Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

State of California: Civil Service Testing Moves into Cyberspace

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

State of California: Civil Service Testing Moves into Cyberspace

Article excerpt

The State of California has successfully implemented an employment application and civil service testing process on the Internet for its largest entry level professional classification, Staff Services Analyst. This innovative selection process, the first of its kind is available to the public twenty-four hours a day via the Internet or telephone. Since its debut in June 1996, this examination has been well received by candidates and state departments and has helped the state to realize a considerable savings in staff time and money as compared to a traditional written examination. This technology is already being applied to other examinations and is well on its way to becoming a common testing format. This paper describes the development and implementation of the Staff Services Analyst examination as well as some of the many issues to be considered when exploring the new frontier of Internet civil service testing.

For the past several years, the California State Personnel Board (SPB) has been exploring ways to utilize new technology to streamline the process of recruiting and selecting candidates for employment. An interdepartmental task force was created to explore cost effective, efficient, flexible ways to administer quality testing procedures. The task force focused on the Staff Services Analyst (SSA) classification since this is one of the few entry level professional classifications tested on an open basis (open to members of the public). The resulting new exam consists of a scored life experience questionnaire and is available on a continuous basis on both the Internet and telephone. This nearly paperless examination represents a quantum leap forward in the application of new and innovative technologies, which significantly improves the effectiveness and efficiency of civil service testing procedures.

Background

Civil Service in the State of California

The State of California's civil service system was created in 1934. Today, the state civil service system employs 183,477 individuals in 137 departments. Among other functions, the California State Personnel Board was created to be a central control personnel agency responsible for civil service recruitment and examinations. In the past the SPB was responsible for all civil service testing. In 1986, due to budget cuts and orders from the legislature, testing was decentralized to the individual state departments. Departments were now charged with the responsibility to conduct their own examinations, and the State Personnel Board was charged with the responsibility to oversee the process and ensure that all merit system procedures and requirements were met.

Generally, decentralized examinations worked well for department specific classes. Departments enjoyed increased flexibility to identify and prioritize their own examination needs. However, the process did not work well for the large, servicewide classifications utilized throughout state service. The costs to administer these examinations were prohibitive for a single department. Nor was it logical from either the departments' perspective or that of the general public for each department to separately administer virtually identical examinations and create duplicate lists.

For several years, departments did not administer any servicewide exams. As the SPB lists became depleted, it became apparent that something had to be done. The SPB resolved this problem by creating a cost reimbursable examination unit. Departments now have the flexibility to choose their exam provider. Most test for their own, department-specific classifications. The SPB contractually handles the servicewide, sensitive examinations, as well as those where departments do not have the expertise to test. In addition, departments have recently begun contracting with the SPB to provide testing which utilizes new, enhanced technologies.

The Staff Services Analyst Classification

The Staff Services Analyst (SSA) classification is one of the few, large, entry level professional classifications tested for on a open basis in California State civil service. …

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