OPM director: Skills-based hiring will be ‘particularly helpful’ for recruiting cyber talent

Michael Rigas said a recent executive order opens a major door for agencies to recruit and interview talented professionals who obtained their skills outside of school.
(Getty Images)

The Trump administration’s recent order for agencies to evaluate job applicants based on competencies rather than just their level of education will greatly help the federal government in recruiting cybersecurity talent, the head of the Office of Personnel Management said Friday.

OPM recently did an analysis and found that just 27% of federal job classifications really needed an upfront education requirement for applicants, acting Director Michael Rigas said during CyberTalks. For the other 73%, “OPM will work closely with federal agencies to help them implement skills assessments that can effectively identify qualified applicants,” making it easier to recruit and hire qualified individuals who might not have a traditional college degree, he said.

This opens a major door for agencies to recruit and interview professionals who obtained their skills outside of school, such as through online training or on the job.

“[I]t will be particularly helpful for recruiting cybersecurity talent,” Rigas said during a keynote. “It is increasingly the case that bright young people can learn advanced cybersecurity, computer science and other IT skills using nothing but a laptop and an internet connection.


The federal government, as it often does, is taking a page out of Silicon Valley’s book and hope to replicate the success within the large bureaucracies that are agencies.

“[T]ech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have begun to scrap certain educational requirements. They know it’s possible for someone to become a cybersecurity expert, without earning an advanced degree, or any degree for that matter,” Rigas said. “I’ve personally met with the leaders of companies that have moved away from outdated hiring practices. They’ve explained their processes and shared information on their successes. I’m confident that rethinking the hiring process will be similarly successful at the federal level and bolster our federal IT workforce for years to come.”

This shift also follows the results of pilots the U.S. Digital Service conducted last year on simplifying the federal hiring process.

Rigas also touted OPM’s recent success in helping agencies onboard skilled professionals in a largely virtual environment during the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, the agency was working to automate pieces of the USA Staffing onboarding process. And because of that, OPM was able to help the Veterans Health Administration bring on 23,000 new hires between March and May as the crisis hit full-swing, Rigas said. Through July, across the government, USA Staffing helped to onboard more than 211,000 new hires.

Billy Mitchell

Written by Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell is Vice President of Community and Content and Editor in Chief of FedScoop and DefenseScoop. He leads an award-winning team of reporters in providing breaking news and analysis on the ways technology is transforming the operations and services of the federal government and U.S. military. Prior to joining Scoop News Group in early 2014, Mitchell embedded himself in Washington, D.C.'s tech startup scene for a year as a tech reporter at InTheCapital, now known as DC Inno. After earning his degree at Virginia Tech and winning the school's Excellence in Print Journalism award, Mitchell received his master's degree from New York University in magazine writing while interning at publications like Rolling Stone.

Latest Podcasts