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What Happens Next After You Pass the Civil Service Exam?

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The civil service exam is a requirement for appointment to several state and federal government jobs. Taking the exam and receiving a passing score is not a guarantee that a job will be secured; it simply means that you might be eligible to be appointed to a position. Competing for government jobs requires a high enough test score to generate interest letters from agencies with open positions, as well as a successful interview.

Eligibility List

Once the civil service exam is taken, scores are calculated and mailed to candidates. An eligibility list is comprised of all of the candidates who received a passing score. Candidates are ranked according to the score they receive, and a higher score translates to a higher rank on the list. Those who receive identical scores are given the same rank. For example, if 11 candidates receive a score of 85 and five candidates receive a score of 95, the five candidates are given a rank of one, and the 11 candidates are given a rank of two.

Canvass Letters

Government agencies send out canvass letters to candidates on the eligibility list in order of rank. The canvass letter indicates what type of position is available and asks candidates to indicate their interest. Candidates are free to state that they are not interested, or they may go ahead and indicate they would like to pursue the position. The canvass letter will usually have a return deadline. If candidates first decline interest in a particular agency or position, they are able to re-activate their names by contacting the appropriate department.


The agency that is hiring will typically receive the canvass letters and interview the candidates who are interested in the position. If candidates ranked at the top decline interest in the position, the agency will continue moving down the eligibility list. Candidates who successfully complete the interview process may be appointed to the position if they wish to continue pursuing the opportunity. Some candidates find that the position may not be a good fit for them after completing an interview.


Once candidates are appointed to a position, their names are taken off the eligibility list. Candidates who decline canvass letters or positions after an interview may elect to keep their names on the lists for up to four years. Names may be taken off the list if positions are declined, however. Removal from the eligibility list may occur by type of position, government agency or geographical location.


Helen Akers specializes in business and technology topics. She has professional experience in business-to-business sales, technical support, and management. Akers holds a Master of Business Administration with a marketing concentration from Devry University's Keller Graduate School of Management and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles.

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