New rules are coming that will encourage - and in some cases require - federal agencies to find and hire more Hispanics, blacks and women in nearly all grade levels of government.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will inaugurate soon a number of programs to increase the number of minorities in government. Emphasis will be on recruiting and giving "special emphasis" in hiring - by occupations, agencies and locality - through new "nontraditional" methods. They will be very different from standard merit system procedures.

Under the Civil Service Reform Act the OPM is required to give special new attention to affirmative action programs. OPM task forces are working on a variety of special-emphasis-for-minorities plans. In past, merit rules and testing procedures often have thwarted major affirmative-action hiring efforts.

OPM and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been collecting data on the number of minorities in government by job, agency, pay grade and region. By comparing this to census data, minority college graduate figures and other methods, they believe they can determine which groups are "under-represented" in government, where, and in what career fields.

Once underrepresentation has been determined, OPM will direct agencies to give "special emphasis" to correcting the imbalance. It will delegate more independent hiring authority so agencies can take care of situations peculiar to them, the type of jobs they have, racial makeup of the community or local job market, and other situations.

Examples of how it will work:

Social Security Administration, a giant portion of HEW, has already been given greater authority to select and hire beginning professionals. The giant agency, like most others, now draws many of its potential managers from the PACE (Professional, Administrative, Clerical Examination). The administration has been told it can use "alternate" selection methods, provided they are "equally competitive" with PACE.

In a normal year about 160,000 people take the PACE government-wide, and of the 80,000 who qualify with passing grades, about 6,000 are hired. PACE has been criticized by Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) as discriminating against blacks and Hispanics because so few score high enough on it to be eligible for hiring.

Permitting "underrepresented" minorities to force various tests to be opened only for them - either actual tests or ratings by experience and education - so they can get on lists of eligibles. PACE, for example, is now open to the general public only once a year since the supply of eligibles already far exceeds actual job openings.

Delegation of specific hiring authority to other agencies to permit them to get away from PACE and similar exams, and use their own procedures for selecting new employes.

New methods - including target recruiting in minority areas or at minority colleges - to bring more minority applicants to the attention of government hiring officials.

New authority to allow job applicants to be considered in several geographic regions. This would help minority-group members who could take jobs in areas where there are few minority federal workers.