Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) FAQs
Executive Order 13750, signed November 2016, grants alumni of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program 12 months of Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government. NCE is a benefit available to Fulbright alumni who completed their Fulbright Program after November 2015. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State.
NCE allows U.S. federal government agencies to hire eligible exchange program alumni outside the formal competitive job announcement process. With NCE, exchange alumni can also compete for certain federal employment jobs that are open only to federal employees. In other words, Fulbright alumni can receive a job offer with as little as an open position and a resume that reflects the necessary experience and education for an agency. Broadly advertising the position, interviewing candidates and other common hiring procedures are NOT required for an agency to hire an applicant with NCE status, though they are often still used. Whether you are fast-tracked without the formal hiring process or just compete against a limited NCE applicant roster, being a Fulbright alumna/us with NCE can help you make a quick transition from job seeker to federal employee when selected for a position.
It’s important to remember that NCE does not guarantee an applicant federal employment. The applicant must meet qualifications standards and additional requirements for the job, such as a background investigation. The decision to hire eligible candidates is at the discretion of the hiring agency.
NCE hiring status applies to civil service jobs across the federal government. NCE status cannot be applied toward positions with state/local governments or the United States Foreign Service.
To learn more about NCE, explore the “Professional Development” material in the “U.S. Student Re-Entry Resources.”
Then scroll through the 10-slide PowerPoint “Non-Competitive Eligibility”
Upon successfully completing their program, Fulbright alumni receive 12 months of NCE status. This 12-month period begins on the last day of your Fulbright program. Federal agencies may extend the period of eligibility for as many as two additional years, or a total duration of up to three years, if after your completed program, you:
- Served in the military
- Studied at a recognized institution of higher education
- Were involved in another activity that, in the agency’s view, warrants an extension
All extension decisions are at the discretion of the hiring official, so if you have applied or intend to apply for a U.S. government position, the human resources representative at that agency determines whether to extend your NCE beyond the 12-month limit stated in Executive Order 13750. Fulbright team members cannot grant NCE extensions.
As an alumna/us of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, you have access to a Certificate of Achievement that verifies your NCE status. Your Certificate of Achievement is available for download in the Fulbright Participant Portal: connect.iie.org/user/login. (If you do not recall your password, please click on the forgot password link and follow the instructions to reset your account.)
Keep in mind that your Certificate of Achievement will not be available to you until you completed your Fulbright grant.
To demonstrate your NCE status to potential employers, you should include it at every part of the application process and upload your Fulbright Certificate of Achievement as a supplemental application document.
NCE is a benefit for not only Fulbright alumni but also federal employers! Fulbright alumni possess skills such as intercultural communication, resourcefulness, critical thinking, problem-solving, and foreign languages that are highly sought after by hiring managers. The Fulbright alumni network is a diverse pool of talented, highly motivated candidates who bring strong potential to federal government positions. In addition, hiring a candidate with NCE is much simpler than moving a candidate through the normal federal hiring process.
Don’t assume that hiring personnel will know about NCE! Be prepared to explain in one or two sentences what NCE is and that you have it. Include your NCE status at every point in your job search, including your resume, cover letters, qualifying questions on USAJOBS, emails to prospective employers and your LinkedIn profile. If you are requesting an extension, provide the circumstances of the extension request wherever you mention NCE.
A. Including NCE Status on a Resume
Include your NCE status near the top of your resume, where it will be easily visible to employers. For example, “Per Executive Order 13750, holds Non-Competitive Eligibility hiring status for federal jobs.”
B. Including NCE Status in a Cover Letter
In a cover letter, take one or two sentences to explain your NCE status. If you are requesting an extension, include the circumstances of your extension request. The following examples provide sample language for cover letters:
“As an alumna/us of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I hold Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) hiring status for federal jobs. NCE reduces the time needed to find and hire qualified candidates by allowing a candidate to be hired outside the formal competitive application process.”
“I conducted research in Germany in the 2020-2021 academic year with support from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Per Executive Order 13750, I was granted Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) hiring status for federal jobs until June 30, 2022, with the possibility of extension until June 30, 2023, at the discretion of the federal hiring manager. Please find more information on NCE in my supplemental application documentation.”
C. Demonstrating NCE Status with Fulbright Certificate of Achievement
As you are applying to federal jobs, upload your Fulbright Certificate of Achievement and the memo to employers on NCE as supplemental documents to indicate to employers that you have NCE status. For most jobs, you will do this in the Select Documents step in the USAJOBS application process:
D. Including NCE Status on LinkedIn
On LinkedIn, you can indicate your NCE status in the About section near the top of your profile. The following sample text has been included for your reference:
“As an alumna/us of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I hold Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) status for federal jobs. NCE reduces the time needed to find and hire qualified candidates by allowing a candidate to be hired outside the formal competitive job announcement process. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly with any questions about NCE or my professional experience.”
Networking is invaluable in any career search, regardless of whether you hold NCE status. When speaking with a federal employee or hiring manager, your NCE status can give you a leg up over other prospective candidates and help you stand out from the rest of the pool. Hiring a candidate with NCE status benefits employers because it allows them to bypass some of the administrative burden in the hiring process. Highlight this benefit in your networking conversations and activities!
Also, keep an eye out for federal government representatives at on-campus or community career fairs.
These representatives are looking for qualified candidates and may already have some information about NCE. Mentioning your NCE status in these conversations can assist in securing a first-round interview.
