Monday, April 06, 2015

The New Civil Service Exam

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the ease of digitally submitting applications for government employment has led to a virtual tsunami of resumes and cover letters that make it very difficult for managers to identify and hire the best persons for government service*. As one way of fixing the situation, many government agencies are reinstating the Civil Service Examination, which was done away with more than 30 years ago over concerns about fairness and discrimination. According to the article, the updated test, which is administered online, evaluates job applicants' reasoning  and problem-solving skills by "us(ing) animated avatars and videos to simulate challenges" they might face on the job.

Now that's all well and good, and I applaud the government for trying to come up with a good way of identifying and hiring top people. Too bad the test doesn't apply to people running for Congress or the Presidency ... it might help weed out some of the losers that are coming out of the pre-2016 woodwork.

As it happens, I have some ideas on the sorts of questions that ought to be on a civil service exam**.

Because religious conflict is a serious problem in today's world, job applicants should be required to demonstrate knowledge of religious issues. Here's a sample question:

You are a public defender, assigned to defend Adam and Eve against the charge of eating the forbidden fruit. Explain your philosophical strategy to a Hassidic Rabbi, a Sunni Imam, a Buddhist monk, and an Ayatollah, and answer their arguments, using quotations from the Bhagavad Gita, the writings of Martin Luther, and the Book of Mormon to make your points. The response will be scored by an Anglican bishop.

A civil servant should have a firm grasp of economics as well. Here is a possible question to evaluate an applicant's knowledge of economic theory:

Develop a realistic plan for balancing the federal budget, including a detailed strategy for refinancing the national debt. Assuming that at least one of the major political parties will vehemently object to your approach, explain how you will convince them to lend their support. Your numbers need not balance or make sense.

Many civil servants must deal with lawyers representing businesses, special interest groups, and individual aggrieved citizens; therefore, a good aptitude test should evaluate this skill. Here is a possible question:

In Part 2 of Shakespeare's "Henry VI," Jack Cade, the leader of the Populist revolt, proposes that the first order of business following a successful coup d'etat should be to "kill all the lawyers." In light of the present populist mood in the United States, assess the utility and any potential impact of such a policy today.

Although persons applying to the State Department must take the Foreign Service Examination, it is important for persons in other federal departments and agencies to understand the intricacies of foreign affairs. Here is a possible question to evaluate candidates' understanding of foreign issues:

It has recently been suggested that only a foreign war can restore America's lost national consensus. Propose the ideal opponent(s) for the US in such a war, and how the conflict might be engineered so that US would seem not to be the aggressor in the situation.

Those are all good questions, but I think that in the end, the new Civil Service Exam will end up reflecting the philosophy of the party in power.  If the GOP were in control of the presidency and both houses of Congress***, and able to agree among themselves on a coherent program, I suspect that their version of the exam would look something like this :

Thank you for your interest in serving in the wasteful, bloated, and overreaching United States Government. Please indicate by circling "yes" or "no" whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:

1. The Constitution consists of the Second Amendment and some other stuff about government.

2. The Founders clearly stated that the United States would be a 100% Christian nation, and that all other false religions are causes of terrorism.

3. "Climate Change" has absolutely no scientific basis, and people who believe in it are un-American and probably terrorists.

4. The United States is the most exceptional nation ever founded, is a shining example for the rest of the world, is incapable of doing anything wrong, and anyone who says otherwise is a terrorist.

5. Taxes are bad under all circumstances, and could be completely eliminated if the government stopped wasteful spending on useless things like welfare, education, food safety, and environmental protection.

6. Those who disagree with the correct answers to questions 1 through 4 above are terrorists who hate America.

Thank you for taking the Civil Service Examination. If you answered "NO" to any of the questions above, please turn in your answer sheet, leave, and go to Canada or someplace else where your godless socialist ways will be appreciated.

So ...

Those are my thoughts on the Civil Service Exam. What questions would you ask? Inquiring minds want to know, so leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Although why anyone would want to enter government service today - particularly if they are applying for a position requiring a Senate confirmation circus - is beyond me.

** You probably figured that out already, didn't you?



eViL pOp TaRt said...

For some people, they can remember only the first two amendments. Any maybe the fifth one if they are criminals or teen boys in trouble with the principle.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I'm sure the "kill all the lawyers" idea would have some popular support.

Linda Kay said...

Your numbers need not balance or make sense. - Love that!

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer said...

Can you refuse to take this Civil Service Exam on the grounds that it may incriminate you?

Mike said...


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

This all just reminds me of a man I worked with. When 3,000 of us lost our jobs he went to work in gov't. He told me that the people he worked for are more concerned about the font and the paper it is all written on than the actual written word and he just didn't think he could continue to work for such idiots. That made me laugh and he left working in the gov't after 2 yrs when he finally found employment elsewhere. He said it was a lesson in patience and self control. He told me that he felt it was all nonsense about the things that just weren't important and the things that were important were just pushed aside. He wanted to hurt people on any given day he would say. Never forgot that.