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Personnel Clerical & Assistance Specialists

Significant Points

This series includes all positions the primary duties of which are to supervise, lead, or perform: (1) clerical work requiring substantial knowledge of civilian personnel terminology, requirements, procedures, and functions to process documents (applications for employment, promotion, Federal benefits and services, training, official personnel actions, etc.), prepare recurring personnel reports, explain personnel procedures, maintain master personnel and organizational records, and provide miscellaneous clerical support in personnel-related units; and (2) limited technical work requiring substantial practical knowledge of one or more civilian personnel management specialties such as staffing, employee relations, and classification. These positions do not require the broad knowledge of Federal personnel systems or the depth of knowledge about personnel management concepts, principles, and techniques which are characteristic of the recognized personnel management specialist positions.


Personnel-related clerical tasks exist in a great variety of positions. To be included in this occupation, a clerical position must require a general knowledge of the functions of other personnel-related organizational units and the relationship of work in the position with other personnel functions. Knowledges gained in such situations impact upon employees' qualifications and career potential for other personnel clerical or personnel assistant positions whether they are located in a civilian personnel office, a training center, a job information center, or an administrative support office.

Following is a description of the three basic kinds of clerical positions in this occupation -- Personnel Actions Clerk, Staffing Clerk, and Personnel Clerk:

Personnel Actions Clerks

Personnel actions clerks process and document official personnel actions for a designated block of civilian positions in the Federal service. The work includes controlling master personnel records and processing accessions, separations, position and pay changes, and other personnel changes for Personnel Clerical & Assistance, an appointing authority. Additional duties depend upon the extent of automation in the personnel system and the depth of involvement in other personnel support work such as Federal employee benefits and recruitment/staffing.

Staffing Clerks

Staffing Clerks work in examining or staffing functional areas, as follows:

1. Examining - Clerical examining functions include:

- Dissemination of information about Federal employment opportunities and how to apply for Federal positions. Staffing clerks in centralized job information centers assist the public by explaining the kinds of examinations for which applicants may apply, the forms to use and the procedures for applying. Tailoring information to individual needs requires asking questions regarding general and specific interests and qualifications.

- Use of established procedures to screen applications for completeness, verify eligibility for veterans’ preference, convert raw test scores to final scores, and add points to the final score for veterans’ preference.

- Maintenance of competitor inventories or registers resulting from examinations for filling jobs in a single field installation or in many agencies of a metropolitan, regional, or nationwide area.

2. Staffing - Clerks in staffing and placement functions are concerned with filling specific vacancies within their installations. Typical work includes explaining merit promotion procedures, screening "walk-ins" and explaining positions for which applications are being accepted, maintaining promotion registers and applicant supply files, arranging for the printing and distribution of job vacancy announcements, requesting certificates of eligible applicants for new appointments or conversions, reviewing applications, verifying veterans' preference, administering tests, obtaining records of previous Federal employment, arranging entry on duty dates for new hires, etc.

3. Interrelationships - A clerk in a job information center must know the general rating procedures used in various examinations, the general status of common competitor inventories, and shortage category or hard-to-fill jobs in specific agencies. The clerk in an examining unit must know who to contact in the staffing unit regarding discrepancies on requests or returned certificates and consider such information as past declination rates for the agency location in preparing certificates.

The staffing clerk in recruitment must know the examining offices having jurisdiction over various examinations and the kind of information needed in requesting certificates; similar tasks include reviewing applications for completeness, determining eligibility for veterans' preference, administering tests under direct hire or delegated examining authority, and maintaining registers of eligibles for promotion.

Personnel Clerks

Personnel clerks work in support of one or more specialized personnel activities. There are two basic types of personnel clerk positions:

1. The first type of clerk is assigned a segment of the clerical work in a unit; e.g., Federal employee benefits processing.

