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Improving the federal hiring process is critical given that the executive branch hired nearly 95,000 new employees during fiscal year 2003 and significant hiring may continue over the next few years. In May 2003, GAO issued a report highlighting several key problems in the federal hiring process. That report concluded that the process needed improvement and included recommendations to address the problems. Last month, GAO issued a follow-up to that report and testified before Congress on the status of recent efforts to improve the federal hiring process. As part of this work, GAO also assessed the extent to which federal agencies are using two new hiring flexibilities: category rating and direct-hire authority. Category rating permits an agency manager to select a job candidate placed in a best-qualified category rather than being limited to three candidates under the "rule of three." Direct-hire authority allows an agency to appoint individuals to positions without adherence to certain competitive examination requirements when there is a severe shortage of qualified candidates or a critical hiring need. Today, GAO's statement highlights the extent to which agencies are using the new hiring flexibilities, points out some likely reasons why agencies are not using or making greater use of them, and suggests approaches that can help increase their use.

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