S P D - Alabama

Department Organization
Classification and Pay Division
Examination Division


The Merit System is based on the concept that public employment should be open to all people on an equal opportunity basis. Competition based on qualifications, ability, and performance determines initial appointment. Subsequent actions, such as promotion, retention, and pay progression are based on job performance. The Examinations Division is charged with the responsibility to test and rank eligible applicants, i.e., to surface the best qualified, available applicants to fill state job vacancies from those who apply. The Manager of this Division reports directly to the Personnel Director. The Division consists of industrial/organizational psychologists, professional analysts, personnel assistants, and support staff.

Job Announcements

As mentioned earlier a document called a "specification" provides a general description of each type of job. The specification is used as a framework from which the job announcement is constructed. When an agency or department has a job vacancy that needs to be filled and an adequate employment register of eligible applicants does not exist, a request is submitted in letter form to the State Personnel Director asking for the administration of the examination. The first step of that process is the creation of the job announcement. Analysts perform an analysis of the job. The job analysis study will enable the analysts to review the essential functions and duties of the job, and to determine what knowledge, skills, and abilities are necessary for the individual to be able to perform these essential functions and duties. A major purpose of the job analysis function is to satisfy existing legal requirements concerning selection practices. The job analysis must be performed according to established criteria before the announcement can be published.


In State Personnel, when the term "test" is used, it is actually referring to any objective method or device used to evaluate and rank job applicants for further employment screening. A variety of methods are used by the State Personnel Department Examination Division to rank applicants. To name a few -- written tests, evaluations of training and experience, oral interviews, performance tests, and assessment center techniques such as job simulations, in-basket exercises, hypothetical scenario analysis, role plays, video taping assignment, etc. The purpose of these types of employment tests is to surface the best candidates from among all those who apply for a given job.

Examinations are announced on either a current or continuous recruitment basis.

A current examination is one which is opened for recruitment with a specific closing date for the submission of applications. This type of exam is open for a specified period of time. The State Personnel Department, however, may accommodate requests by an agency to extend this period for recruitment efforts if such request is made prior to the publishing of the announcement. Each applicant who has applied or asked for an examination notice for that classification is sent an examination announcement notice which contains the examination date and other specifics of the job such as salary, required education and experience, as well as the type of work to be performed. Applications are first examined to determine where minimum qualifications have been met. Only those meeting the required minimum education and experience qualifications go on to take the examination.

A continuous examination is one which is announced without a definite closing date. Applications can be accepted at any time and examinations are administered periodically during the year. Applications received from candidates who meet the minimum qualifications are scheduled for an upcoming continuous examination.

Merit system examinations can be open for application on an open-competitive or promotional basis. An open-competitive examination is open to all qualified applicants. A promotional examination is open only to state employees who are in job classifications that are in line for promotion.

The process of developing public-sector selection devices is legally and technically complex. There exist standards adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) called the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (i.e., Uniform Guidelines) that define the validity of selection devices.

A "typical" content validation process begins with a sound job analysis wherein the content of the job is defined by a group of subject matter experts (SMEs). Normally, during this process, a list of job "task" statements are generated, and a list of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are determined that are deemed necessary to perform the list of job tasks. After the testable KSAs have been isolated, test item construction begins. Test items measure important KSAs, which have themselves been linked to critical job tasks.

The process of content validation is the process by which the employment test and necessary job knowledge, skills and abilities are linked. This ensures that an applicant taking the examination will be evaluated by a selection procedure that is related to job performance.


The first screen through which the applicant must pass is the minimum job qualifications. This is an initial cut in which each applicant's work experience and education as shown on the application form is compared to the qualifications required by the examination announcement notice. A determination is made as to whether the applicant "does" or "does not" meet the announced minimum requirements. If an application does not reveal that the candidate possesses the work experience or education required by the announcement notice they are eliminated from further consideration.

The second screen is the test itself. Candidates may fail to pass the test. Applicants failing the test are eliminated from further consideration for employment at that time. If the exam is on continuous recruitment, an applicant may reapply and retest after nine months.

The third screen is the certification process. According to law, an agency must choose among the top ten available candidates as ranked by their test score. This means applicants must score well enough on the test to rank among the top ten available candidates. Just passing the test is not in itself a guarantee that an applicant will be hired or promoted.

The fourth screen is the responsibility of the hiring agency and includes the interview, reference check, and work history check. For some law enforcement jobs research of previous law violations and/or a drug test is also required. In other jobs, special requirements such as physical agility tests may also be part of this fourth screen considered by the hiring agency.

Certification Division
Payroll and Personnel Audit Division
Information Technology Division
Training Division
Legal Division
Administrative Law Division