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New Hire Onboarding Guide | Phase 2: Official Job Offer

A Job Corps student meets a Forest Service employee to shadow during Shadow Day for Job Corps students at the Sydney R. Yates building in Washington D.C. March 28, 2019. (Forest Service photo by Tanya Flores)
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Congratulations! With the receipt of your Official Job Offer, you are ready to initiate plans for your new permanent position with the Forest Service.

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Once you have successfully completed the pre-employment activities, you will move into Phase 2 when you receive an Official Job Offer. The second phase of onboarding may take an additional 30 days, or longer for employees who are relocating, before you start your new job.

  1. You will receive the Official Job Offer, usually via email, from a Human Resources (HR) case manager. This notice will confirm the position title, series, pay grade, duty station, and salary being offered to you. It will include your effective date designating the beginning of your appointment to the Forest Service, the date you report to work, which is also referred to as your entry on duty (EOD), and your supervisor’s name and contact information. 

  2. The Official Job Offer will also include instructions on additional forms and actions required before you can begin your new job in Phase 3. Carefully follow the instructions in your Official Job Offer to complete and submit documents within the timeframes indicated to avoid delays starting your new job. 

  3. Refer to your Official Job Offer for your reporting date and supervisor contact information. If you have not received instructions on where to report to work at least one week before your first day, please contact your supervisor. If you are unable to reach your supervisor, you may contact your human resources case manager or the New Hire Help Desk. 

  4. Approximately two weeks prior to your EOD, you will be contacted by Personnel Security officials who will provide instructions to initiate the credentialing process for your LincPass (or AltLine for temporary employees if needed). Watch your inbox for an email from with a subject line "USAccess - Sponsorship Complete" for information to complete your LincPass enrollment application. The LincPass is a personal identity verification card that is required for all USDA employees to access Forest Service computer systems and some facilities. Please promptly provide the information requested to ensure the lengthy process of LincPass issuance goes smoothly. Some temporary employees may receive a PIV card to access Forest Service computer systems and facilities. 

  5. The Forest Service offers a series of onboarding videos available on AgLearn and Vimeo to help you understand some of the benefits listed below. Watch these videos and attend a regularly scheduled live Q&A session with human resource specialists for more information. The session dates are listed at the bottom of the video list is AgLearn.

Helpful Resources and Potential Requirements

  • Effective Date: Your Effective Date is usually the first day of a two-week pay period which falls on Sunday. 
  • Entry on Duty Date (EOD): The EOD, also referred to as the reporting date, is your first day on the job and is often a Monday. For new employees who transfer from another Federal agency with government-funded travel to the new job, your report date may be several days after the effective date.  
  • Service Computation Date (SCD): The SCD represents the first date of Federal employment or creditable military service. The SCD is used to calculate your retirement eligibility and available benefits.  

There are several Help Desks staffed with knowledgeable people who can assist you with your questions.

If you are not sure which Help Desk to contact, the New Hire Help Desk can help you find the answers to your questions. You can reach a staff member at the New Hire Help Desk by calling 877-372-7248, option 4, between the hours of 8:15 and 4:15 Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forest Service has re-imagined what it means to ‘report for work’. The situation challenges us to be creative in how we welcome new employees, how we work individually and collaboratively with others to complete critical work in the office and in the field, and how we serve the public.  

Quite likely, your first days on the job will be different than what you expect. You may not physically report to the office, and instead you may work from home. If you do have a position that requires you to be in the office, your interactions with your supervisor and new colleagues may be predominately virtual. Especially as a new employee, you may find it challenging to connect and engage. We understand this, and we want to work with you to ensure your onboarding goes smoothly and that you feel welcomed and valued.

Listen to one Forest Service employee who shares virtual work habits that enable him to continue to be productive and connected with his colleagues.

What hasn’t changed is our commitment to the safety and wellness of our employees. Please take time to talk with your supervisor about safety and wellness so you can become familiar with the culture that shapes the core values of our organization.

