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Job Title:
Human Resources Specialist, IS-0201, Grades 7,9,11; $55,383 to $106,549 annually
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:  This position is open to all current SAO employees. 


What are Trust Fund Positions?

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. SAO combines its resources with those of the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The CfA is the best-known astrophysics center in the world. Its programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch and use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriations or the form of contracts and grants from other agencies. In contrast, Institution funds are available to SAO through grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities, and non-Federal contracts and grants. 



This is a developmental position of Human Resources Specialist in the Human Resources Department of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.  As a trainee, the incumbent will plan, organize and carry out various responsibilities in areas such as recruitment and placement, position classification, management-employee relations, performance appraisals and visa processing for assigned organizations within the observatory.



Complex Proposal Support:

  • Recruit Federal and Trust Fund employees in open positions up to and including the grade 15 level in disciplines, including those of administrative, technical, scientific, wage board, etc. 
  • Classify a variety of position descriptions up to and including the grade 15 level (as a result of new positions, re‑evaluations of existing positions, accretion of duties, etc.) in accordance with USOPM position classification standards.   Perform desk audits of positions as required or upon special request.
  • Calculate severance payment for SAO employees (Trust Fund and Federal) affected by Staff Reductions. 
  • Assist and advise supervisors in handling performance problems, adverse actions, referrals to the Employee Assistance Program, various personnel actions, full utilization of present personnel, development of performance appraisal plans, etc. 
  • Serve as a resource to employees at all levels, including managers and supervisors, on interpreting SI/SAO policy.
  • Perform the full range of personnel processing functions for SAO employees under both the Federal and Trust Fund personnel systems, to include entering data into various processing systems and reviewing all actions for technical accuracy in accordance with federal, Smithsonian, NFC, and PeopleSoft requirements and regulations.
  • Provide administrative assistance to the department, including maintaining files, OPF, and various other databases, including applicant tracking.
  • Primary SAOHR point of contact for SI PSIO on issues related to the ServiceNow/Docusign background investigation process.
  • Conduct employee orientation for new SAO employees to include an explanation of benefits, conditions of employment, pay periods, pay dates, direct deposit, etc.; fingerprint new employees; verify and process all required paperwork related to “entrance on duty” and submit completed documents to SI.  
  • Provide assistance to SAO employees and administrative personnel in resolving pay and personnel data and processing problems.  Research and respond to routine questions regarding procedures and regulations and the status of actions.




Basic Requirements:
Applicants must possess a minimum of one (1) year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the grade 5 level in the normal line of progress for this occupation, which should demonstrate basic knowledge of position classification, recruitment and placement methods and procedures as well as practical knowledge of evaluation techniques for applying qualification standards for determining minimum qualification eligibility to a variety of positions.  


1 full year of graduate-level education or superior academic achievement


A combination of education and experience


Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities required:

  • Basic knowledge of Federal position classification, techniques for developing and reviewing position descriptions.
  • Basic knowledge of Federal staffing regulations and proced­ures, private sector recruiting techniques, and the use of special recruiting provisions for hard‑to‑fill positions and special employment programs. 
  • 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.
  • Basic knowledge of the laws pertaining to entry of foreign specialists on permanent resident and temporary visas and to the procedures required by concerned Federal and State agencies.
  •   Basic knowledge of employee relations techniques, employee benefits, and employee training, both government and private sector.
  • Practical knowledge of both Federal and Smithsonian Trust fund policies, procedures, guidelines and regulations governing the processing of a full range of personnel and pay actions. 
  • Knowledge of the mission and goals of the Smithsonian Institution and SAO.
  • Knowledge of automated data entry systems, ie Peoplesoft, webTA, and the National Finance Center payroll/personnel system.
  • Skill in written and verbal communication in order to effectively explain HR policies, procedures, processes to employees and supervisors; to work with external organizations to resolve issues regarding pay or personnel actions.

Applicants, who wish to qualify based on education completed outside the United States, must be deemed equivalent to higher education programs of U.S. Institutions by an organization that specializes in the interpretation of foreign educational credentials. This documentation is the responsibility of the applicant and should be included as part of your application package.


Any false statement in your application may result in your application being rejected and may also result in termination after employment begins.

  The Smithsonian Institution values and seeks a diverse workforce. Join us in "Inspiring Generations through Knowledge and Discovery."

Resume/CV should include a description of your paid and non-paid work experience that is related to this job; starting and ending dates of job (month and year); and average number of hours worked per week. College Transcript should be provided if using education for qualification.  

What To Expect Next: Once the vacancy announcement closes, a review of your resume will be compared against the qualification and experience requirements related to this job. After review of applicant resumes is complete, qualified candidates will be referred to the hiring manager.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.  To learn more, please review the Smithsonian’s Accommodation Procedures.

The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds support and enhance our daily work life and contribute to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. See Smithsonian EEO program information:

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace. Please visit the SAO website at


How to Apply:  Please use the following link to visit Smithsonian's Career Page:  Smithsonian Institution Job Opportunities Site


The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the Human Resources Specialist listed. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Conditions of Employment

  • Pass Pre-employment Background Check and Subsequent Background Investigation, as required.
  • Complete a Probationary Period if applicable. 
  • Maintain a Bank Account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer.
  • The position is open to all candidates eligible to work in the United States.  Proof of eligibility to work in U.S. is not required to apply.
  • Applicants must meet all qualification and eligibility requirements within 30 days of the closing date of this announcement. 
  •  Selection for this position will be made at the grade 07 level. Candidates may be noncompetitively promoted to the next grade level, up to grade 11, upon the recommendation of the supervisor based on classification requirements, satisfactory performance, and qualifications of the employee.
Learn more about SAO Human Resources

Visit the SAO website