Human Resources Specialist

U.S. Federal Government - Cambridge, MA4.3

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is part of what is arguably the largest and most diverse astrophysical institution in the world, where the staff carries out a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics and earth and space sciences. If you would like to join this exciting organization, apply today!

This is the position of Personnel Management Specialist, Human Resources Department of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The purpose of the position is to plan, organize and independently carry out a wide variety of responsibilities in areas such as recruitment and placement, position classification, management-employee relations, performance appraisals and visa processing for assigned organizations within the observatory.

1. Recruit and place Federal and Trust Fund employees in open positions at all levels (up to grade 15) including administrative, technical scientific, wage board, etc. This process entails evaluation of the position description and grade levels as submitted by the supervisor in accordance with USOPM classification standards and guidelines set forth by EEO/AA. Positions are posted internally and listed with appropriate media. Recruiting efforts are to be carried out via mail outs, telephone contacts and personal visits to potential candidate sources, e. g. universities, career fairs, etc. In conjunction with the hiring supervisor, the incumbent determines selective factors for positions and rates candidates. Will make efforts to increase recruitment sources for special programs.

2. Classify a variety position descriptions at all levels( as a result of new positions, re- evalautions of existing positions, for promotions, etc. ) in accordance with USOPM position classification standards. Perform desk audits of positions as required or upon special request.

3. Calculate severance payment for SAO employees (both Trust Fund and Federal) who are affected by Staff Reductions. Must be familiar with appropriate rules, regulations and procedures as outlined in the Smithsonian Institution Staff Handbooks and in the Federal Personnel Manual. Is responsible for advising managers and supervisors regarding severance and staff reduction policies, including notification deadlines, appeal rights, benefits after staff reduction, etc. Must be cognizant of rules regarding unemployment compensation in states where employees are located. Counsels employees who have been affected by staff reductions including outlining benefits, monitoring severance payments, assisting and resume preparation and outplacement referrals whenever possible.

4. Assists supervisors in handling performance problems, adverse actions, referrals to Employee Assistance Programs, promotions, merit increases, quality and within grade increases, cash awards, full utilization of present personnel , writing performance appraisal plans, etc. Takes part in meetings between supervisors and subordinates to assist in the resolution of problems.

5. Serves as a resource to employees at all levels, including managers and supervisors, on the interpretation of SI/SAO policy. Provides a broad range of counseling to SAO employees regarding SI/SAO policies, practices and procedures.

6. Process requests for visas for foreign national employees, visitors, and fellows by applying appropriate guidelines and procedures in completing and submitting the necessary documentation to the appropriate agency for approval.

7. Serves on various management, EEO or other special committees as required.

8. Prepares a variety of reports as requested by the Director of Human Resources, members of top SI/SAO management, other SAO managers or supervisors or on own initiative.

9. Performs other duties as assigned.

Travel Required
Not required

Supervisory status

Promotion Potential

Job family (Series)
0201 Human Resources Management

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Conditions of Employment
Pre and Post appointment background check
Direct Deposit/Electronic Funds Transfer required for salary payment
Qualification requirements must be met within 30 days of the job opportunity announcement closing date.
For information on qualification requirements, see Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at

Applicants must possess a minimum of one (1) year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the grade 9 level in the normal line of progress for this occupation, which should demonstrate knowledge of the laws pertaining to entry of foreign specialists on permanent resident and temporary visas; intermediate knowledge of Federal position classification, and techniques for developing position descriptions; intermediate knowledge of Federal staffing regulations and procedures, private sector recruiting techniques, and the use of special recruiting strategies for hard-to-fill positions; knowledge of the principles, practices and regulations governing employee relations, benefits, and training

or Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree

or 3 full years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to such a degree

or LL.M., if related

or a combination of education and experience

Additional information
The Smithsonian does not pay relocation expenses.

The Smithsonian embraces diversity and equal employment opportunity (

How You Will Be Evaluated
You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.

Your application will be evaluated first for the basic qualifications described above. The applications that meet the basic qualifications will be evaluated further against the following criteria:

1. Knowledge of the field of salary administration, including Federal position classification, techniques for developing position descriptions, and conduct of salary surveys, their interpretation and integration.

2. Knowledge of Federal staffing regulations and procedures, private sector recruiting techniques, and the use of special recruiting provisions for hard- to- fill positions.

3. Ability to apply this knowledge creatively to difficult and complex situations in the area of attracting and retaining competent professional, administrative, technical and clerical employees.

4. Knowledge of the laws pertaining to entry of foreign specialists on permanent resident and temporary visas into the procedures required by concerned Federal and State agencies.

5. Knowledge of employee relations techniques, employee benefits, and employee training, both government and private sector.
To preview questions please click here .

Background checks and security clearance
Security clearance
Public Trust - Background Investigation

Drug test required

Required Documents

Required Documents
Your application package must include the following documents:
Detailed resume
School transcripts, if you are using education to qualify for the position.
Proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study, if applicable.
If you are relying on your education to meet qualification requirements:
Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for it to be credited towards qualifications. Therefore, provide only the attendance and/or degrees from schools accredited by accrediting institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education .

Failure to provide all of the required information as stated in this vacancy announcement may result in an ineligible rating or may affect the overall rating.


A career with the U.S. Government provides employees with a comprehensive benefits package. As a federal employee, you and your family will have access to a range of benefits that are designed to make your federal career very rewarding. Learn more about federal benefits .

Review our benefits

Eligibility for benefits depends on the type of position you hold and whether your position is full-time, part-time, or intermittent. Contact the hiring agency for more information on the specific benefits offered.