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Strategic Plan > Index to Action Papers > Interim Pre-employment Testing of Patent Examiners

Interim Pre-employment Testing of Patent Examiners

Action:


The USPTO has taken steps to implement pre-employment screening of oral and written communication skills of patent examiner applicants to ensure a high quality workforce producing the highest quality patent.


Background:


One of the most important characteristics of a successful patent examiner is the ability to communicate effectively in the English language, orally and in writing.  In fact, this skill is fundamental to successful on-the job performance.  The very nature of the work requires extensive written and occasional oral communication with the applicant (patent practitioners).  Unfortunately, the USPTO has received negative feedback from the Intellectual Property Community regarding the communication skills of some of its recent hires. 

Therefore, in an effort to address this skill deficit and improve the overall quality of the patent examination process, English language competency must become a formal prerequisite for employment as a patent examiner with the USPTO.

USPTO Recommended Course of Action:

Implement interim procedures to screen for oral and written communication skills of potential examiners.

In recognizing the urgent need to improve the pre-employment screening of the communication skills of future patent examiners, representatives from the Patent Corps and the Office of Human Resources considered several options, however, many will require further exploration and financial resources to fund the efforts.  Therefore, pending the design and implementation of a more concrete long-term pre-employment testing mechanism, Supervisory Patent Examiners (SPEs) and hiring officials now use the following procedures to screen for oral and written communication skills.  The interim procedures outlined below better identify potential applicants with the requisite skills for patent examiner positions. 

Details:


·       Required notification to all SPEs, hiring officials and the Delegated Examining Unit (DEU) of requirements to use the interim procedures.

·       Required training of SPEs, hiring officials and the DEU on how to use the guidelines.

·       Required coordination with the DEU on incorporating screening tool in hiring process.

·       Required a group of trained managers and supervisors to conduct the reviews/assessments.

·       If the Job Application Rating System (JARS) writing sample is ambiguous or inconclusive, the candidate is given a fixed time to provide another written sample or a telephonic interview is conducted.

·       If the face to face or telephonic interview is inconclusive as to the communication skills of the candidate, the candidate will be asked to submit a written answer to the question “what skills and abilities the candidate possesses that would be of benefit to the USPTO.”  The written response would be sent to the Office via facsimile, mail or e-mail.

·       Applied across the board to all applicants.

·       Required development of standardized topics for the writing samples to avoid the perception of inequity or inconsistencies.

·       The USPTO has been conducting reference checks, to the extent possible, with faculty members or other people with knowledge of the candidate’s ability to communicate.

Timing:


·       Has already been adopted.

·       Training of evaluators accomplished prior to implementation of the new process.  In the absence of training there would be inconsistencies in the application of the new process and subject to challenge.

·       The additional writing sample is not required if an interview (either face to face or telephonic) is conducted. 

Return on Investment:


Estimated investment:

·       Minimal.  Training time for SPEs and hiring coordinators in the use of the interim procedures has been provided.

·       Man-hours expended to pull and evaluate JARS writing samples.

·       Cost of reproducing hard copies of the writing samples or forwarding the written portion electronically.

·       Man-hours needed to evaluate the writing samples in the absence of electronic capabilities.

·       Man-hours expended to develop consistent test questions/scenarios for all applicants to provide continuity.

·       Reduces SPE man-hours used to correct office actions.

·       Reduces training costs associated with providing English-as-a-second-language (ESL) on-site.

·       Provides immediate effort to address the English language proficiency problem as noted by our customers.

·       Increases the likelihood of hiring examiners with better communication skills.

Interim Pre-Employment Communication Screening Guidelines


1.     All Director signed requests for personnel action (SF-52s) for patent examiner recruitment are routed to designated individuals in the Technology Center (TC) or in Office of Human Resources.

2.     The candidates and JARS submission (writing sample) are reviewed to determine their written communication aptitude.  This includes:

a.   Correctness of Writing - This is the ability of the candidate to write using reasonably proper grammar and sentence structure of which includes a reasonably varied vocabulary.

b.     Content of Writing - This is the ability of the candidate to effectively communicate concepts in a reasonably logical manner.

(Failure to meet the minimum qualifications for the written communication aptitude as described above, the candidate is asked to provide a written sample, see 3.d. below.) 

3.     The candidate is interviewed to determine their oral (and conditionally their written) communication fitness; this includes:

a.   Clarity of Speech - This is solely the ability of the candidate to communicate in a manner where words and phrases can be reasonably understood as stated.

b.   Correctness of Speech - This is the ability of the candidate to speak using reasonably proper grammar and sentence structure of which includes a reasonably varied vocabulary.

c.   Content of Speech - This is the ability of the candidate to effectively communicate concepts in a reasonably logical manner.  This includes the ability to vary the scope of the conveyed concepts from a very detailed script to a summarized version.

d.     If personal interview and/or JARS writing sample is inconclusive, the candidate is given a fixed time to write down the answer to the question “what skills and abilities the candidate possesses that would be of benefit to the USPTO” and provide this to the Office via facsimile, mail, or e-mail.

4.     A communication screening certification accompanies the SF-52.  This includes the date of interview/review and the hiring officials name and signature.  See attachment.


EXAMINER CANDIDATE ORAL AND WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SCREENING

Candidate’s Name:

Date of Interview:

Type of interview (personal or telephonic):

1.The Candidate’s JARS submission (writing sample):

a)      Correctness of Writing - This is the ability of the candidate to write using reasonably proper grammar and sentence structure of which includes a reasonably varied vocabulary.

UNDECIDED ____           PASS _____           FAIL _____

b)      Content of Writing - This is the ability of the candidate to effectively communicate concepts in a reasonably logical manner.

UNDECIDED ____           PASS _____           FAIL _____

If undecided request additional writing sample in step 3.  Applicants must pass steps 2 and 3 to be certified.

2.      The Candidate’s verbal communication fitness:

a.     Clarity of Speech - This is solely the ability of the candidate to communicate in a manner where words and phrases can be reasonably understood as stated.

PASS _____           FAIL _____

b.     Correctness of Speech - This is the ability of the candidate to speak using reasonably proper grammar and sentence structure of which includes a reasonably varied vocabulary.

PASS _____           FAIL _____

c.     Content of Speech - This is the ability of the candidate to effectively communicate concepts in a reasonably logical manner. This includes the ability to vary the scope of the conveyed concepts from a very detailed script to a summarized version.

PASS _____           FAIL _____ 

3.  The candidate’s writing sample (This step is used when determined necessary to get an additional sample):

a.     Correctness of Writing - This is the ability of the candidate to write using reasonably proper grammar and sentence structure of which includes a reasonably varied vocabulary.

PASS _____           FAIL _____

b.     Content of Writing - This is the ability of the candidate to effectively communicate concepts in a reasonably logical manner.

PASS _____           FAIL _____

I certify that the above candidate meets the minimum communication criteria for employment and has been advised that the USPTO does not offer a recruitment bonus or pay relocation expenses.


Certifying Official’s Name ________________Signature ________________TC_____

 

Implementation Schedule
Work Breakdown StructureTask NameStartFinishProject Lead
9Transformation 8:P-19-01 - Pre-employment Testing (Interim)09/30/0209/30/03J. Ng
9.1Implement interim pre-employment tests (P-19-01)09/30/0209/30/02 
9.2Utilize completed interim procedures to screen for oral and written communications skills (P-19-01)03/24/0309/30/03 
KEY: e Biz=online business system fees=fees forms=formshelp=help laws and regs=laws/regulations definition=definition (glossary)

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