- The clerk explains options under existing regulations or procedures and examines steps or forms supporting a proposed transaction: Have necessary steps been followed in routing or coding? Are necessary documents present? Do they appear to be complete? Is the content or subject matter of the document correct? Do individual items within each document meet applicable conditions or specified requirements? Are codes compatible with actions being processed?

2. The second type of clerk provides clerical support for a full range of work in a personnel specialty area. Some procedural and substantive processing is performed on a continuing basis, for example:

- In an employee development unit, reviewing training requests for completeness, coding training data, and maintaining records of monies spent for various kinds of training and career development;

- In a classification unit, reviewing personnel action requests for correctness of position numbers and organizational data, authorizing identical-additional (IA) positions when the record clearly shows that additional positions may be established, and determining competitive levels by referring to a listing; or

- In a labor relations unit, processing dues deductions and requests for allotment changes.

This clerk is aware of the work of staff members in the particular specialty and provides clerical support for them for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of the unit as a whole by:

- Answering general questions and completing forms or procedures pertinent to the specialty,
- Maintaining personnel subject-matter files,
- Arranging space for meetings,
- Arranging for printing services,
- Following up op overdue reports,
- Abstracting material from files and preparing recurring reports, and
- Performing related office support work.

These personnel clerk positions are distinguished from secretarial positions by the need for knowledge of the operations and terminology of the personnel specialty. At the full performance level, these knowledges serve as a basis for promotion within the GS-203 series, retention, or other similar personnel management considerations.

Staffing Clerk (Typing) GS-0203-03

Performs a variety of clerical tasks related to the merit promotion program.

- Types vacancy announcements; arranges for printing and distributes copies according to the area of consideration. Prepares file folders.
- Prepares register cards and establishes registers; types rating notices; and maintains count of the number of promotion eligibles by grade on each register. For a large register, such as Clerk-Typist, sorts by employee willingness to work in various tenant organizations. Retires files according to requirements.
- Identifies eligibles for promotion certificate according to local merit promotion policy; obtains new supervisory appraisals as appropriate; follows up on overdue appraisals or questionnaires; types certificate; and attaches employee records.
- Updates register cards on the basis of information on returned certificates; prepares nonselection notices; and files certificate with supporting data.
- Answers questions regarding vacancies being filled, procedures for applying under the promotion plan, the current status of individuals on the register, the status of promotion actions and promotion registers, etc. Provides extra forms as requested.
- Reviews employee requests for transfer (lateral) for completeness and files in proper folder.
- Types rating schedules, letters, and reports from handwritten notes.
- Establishes and maintains files of correspondence, applications, performance appraisals, and promotion folders. Maintains subject-matter manuals.

Staffing Clerk (Typing) GS-0203-04

In an examining office, screens and processes applications for entry-level positions, GS-02 and GS-03, in several occupations.

- Reviews applications for completeness and adequacy. Refers medical and suitability questions to the review desk. Makes notes for typist to request missing data.
- Reviews printouts of employment test scores; as necessary, refers to a table to convert raw scores to a scale of 100.
- Compares experience and training statements against minimum qualification requirements for each grade covered by the examination:

C Stenographers, Typists, and Data Transcribers, GS-02 and GS-03;
C Sales Store Checker, GS-03; and
C Nursing Assistant, GS-02 and 03.
- Determines that necessary documents (self-certifications, proficiency statements, or veterans, preference forms) are attached. Assigns final rating for each option and grade.
- Processes requests for reconsideration of examination rating by rerating based on current information.
- When notified by agency that applicant did not pass the typing test, suspends eligibility and notifies the applicant. If applicant passes the test, but is not selected, deletes the self-certification annotation on the inventory file.
- Adjusts records to extend eligibilities beyond 12 months, as requested.
- Answers questions by telephone, correspondence, and form letter; such as the number of right answers needed to be rated eligible on the test, the number of available eligibles, relative position (rank order) on the prerated inventory, how to be rated eligible for a higher grade, and why eligibility was suspended.