This office (internal link) focuses on efforts to improve and sustain a culture in which all employees feel safe, secure, valued, respected, and supported for delivering the priority work of the agency. The staff seeks to diagnose and address the root causes and culture barriers to emotional and physical safety, security, diversity, and inclusion in the work environment. It manages employee training and development, including leadership and supervisor training and development programs, and mentoring and coaching programs; the conflict management and prevention program to help employees address workplace conflict and facilitate interpersonal communications; and the anti-harassment program, to prevent and address all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment.

Your supervisor will determine which IT equipment you need for your job, and will submit the appropriate requests to the Chief Information Office (CIO) to initiate government computer access, issue computer or mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets, or radios, and any other necessary service or equipment.

If assistive technology will be needed, you should initiate a discussion with your supervisor or human resources case manager so that equipment can be ordered.

The following pay schedule links will take you to information provided by the Office of Personnel Management. Your Official Job Offer contains your ‘grade’ and ‘step’, which determines the amount you will be paid. In some cases, your pay rate is increased to reflect higher costs of living; this is referred to as Locality Pay rates.  
You can find your grade and step in these pay tables. Most employees will be paid using the rates in the General Schedule and Locality Pay tables. You can visit with your case manager or your supervisor if you have questions.

You may notice two or more grades, or pay rates, stated in your Official Job Offer. This likely indicates you have been selected for a career ladder position. The numbers, or grades, represent the normal pay rate progression through which employees advance to reach the full-performance level, or top grade of the career ladder, of a particular occupation. The promotion potential to reach the full performance level of a position is established when the position is advertised. For example, a Pathways career ladder vacancy announced as GS-5 target GS-7 means that you begin the job at grade GS-5 and you may be promoted to GS-7 when you meet requirements for the next grade, typically after a year with satisfactory performance and after you meet any specialized experience requirements. Some occupations may have career promotions at one-grade intervals (i.e., GS-5 to GS-6) and some at two-grade intervals (i.e., GS-5 to GS-7) or even multiple two-grade intervals such as a GS 5/7 to GS-9. Your supervisor must submit a request to Human Resources Management to activate each promotion. 

Federal Benefits

As a Federal employee in a permanent position, you may be able to enroll to receive benefits such as health, dental, vision, life insurance, flexible spending accounts, and long-term care insurance. Now is a good time to become acquainted with Federal employee benefits, so you’ll be prepared for enrollment decisions that you’ll need to make within 60 days after you start your new job. Some benefits will depend on whether you are on a full time, part time, or intermittent work schedule.

As a Federal employee in a temporary position, your benefits may include health insurance, flexible spending accounts, long-term care insurance, sick leave and annual leave, holiday and overtime pay, uniform and boot allowances, government quarters, transit subsidy, flexible work schedules, and access to the Employee Assistance Program. Temporary employees pay into social security and Medicare programs, but are not eligible for the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). You can find information about many of these programs on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) New and Prospective Employees webpage. The specific benefits offered to you are based on the type of position, such as permanent, term, or temporary, and work schedule such as full time, part-time, or intermittent. Your Official Job Offer will outline which benefit programs apply to your position. Potential benefits include:

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHB) offers many different health insurance plans for eligible employees, their spouse, and any children under the age of 26. Read more about Health Insurance and watch a video about FEHB. You have 60 days to enroll once you're hired. You can also enroll, cancel, or change coverage during the annual open season in November.

The Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) is a voluntary, enrollee-pay-all dental and vision insurance program available to Federal employees and family members. Learn more about dental/vision plans.

A Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) are pre-tax benefit accounts designed to pay for eligible medical, dental, and vision care expenses not covered by your health care plan or elsewhere. With a FSA, you set aside and use pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified out-of-pocket health care expenses. Learn more about the FSA.

Long-term care insurance covers some of the costs of securing long-term care either in an assisted living facility or in one’s own home if one meets specific health and mobility limitations. Visit the Office of Personnel Management website to learn more about Long Term Care Options available to many Federal employees.

