Can I Start My Federal Job in the Middle of a Hiring Freeze?


The federal hiring freeze announced this week has left many onboarding federal employees wondering if the government’s offer of employment still stands. The very government-esque answer: it depends.

The executive order states:

The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities. In addition, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.

The hiring freeze went into effect Jan. 23. That means any current openings will remain unfilled for the next 90 days (unless they meet the above exemptions), as the Office of Management and Budget prepares a broader plan to reduce the size of the federal workforce. But if you’ve already received a job offer, what does that mean for you?

Over at the ClearanceJobsBlog discussion board, security specialist Marko Hakamaa offers this clarification:

“OMB released this guidance: Individuals who received a job offer or an appointment before Jan. 22, received a confirmation from the agency and received a start date on or before Feb. 22, 2017 should report to work on that day, OMB said. But if a person has a job offer from agency that does not include a start date — or that date is after Feb. 22 — agency heads should review the position and decide whether it should be revoked, or if the prospective employee should show up for work,” writes Hakamaa.

And with a whole new wave of leadership taking up the helm at federal offices across the country, it’s very possible some agency heads could personally decide to suspend and review any pending offers of employment. For individuals with a pending background investigation, it’s also subject to the agency if that background investigation continues, or the agency decides to halt it during the course of the 90 day hiring freeze.

Freeze Flashbacks

If you’re having hiring freeze flashbacks, it’s because in the course of the past several years, we’ve seen waves of agency-specific hiring freezes. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work implemented a Department of Defense hiring freeze from March through June of 2016. It affected all vacant civilian positions. The hiring freeze was implemented in order to get an accurate picture of staffing levels as the department looked to reduce the size of its workforce by 25 percent.

The 25 percent reduction was a part of the Pentagon’s effort to anticipate the cost savings that would be required of the congressional budget for 2017-2020. If the $50 billion per year, 10 percent budget increase proposed by Sen. John McCain is any indication, however, Pentagon budgets may be on their way back up.

So, Do I Go to Work?

The bad news for those currently in the early stages of onboarding for a federal position is – you’ll likely have to wait another 90 days if you don’t have a start date, and you’re in a non-critical position. The good news? If your position requires an active federal security clearance and supports a military or law enforcement function, there is good indication it could be considered a position necessary to meet national security responsibilities. How quickly that process moves will depend upon the priorities of your agency’s leadership.

And while the memo specifically bars agency from simply replacing their civilian openings with contractors, that doesn’t mean already awarded federal contracts will suddenly be suspended. It’s a good time to search the nearly 20,000 cleared jobs posted at – where job openings are nice and toasty.

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.

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