Personell Actions Clerk GS-0203-05

Processes official personnel actions and maintains master files for a block of organizations which have many one-of-a-kind GS positions and a variety of positions in the excepted service such as consultants, special experts in scientific areas, staff fellows, visiting scientists, visiting associates, and medical staff officers.

- Maintains employee service record cards by organization, appropriation, job, and name. Updates to show latest personnel actions, and organizational or authorized personnel ceiling changes.
- Reviews personnel action requests for accuracy of organizational data. Determines applicability of Federal employee benefits based on regulatory authority and type of appointment (also length of appointment of employees on staff fellowship and visiting scientist program). Determines from files whether position is exempt or nonexempt from coverage under FLSA. Checks for supporting documentation as required for personnel actions such as removals, leave without pay, denial of within-grade increase, suspensions, return to duty, and various kinds of appointments (special approvals needed for scientific experts and service fellowship programs). If visiting scientist is not a U.S. citizen, considers resident-alien or nonresident-alien status and kind of appointment in determining pay deductions such as FICA.
- Conducts initial orientation sessions for new hires. Guides group in completion of forms related to their appointments. Provides brochures and brief explanations of Federal employee benefits.
- Applies formula in determining leave to be credited in converting from the Commissioned Corps to the competitive service. Follows up on due dates such as probationary and trial period ratings, supervisors' certifications of competence, and conversions from career-conditional to career. Checks for excessive leave without pay which affects the processing of within-grade increases and adjusts eligibility date as necessary. Determines that administrative pay increases and recommendations are within the rate range established for particular titles in the excepted service.
- Carries out employee requests for changes in health or life insurance coverage (transfer to another payroll office, name change, reinstatement, designation of beneficiary), changes in tax codes, and allotments to be withheld.
- Precodes personnel action data for computer. Edits error listings and makes corrections. Reconciles computer records against service record cards and organization data.
- Answers questions regarding employment data such as conversion rights in changing from one kind of appointment to another, the dates and amounts of salary increases, eligibility requirements for benefits, etc. Resolves problems regarding employee pay or benefits requiring coordination with payroll clerks, health insurance carriers, etc.

Staffing Assistant GS-0203-06

Evaluates skills of candidates for placement on clerical promotion registers; matches students to jobs considering basic skills for positions under special hiring authorities; screens applications for minimum eligibility for entry onto the applicant supply file; and performs related staffing duties.

- Responds to walk-in applicants and telephone callers who are interested in obtaining employment at the installation. Determines the kind and level of work in which they are interested and previous Federal employment to advise on employment opportunities. Accepts applications for positions for which recruiting action is in process and/or refers applicant to a personnel staffing specialist. Accepts applications for anticipated vacancies when applicant can be appointed by reinstatement and/or the jobs concerned are in a shortage category. Explains generally that initial Federal appointments are from competitive examinations; provides application forms and addresses of examining offices.
- Screens applications accepted for the applicant supply file completeness and to determine that the minimum qualification requirements are met for the grade(s) and occupation applied for. Assigns noncompetitive ratings.
- Revises job vacancy announcements by modifying or updating standardized portions of previous announcements.
- Evaluates applications for promotion registers for clerical occupations through GS-04:

Determines minimum eligibility and, as require self-certified proficiency, and
Evaluates supplemental applications and supervisory ratings on the basis of relative value of ability in relation to the skills, knowledges, and abilities specified by the merit promotion plan. Determines overall numerical rating.
- Coordinates the filling of lower grade positions under special hiring authorities. Contacts operating supervisors regarding basic skills needed; obtains stay-in-school applicants from the state agency; and matches applicants to jobs. Helps the mentally retarded in preparing for interviews and in completing application forms.
- Interviews and selects typists for the typing pool.
- Performs related staffing work such as scheduling employees noncompetitive tests; requesting OPM certificates and agency referral lists; arranging for interviews; preparing promotion referral certificates; notifying candidates of selections and obtaining release dates; entering data on personnel request form and forwarding for processing.

