your client will be able to apply for the position before it is announced on USAJOBS.
A2. Yes. Depending on the type of appointment, the probationary period can last up to two years. During probation, Schedule A employees are held to the same performance standards as all other employees.
A3. No. An agency can choose to use the traditional competitive process to fill its job vacancies, or it can choose to use the non-competitive Schedule A hiring authority. You should also encourage your client to use both processes.
A4. Yes! There are several internship programs specifically for students and recent graduates with disabilities. Examples of internship programs for individuals with disabilities include:
A5. Yes! In fact, the ABCs of Schedule A have been written for several different audiences. The five guides, including this one, are:
The guide for applicants with disabilities is perfect for your clients. Have them read it while you read this one, so that both of you understand how Schedule A works within the framework of the federal hiring process. Moreover, if you and your client turn out to know more about Schedule A than the agency you reach out to (it happens), use one of the above guides to educate the agency officials you encounter and bring him or her up to speed. Then you can get him or her to work for you and your client!
A6. The top priority for all employers is their bottom line. Schedule A can have an effect on the bottom line because it is a huge time-saver in the typically lengthy hiring process. Let the official know that using Schedule A allows federal agencies to hire a person with a disability without posting or publicizing a vacancy. Additionally, as a service provider, it will serve you well to be familiar with and able to talk about all the reasons employers should be working to hire individuals with disabilities, including the "business case" for hiring individuals with disabilities. For more information on making the "business case" for disability employment, visit the Employer Assistance and Resource Network's webpage on Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.
A7. In addition to working with your current clients who are applying for federal jobs, you should build relationships with local federal employers. Get to know the agencies, what they do, and what the "mission-critical" occupations are within each agency. Get to know the HR professionals and recruitment staff, and encourage them to reach out to you with their job vacancies before beginning the competitive hiring process. Schedule A works best when there is regular communication between you, the service provider, and the DPM/SPPC or HR staff at your local federal agency. When you keep agency officials informed about the availability of your job-ready clients, agency officials are more inclined to keep you in the loop about upcoming vacancies. So reach out and talk to them!
It is important to ensure that your client is qualified to perform the job. Every time you recommend a client who is hired by the agency and performs well means that you are opening the door for more of your clients based on the good work of the employees you referred so far.
A8. Service providers who want to maintain good relationships with local employers know that providing follow-up support is very important, and the same applies when working with local federal agencies. Service providers should provide all of the support necessary to ensure that the placement is a success, including checking on the effectiveness of any accommodations provided, offering to review job performance to address problems early on, and serving as a resource for any other issues that arise with the client's placement.
USAJOBS.gov is a free web-based job board enabling federal job seekers access to thousands of job opportunities across hundreds of federal agencies and organizations. Additionally, USAJOBS Resource Center is a centralized web page with up to date information and resources for job seekers.
Career OneStop is a Department of Labor sponsored web portal with tools to help job seekers, students, business and career professionals.
The Workforce Recruitment Program, a recruitment and referral program, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the U.S. Department of Defense, connects federal sector, private, and nonprofit employers nationwide with highly motivated, qualified, and pre-screened postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities who are ready to prove their abilities in summer or permanent jobs.
The OPM Shared List of People with Disabilities is a database of candidates with disabilities, who are Schedule A eligible. It is provided by OPM free of charge to federal human resources and hiring managers in order to assist in the recruitment of people with disabilities. Prior to inclusion in the Shared List, candidates proceed through a skills, education, professionalism, and work ethics screening process.
There are numerous federal programs designed to assist people with disabilities in finding employment. The following is a non-exhaustive list of programs/resources:
The Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy website has a wealth of information for job seekers with disabilities, service providers, and employers.
The Office of Personnel Management's disability employment webpage has information and resources on the Schedule A hiring authority as well as other programs for individuals with disabilities.
Disability.gov is the federal government's one-stop informational website for people with disabilities, their families, employers, veterans and service members, workforce professionals, and many others.
Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodation Program: The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) provides free assistive technology and services to people with disabilities throughout the federal government.
JAN - The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the most comprehensive resource for job accommodations available and is a terrific and easy-to-use resource. This free consulting service is designed to increase the employability of people with disabilities. JAN provides individualized worksite accommodation solutions, as well as information on job accommodations and related subjects for employers and people with disabilities.
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network is a resource for private employers and federal agencies seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities. EARN supports employers through toll-free technical assistance, individualized consultation, customized trainings, webinars and events, and regular updates on disability employment news.
The Disability and Veterans Community Resources Directory, created by the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, provides a searchable, non-exhaustive list of organizations that deliver employment services for people with disabilities and Veterans.
The Centers for Independent Living are federally funded consumer-controlled nonprofit, nonresidential organizations. The CILs' mission is to empower people with disabilities by providing information and referral services, independent living skills training, peer counseling, and transition services, and by developing additional services based on community needs. A growing number of CILs are Employment Networks and offer additional services such as job interview practice and other pre-employment services to people with disabilities.