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Guide to Civil Service Examination Process




To be employed by the Department of Water Resources, or any other State department, an examination must be taken to obtain list eligibility. State civil service exams are open to all regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, disability, religious or political affiliation, age or sexual orientation. California residency is not required, and U.S. citizenship is required only for peace officer jobs.

In accordance with the California state civil service process, becoming a California State employee consists of five steps:

  1. The examination process
  2. Becoming reachable on a list
  3. Locating a vacant position
  4. Participating in a hiring interview
  5. Probation

Step 1: The Examination Process

Before you can be appointed to a permanent position, you must first take an open competitive examination to obtain list eligibility. Examination bulletins specify information that you will need to review to make sure you meet the minimum qualifications so you can apply to take the exam. The examination bulletins also contain information that tells you how, where, and when to file for a particular exam. To find out more on a particular classification, go to the CalHR website, at

Examinations are given by the California Department of Human Resources and by individual state departments. To find out about specific DWR examinations, you can go to the Current Exams webpage. DWR also maintains exam bulletins and has computer access at its Personnel Office located at 1416 9th Street, Room 320 in Sacramento. The California Department of Human Resources maintains information on all examinations and copies of the examination bulletins are available at the California Department of Human Resources, 1515 S Street, North Building, Suite 400, Sacramento, California 95811-7258 or on the California Department of Human Resources website (

To apply for an exam, you must complete a State Application Form (STD 678) submit as indicated on the examination bulletin. State application forms are available from any local Employment Development Department office, any State of California agency and from the State Personnel Board's website indicated above. If your application meets the minimum qualifications, you will be notified of a test date. Late applications will not be accepted.

Step 2: Becoming Reachable on a List

Successful applicants will be placed on eligible lists, which are divided into ranks by score. Only those that are in reachable ranks may be considered for appointment. Reachable ranks are those employees who are in the top three ranks. If a rank is cleared (all candidates in the rank are either hired or no longer available for employment), the next lowest rank is then considered reachable and those candidates can now be considered for appointment.

Step 3: Locating a Vacant Position

Now that you've taken an exam and are reachable, the next step is locating a vacant position. There are many ways to obtain vacancy information.

  • Contact letters may be sent to those candidates that are in reachable ranks for current vacancies. In some cases, because there may be several candidates in the same rank, there is a random computer program that will choose the candidates who will receive a contact letter.
  • The Exams and Vacancy Search Engine available on, is a service provided by the California Department of Human Resources that contains information on current exam bulletins and current vacancies statewide. You may apply for any position advertised in this database for which you have taken and passed the appropriate exam and are in a reachable rank.

    A departmental vacancy listing is available and can be accessed through this website in the Job Vacancies page. Copies of job announcements for vacant positions are also available from the DWR Personnel Office located at 1416 Ninth Street, Room 320, Sacramento.
  • Students may apply for Youth Aid, Student Assistant, Graduate Student Assistant, or Student Assistant (Engineering and Architecture) positions without taking an examination. Additional information regarding student assistant opportunities may be obtained from the Student Employment page.

Step 4: Participate in a Hiring Interview

The examination was general, for an entire class, where the hiring interview is specific to the particular department. One class can offer a wide variety of opportunities. This process is designed to identify the best job/person match for that position only. Before you go to your interview, you should acquaint yourself with the mission and functions of that department and how the job you are interviewing for contributes. The department has the discretion to hire anyone who is certified to them from an employment list. Unless you are offered a job, your name remains on the eligibility list to be considered for other vacancies.

Step 5: Probation

All newly appointed state employees participate in a probation period which is usually 6 or 12 months depending on the job classification. During this time you will receive training related to your position, and will receive three probationary reports/evaluations tracking how well you are doing on the job. Most employees successfully pass the probationary period and become permanent staff. However, those employees who are not doing a good job should expect to be terminated before the end of the probationary period.

For more information about the examination and civil service process you may want to visit the California Department of Human Resources' Job Page or specifically:

General Information

The Department of Water Resources is an equal employment opportunity employer - Equal Opportunity for all regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, disability, religious or political affiliation, age, or sexual orientation.
It is an objective of the State of California to achieve a drug-free workplace. Any applicant for State employment will be expected to behave in accordance with this objective because the use of illegal drugs is inconsistent with the law of the State, the rules governing civil service, and the special trust placed in public servants.