Staffing Assistant GS-0203-07

Provides technical support in staffing activities for a segment the organization. The recruitment and placement work includes instructing promotion panels in the development of crediting plans for lower grade positions in clerical and technical occupations and in the evaluation of candidates against these crediting plans.

- Evaluates applications for laborer and janitor received under direct hire authority, using job element crediting plans. Maintains separate inventories for veterans and nonveterans.
- Evaluates applications for temporary appointment to Nurse GS-07 on the basis of minimum eligibility.
- Coordinates actions required to fill clerical and lower grade technical positions by promotion as assigned. Determines if there are names on the reemployment priority list. Writes or revises vacancy announcements. Reviews applications received to determine whether minimum eligibility requirements are met. Schedules promotion panel; requests union and EEO representatives to serve on panel when position is in a bargaining unit.
- Assists panel in evaluating applications for clerical and lower grade technical positions in relation to knowledges, skills, and abilities (KSA's) in the crediting plan and determining total points. Sets up promotion register and refers the best qualified to the selecting supervisor.
- Conducts job interviews and selects applicants for the typing pool.
- Coordinates development of crediting plans for clerical and grade technical positions. Reviews job prior to meeting to tentatively identify major duties. Explains the forms to be used and gives examples of how to rank levels of KSA's in relation to the job to be filled. Explains use of paired-comparisons in ranking KSA's on the basis of importance. Explains documentation of critical KSA's in relation to major duties.
- Performs miscellaneous clerical work such as requesting certificates of eligibles; sending inquiries; arranging for job interviews with selecting supervisors; notifying selectees of EOD date; coordinating objections to eligibles with the medical and security offices; auditing and returning certificates or requesting extensions; completing personnel action requests to show new salary; authority for action, etc.; obtaining new PD number when position is filled at a lower grade.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

The educational backgrounds of human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists vary considerably, reflecting the diversity of duties and levels of responsibility. In filling entry-level jobs, many employers seek college graduates who have majored in human resources, human resources administration, or industrial and labor relations. Other employers look for college graduates with a technical or business background or a well-rounded liberal arts education.

Education and training. Although a bachelor’s degree is a typical path of entry into these occupations, many colleges and universities do not offer degree programs in personnel administration, human resources, or labor relations until the graduate degree level. However, many offer individual courses in these subjects at the undergraduate level in addition to concentrations in human resources administration or human resources management, training and development, organizational development, and compensation and benefits.

Because an interdisciplinary background is appropriate in this field, a combination of courses in the social sciences, business administration, and behavioral sciences is useful. Some jobs may require more technical or specialized backgrounds in engineering, science, finance, or law. Most prospective human resources specialists should take courses in principles of management, organizational structure, and industrial psychology; however, courses in accounting or finance are becoming increasingly important. Courses in labor law, collective bargaining, labor economics, and labor history also provide a valuable background for the prospective labor relations specialist. As in many other fields, knowledge of computers and information systems is useful.

An advanced degree is increasingly important for some jobs. Many labor relations jobs require graduate study in industrial or labor relations. A strong background in industrial relations and law is highly desirable for contract negotiators, mediators, and arbitrators; in fact, many people in these specialties have law degrees. A master's degree in human resources, labor relations, or in business administration with a concentration in human resources management is highly recommended for those seeking general and top management positions.

The duties given to entry-level workers will vary, depending on whether the new workers have a degree in human resource management, have completed an internship, or have some other type of human resources-related experience. Entry-level employees commonly learn by performing administrative duties—helping to enter data into computer systems, compiling employee handbooks, researching information for a supervisor, or answering phone calls and handling routine questions. Entry-level workers often enter on-the-job training programs in which they learn how to classify jobs, interview applicants, or administer employee benefits; they then are assigned to specific areas in the human resources department to gain experience. Later, they may advance to supervisory positions, overseeing a major element of the human resources program—compensation or training, for example.