Be prepared to answer questions about what NCE is, why you have it, and how employers benefit from hiring a candidate with NCE. If you are asked a question about NCE that you don’t know how to answer, direct the person with whom you are speaking to your supporting documentation.
Now that you know what NCE is and how to demonstrate to employers that you have it, it’s time to find a job!
Log in to USAJOBS, the U.S. government’s website for federal jobs. One of the first steps you’ll take after making an account on USAJOBS is to create a profile. In your profile, indicate all of the hiring paths that apply to you. This will include the category Peace Corps & AmeriCorps VISTA. Although you might not be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer or an AmeriCorps alumna/us, you have the same NCE that is granted to participants in these programs and are eligible to apply for any of the jobs under this category. As an alumna/us of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, you should indicate Peace Corps & AmeriCorps VISTA as a hiring path on USAJOBS.
After you set up your profile on USAJOBS, scroll down to the section titled Explore Hiring Paths. Jobs categorized as Peace Corps & AmeriCorps VISTA are available to applicants with NCE. Again, even if you are not a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer or an alumna/us of AmeriCorps, you have NCE and are thus eligible to apply for any of the jobs categorized under this hiring path.
Federal employers who are recruiting applicants for jobs under the Peace Corps & AmeriCorps VISTA hiring path may be more familiar with NCE than those in other hiring paths. That makes this hiring path a great place to start your job search!
Another place to look for NCE jobs is on the careers webpage for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Again, you have NCE status, so even if you are not a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, you are eligible to apply for these jobs. On that page, select the Only Show Noncompetitive Eligibility Jobs checkbox to see open positions where the applicant pool will be limited to candidates with NCE.
In addition, you can search the phrase “non-competitive eligibility” on LinkedIn to find positions that are open to candidates with NCE status. Most NCE positions on LinkedIn will direct you back to USAJOBS, but staying active on LinkedIn is another way to keep an eye on available opportunities.
If you haven’t already done so, we recommend exploring the Fulbright Alumni resources. In this way, you can network with other alumni, share job opportunities and learn tips from alumni who have successfully leveraged their NCE status into a federal job.
In addition, representatives from federal government agencies often attend career fairs. With your NCE, making a connection through a career fair or campus resource means that you can be hired immediately (provided that you meet the minimum requirements for the job). Bring copies of your NCE documentation along with your resume and be prepared to explain NCE and its benefit to employers.
If you are applying to federal jobs, you’ll need a federal resume!
You might be accustomed to writing private sector resumes, in which you summarize your work experience and education in a one-page document. For federal jobs, even at the entry level, your resume needs to be more detailed and should be much longer than one page.
We strongly recommend that you take advantage of the Resume Builder tool on USAJOBS. The Resume Builder prompts you to add all of your education, experience, skills, references, job-related training, language skills, organizations/affiliations, publications, and any other relevant information; using the Resume Builder can help ensure you don’t leave out anything important. You can also use it to customize your resume to each job or agency you’re applying to and create a master resume that is searchable by federal employers.
As you are working on your resume, list your skills and professional experiences in a way that demonstrates how you meet the qualifications for the position. Wherever possible, use the exact language from the position description in your resume rather than rephrasing in your own words. For most jobs, the first review of applicants is a digital resume scan on USAJOBS, so if your resume doesn’t include certain keywords from the position description, your application won’t be reviewed.
Remember to make your master resume searchable on USAJOBS. Hiring personnel often search for qualified candidates to meet vacancies they are trying to fill. To make a resume searchable, click the Documents tab in USAJOBS and select the Searchable checkbox:
Competitive service — Competitive service positions are positions subject to the civil service laws passed by Congress to ensure that applicants and employees receive fair and equal treatment in the hiring process. In the competitive service, individuals must go through a competitive hiring process (i.e., competitive examining) before being appointed. This process may consist of a written test, an evaluation of the individual’s education and experience, or an evaluation of other attributes necessary for successful performance in the position to be filled. NCE hiring status can allow candidates to skip some parts of the competitive hiring process.
Excepted service — Excepted service positions are any federal or civil service positions that are not in the competitive service or the senior executive service. Excepted service agencies set their own qualification requirements and are not subject to the appointment, pay and classification rules in Title 5, United States Code. However, they are subject to veterans’ preference.
General Schedule (GS) pay — The GS classification and pay system covers the majority of civilian white-collar federal employees (about 1.5 million worldwide) in professional, technical, administrative, and clerical positions. The GS has 15 grades from GS-1 (lowest) to GS-15 (highest). Agencies establish (classify) the grade of each job based on the level of difficulty, responsibility and qualifications required. Individuals with a high school diploma and no additional experience typically qualify for GS-2 positions; those with a bachelor’s degree typically qualify for GS-5 positions; and those with a master’s degree usually qualify for GS-9 positions.
Federal civil service — The U.S. federal civil service is the civilian workforce within all the departments and agencies of the federal government. It includes “all appointive positions in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, except positions in the uniformed services” (5 U.S. Code § 2101). NCE hiring status applies to positions in the federal civil service.
State civil service — Each state has its own civil service, which often is modeled on the federal system. NCE hiring status does not apply to positions in the state civil service.
United States Foreign Service — The United States Foreign Service promotes peace, supports prosperity and protects American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad. NCE hiring status does not apply to positions in the foreign service.