The Federal Employee Group Life Insurance Program (FEGLI) is a benefit available to any employee covered by a retirement system. There is no regular open season for life insurance coverage. If you miss the 60-day enrollment period, you will have to wait until you experience a "qualifying life event" such as marriage, divorce, or birth of a child. The amount of your coverage varies based on your choice and on your salary. To see how a salary change will impact your coverage and the bi-weekly deductions for your FEGLI, please visit the FEGLI Calculator at OPM. The Office of Personnel Management has detailed program, eligibility, enrollment, and beneficiary information. Watch a video about FEGLI.

FERS is a retirement plan that generates benefits from three different sources: a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Two of the three parts of FERS, Social Security and the TSP, can go with you to your next job if you leave the Federal Government before retirement. The Basic Benefit and Social Security parts of FERS require you to pay your share each pay period. If you are eligible for FERS, you will be automatically enrolled when you are appointed. The cost of the Basic Benefit and Social Security will be withheld from your pay as payroll deductions, and the Forest Service will pay the agency portion. After you retire, you could receive annuity payments each month for the rest of your life plus potential income from your TSP investments.

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan for civilian employees of the United States Government and members of the uniformed services. It is like a 401K plan offered by many public and private corporations. If you are a FERS employee who began Federal service after July 31, 2010, you will be automatically enrolled in the TSP. Three percent of your basic pay will be deducted from your paycheck each pay period and deposited in the traditional balance of your TSP account unless you choose to change or stop your contributions. You can make an election by following the instructions for starting, changing, and stopping your contributions. Learn more about this retirement savings and investment plan at Thrift Savings Plan and how your contributions can be matched by the Federal Government at Thrift Savings Plan. You can also watch a video about TSP

FEHB, FEGLI, and TSP elections normally transfer automatically. Be sure to verify proper deductions on your Forest Service earnings and leave statement (ELS). Transferring is not a qualifying life event to change health enrollment unless you relocate, and your HMO benefits are not available in the new area.  
If you are enrolled in any of the following, you must contact the provider to transfer these benefits to the Forest Service (Payroll Office Number: 12400001).

  • TSP Loans 
  • Dental/Vision Plan 
  • Long-term Care Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Account

Federal employees earn paid annual/personal and sick leave. Visit these links to learn more about the leave you will earn and how it can be used:

The Office of Personnel Management Federal Holidays Fact Sheet provides more information on the 11 paid holidays. 

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January)
  • Washington's Birthday (Third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Juneteenth (June 19th)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

Some positions are eligible for flexible work schedules. Your position may also accommodate a flexible place of work or telework. Visit with your supervisor to determine whether your position allows for flexibility to the set schedule or to a set office location.

The Forest Service contracts with a private organization to provide a variety of counseling services. You can learn more about the program via this Employee Assistance Program link.

Work-life is the business practice of creating a flexible, supportive environment to engage employees & maximize organizational performance. Work-life programs are critical management tools for the Federal community as we strive to maintain an excellent, engaged workforce. Key work-life programs offered to federal employees include worksite health and wellness, Employee Assistance Programs, workplace flexibilities, telework, and dependent care. Wellness programs vary by location and position; check with your supervisor to learn what may be available to you.

A subsidy for mass transit costs associated with your commute to work are available at some duty locations. Find out if a transit subsidy is authorized for your location and how to apply for a subsidy. 

Check with your supervisor to determine if your position qualifies you for a uniform allowance or a safety boot allowance. If you qualify for a boot allowance, you must submit your reimbursement request within 45 days of the purchase of your safety boots.

If your Official Job Offer includes an Acceptance Incentive or a Transfer of Station (TOS) offer, you will be contacted by a TOS counselor within 72 hours of the Official Confirmation Letter. Coordinate closely with your TOS counselor to ensure you are authorized to incur costs and understand how to track your expenses, if applicable.

You will be notified if Forest Service housing, often referred to as government quarters, is available for you in your area. If government quarters are available and accepted, your supervisor will submit a request to human resources to initiate payroll deductions and explain your housing contract responsibilities for occupancy.

Help Is Available: New Hire Help Desk

877-372-7248, Option 4

Available weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Mountain Time.