Other qualifications. Experience is an asset for many specialties in the human resources area, and is essential for advancement to senior-level positions, including managers, arbitrators, and mediators. Many employers prefer entry-level workers who have gained some experience through an internship or work-study program while in school. Employees in human resources administration and human resources development need the ability to work well with individuals and a commitment to organizational goals. This field demands skills that people may have developed elsewhere—teaching, supervising, and volunteering, among others. Human resources work also offers clerical workers opportunities to advance to more responsible or professional positions. Some positions occasionally are filled by experienced individuals from other backgrounds, including business, government, education, social services administration, and the military.

The human resources field demands a range of personal qualities and skills. Human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists must speak and write effectively. Ever-changing technologies and the growing complexities inherent to the many services human resources personnel provide require that they be knowledgeable about computer systems, storage and retrieval software, and how to use a wide array of digital communications devices.

The growing diversity of the workforce requires that human resources managers and specialists work with or supervise people of various ages, cultural backgrounds, levels of education, and experience. Ability to speak a foreign language is an asset, especially if working in an industry with a large immigrant workforce or for a company with many overseas operations. Human resources employees must be able to cope with conflicting points of view, function under pressure, and demonstrate discretion, integrity, fair-mindedness, and a persuasive, genial personality. Because much of the information collected by these employees is confidential, they must also show the character and responsibility of dealing with sensitive employee information.

Certification and advancement. Most professional associations that specialize in human resources offer classes intended to enhance the skills of their members. Some organizations offer certification programs, which are signs of competence and credibility and can enhance advancement opportunities. For example, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans confers a designation in three distinct areas of specialization—group benefit, retirement, and compensation—to persons who complete a series of college-level courses and pass exams. Candidates can earn a designation in each of the specialty tracks and, simultaneously, receive credit toward becoming a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS). The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Certification Institute offers professional certification in the learning and performance field. Addressing nine areas of expertise, certification requires passing a knowledge-based exam and successful work experience. In addition, ASTD offers 16 short-term certificate and workshop programs covering a broad range of professional training and development topics. The Society for Human Resource Management offers two levels of certification, including the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). Additionally, the organization offers the Global Professional in Human Resources certification for those with international and cross-border responsibilities and the California Certification in Human Resources for those who plan to work in that State and become familiar with California's labor and human resources laws. All designations require experience and a passing score on a comprehensive exam. The WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals offers four distinct designations in the areas of compensation, benefits, work-life, and global remuneration that comprise the total rewards management practice. Candidates obtain the designation of Certified Compensation Professional (CCP), Certified Benefits Professional (CBP), Global Remuneration Professional (GRP), and Work-Life Certified Professional (WLCP). Certification is achieved after passing a series of knowledge-based exams within each designation. Additionally, WorldatWork offers online and classroom education covering a broad range of total rewards topics.

Exceptional human resources workers may be promoted to director of human resources or industrial relations, which can eventually lead to a top managerial or executive position. Others may join a consulting or outsourcing firm or open their own business. A Ph.D. is an asset for teaching, writing, or consulting work.


Human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists held about 904,900 jobs in 2008.

Human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists were employed in virtually every industry. About 13 percent of human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists were employed in administrative and support services, 11 percent in professional, scientific, and technical services, 10 percent in healthcare and social assistance, and 9 percent in finance and insurance firms. About 12,900 managers and specialists were self-employed, working as consultants to public and private employers.

Related Occupations

Workers in a number of other occupations also type, record information, and process paperwork. Among them are:

Sources of Additional Information

For information about human resource management careers and certification, contact:

  • Society for Human Resource Management, 1800 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet:

For information about careers in employee training and development and certification, contact:

  • American Society for Training and Development, 1640 King St., Box 1443, Alexandria, VA 22313-2043. Internet:

For information about careers and certification in employee compensation and benefits, contact:

Information on obtaining Personnel Clerical and Assistance Specialists positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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