Public Sector Employment

Authored by: Rick Jacobs , Donna L. Denning

Handbook of Employee Selection

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138915190
eBook ISBN: 9781315690193
Adobe ISBN:


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Historians often cite the origin of civil service or public sector testing as far back as 2200 bc, when a Chinese emperor used a process of systematic assessment to determine if his officials were fit for office (DuBois, 1970; Frank, 1963). In these early times, individuals were assessed with what might now be labeled job-relevant work samples; they included tests of specific skills such as horsemanship and archery. The Han Dynasty (202 bce to 200 ce) is credited with moving testing from the actual actions required on the job to a surrogate, written format that included five areas of knowledge: civil law, military affairs, agriculture, revenue, and geography (Gregory, 1996). Candidates who were successful in meeting rigorous cutoff scores on local examinations were deemed appropriate to continue with the process of testing at regional and higher levels in the overall process. Thus, in many respects, these ancient tests were prototypes of what has become known generically as civil service examinations or, more generally, public sector testing and can be seen as way to guard against the potential negative consequences of patronage as well as embrace the positive results of having standardization and more accurate indicators of future performance.

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