In 1871 the Federal Civil Service was established, and by 1909 most positions required an examination, a method designed to promote merit based selection in government service. Today this federal practice is no longer common, but many states in the US continue to use Civil Service Exams for competitive positions. Although I cannot claim to know about the process of every state, I recently went through part of the Civil Service process for my current state of residence: New Jersey. In NJ, most state and some county positions require a Civil Service examination. The good news is that just like applications for federal jobs, there is veteran’s preference on all NJ Civil Service exams, which places all veteran applicants at the top of the list before all non-veterans – this is not to say you should not be concerned about doing well on the test, especially because many applicants will certainly be able to claim veteran status themselves, but it is a distinct advantage in the highly competitive process where some applicants may be scoring in the high 90s. This is known as absolute veteran’s preference, as all qualified veteran applicants in the NJ CSC process are placed ahead of non-veterans on the candidate list after results are posted.
The process itself, although time consuming and agonizingly slow for someone eager to work, is fairly simple. First you must apply for a open job announcement. These can be found on the main NJ CSC site at: http://www.nj.gov/csc/seekers/jobs/announcements/. For those interested in careers in Law Enforcement or Firefighting, more generalized testing is available through http://www.nj.gov/csc/seekers/jobs/safety/. The next step is to wait for an official mail notification, as this is generally how the Civil Service Commission prefers to communicate. You will receive a testing notice about 2-3 weeks before the test date. On your notice there will be testing related information, but the most important thing is to take note of the time and place, and ensure you are there early, as many exams do not permit tardiness. All you need to bring is ID, your testing notice (Do not sign it until you are in the presence of your proctor) and several no. 2 pencils. You are also permitted to bring a calculator, provided it is a very basic one without memory functions. I recommend that you leave your phone in your car, as any sound from your phone including vibrations can be a reason to be kicked out of the exam.
Passing an exam and having veteran’s preference does not guarantee job placement – but it helps. The CSC will release test results via mail, and the list can also be found on the CSC website using your “test symbol” on your exam slip: http://info.csc.state.nj.us/EligibleLists/. At this point any departments with the job code you tested for may submit a request for candidates to CSC, and the candidates are sent back to the department based on their “rank” on the eligibility list, which is based on score, with all veteran candidates listed first. When I took my exam, there were hundreds of candidates testing for what looked to be a very specialized job announcement, and I can only imagine the numbers that show up for the Law Enforcement exam, so having veteran’s preference can really make a difference! For anyone in NJ interested in pursuing state work through these means, I wish you luck.
by Bradley Hood
In Military Education Contributor
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