Personnel – Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do I have to be a Schoharie County resident to take a civil service examination?
A. Most examinations do not require that you be a Schoharie County resident, however some do. Residence information is listed on each examination announcement. Some municipalities have residence requirements for employment, so even though you may not need to be a resident to take the examination, you may need to be a resident to be considered for appointment.

Q. How can I tell when a particular test will be given by the County?
A. Not all examinations are held on a regular basis. Examinations are prepared and scheduled by the NYS Civil Service Commission. The Schoharie County Department of Personnel requests examinations to be scheduled based on the number of positions, the length of the current eligible list, the age of the list and the turnover of employees within the title. Eligible lists are valid for a minimum period of one year from the date of establishment and up to four years at the discretion of the Personnel Officer. In order to find out if a specific examination is being offered at the current time, you may check on the schedule of announced examinations on our website or call our telephone information line at 295-8374.

Q. How can I obtain information on particular civil service examinations?
A. Announcements for Schoharie County Civil Service examinations are publicized on this website. Printed copies are also available in all County and municipal buildings. The Department of Personnel and Civil Service, on the third floor of the County Office Building at 284 Main Street in Schoharie may be accessed during office hours (9:00am-5:00pm, Monday – Friday). Exam applications are available in the office or on this site.

Q. Is there an application fee?
A. There is a non-refundable application processing fee for each examination. The amount of the fee depends on the type of examination and is listed on each examination announcement. The application filing fee may be in the form of cash, check/money order made payable to Schoharie County Personnel, and must accompany your application. Please include the exam number on check/money order. Mailing address: PO Box 675, Schoharie, NY 12157.

Q. Can I take more than one examination on a test date?
A. The NYS Civil Service Commission prepares the examinations in such a manner that you can participate in more than one examination on the same day even if it is for different jurisdictions. All examinations scheduled for the same date for which you have been approved must be taken on the same day at one testing center. An application must be completed for each examination. It is the candidate’s responsibility to notify our department if you are taking exams in a different municipality. If you are approved to take a NYS Civil Service exam on the same day as a local exams, all are to be taken at the NYS testing site.

Q. Is the experience required in the minimum qualifications always full-time?
A. Unless specifically stated otherwise, the number of years of experience in the minimum qualifications is based upon the presumption of full-time, paid experience. Full-time employment is defined as 37.5+ hours per week. Appropriate part-time experience may be pro-rated if this is announced.

Q. Are study materials available?
A. For some examinations, the NYS Civil Service Commission develops study guides. If a study guide is provided for an examination, this is listed on the exam announcement. The NYS Civil Service Commission advises applicants to use the “Subjects of Examination” section of the announcement as a guide for studying. Some materials may be available through public libraries or public employee unions; however, we can make no recommendation on the quality or usefulness of such materials.

Q. What are “special arrangements”?
A. “Special arrangements” refer to requests for examination assistance with regard to scheduling or specialized testing needs. Candidates who meet the alternate test date criteria should provide the appropriate documentation with the exam application. Those candidates who require specialized assistance should submit the appropriate documentation detailing the assistance needed. Candidates who request accommodation for reason of religious accommodation must file documentation signed by their religious advisor or a sworn affidavit of your own attesting to your need for religious accommodation.

Q. Are examinations ever canceled?
A. As the NYS Civil Service Commission schedules examinations on a statewide basis, it is very rare for one to be canceled. In case of weather or other emergency, candidates will be notified accordingly.

Q. Do I have to be a United States citizen in order to be employed in civil service?
A. Unless otherwise stated on the examination announcement or job specification, you do not have to be a citizen. You must be legally able to work in the United States.

Q. I filed for an examination, but I haven’t heard…
A. Notices to appear for a written test are typically received in the mail at least three days before the Saturday on which the test is being held. If you have not received your notice to appear by then, call us at (518)295-8374.
Disqualification notices are usually sent out much sooner. If you have been disqualified, follow the instructions on your notice if you believe you have additional, relevant information regarding your qualifications.

Q. Where are the tests held?
A. Typically, exams are held in the Schoharie County Office Building. The site for your particular examination will be printed on your admission notice.

Q. What is a provisional appointment?
A. A provisional appointment is a temporary appointment to a competitive class position for which no eligible list currently exists or for which an eligible list exists with fewer than three candidates who are willing to accept the position being offered. In order to become permanent, the employee who is provisionally appointed must take the next examination for the position in question. The appointment to the position is then made from among the three highest scoring candidates who indicate their willingness to accept the position. Civil Service law does not compel the appointing authority to choose the provisional employee should he or she be one of the three candidates.

Types of examinations:

Q. What are the examinations like?
A. State civil service exams may consist of a written, oral and/or performance test, an evaluation of education, training and experience, or a combination of these. The exam announcement will indicate which type of test(s) will be given. The majority of written tests use multiple choice questions, and they are usually held on Saturdays in locations throughout the State. A booklet “How to Take a Written Test” is available for individuals applying for entry-level jobs.

Q. What is the difference between an open-competitive and promotional examination?
A. Open-competitive examinations can be taken by individuals who demonstrate that they meet the minimum educational and experience qualifications cited on the examination announcement. Promotional examinations are limited to current permanent employees who meet the service requirement cited on the announcement. It is possible for current employees to take an examination both open-competitively and promotionally, and appear on both lists if they pass the examination. Candidates on promotional lists are canvassed before open-competitive lists when both lists exist for a title.

Q. What is a training and experience examination?
A. A Training and Experience examination is a method of testing whereby a candidate receives a test score based on the information contained in the submitted application and/or a questionnaire which is sent to eligible candidates. The score is calculated from weights given to various factors of education (training) and experience.

Q. What is written & performance?
A. The examination is done in two phases. First the candidate is required to take a written test. Second is a performance evaluation. Two examples of performance evaluations include typing tests and tests of physical agility.

After you take an exam:

Q. Who uses Schoharie County Civil Service Lists?
A. Eligible lists established by the Schoharie County Department of Personnel & Civil Service are used to fill vacancies in competitive class titles in Schoharie County governmental departments, schools, towns, villages, and special districts.

Q. What is an appointing authority?
A. An Appointing Authority refers to the position in a unit of government that is the hiring authority, i.e. a department head in the County of Schoharie, the mayor of a village, the supervisor of a town or the superintendent of a school district within the County.

Q. How can I review my test?
A. Some exam questions are open to review after the test is held. This is called “pre-rating review” and you must request this review at the test site when you finish your examination. You will be able to see the questions and the tentative answers, but not your answer sheet. This is the forum in which to challenge what you may consider to be an inappropriate question and/or answer. Some exams are not open to review. After you receive your score, you may have the option to request a computational review, in which you will be able to review a copy of your answer sheet and the final answer key, but not the test questions. Directions for requesting a computational review are included with the grade notification.

Q. How long will it take to get my score?
A. The NYS Civil Service Commission scores most examinations. Eligible lists are established, on average, within three months after the examination date.

Q. How is my examination scored? What is band-scoring?
A. The NYS Civil Service Commission designs, prepares and scores the civil service examinations used by the Schoharie County Department of Personnel & Civil Service. Effective June 1996, the NYS Civil Service Commission expanded the use of a scoring methodology called “band-scoring”, which groups similar scores together. Band-scoring facilitates the assessment of candidate performance on written tests in a more realistic manner than the traditional individualized scoring formulas and is used for both open-competitive and promotional examinations. In band-scoring methodology for open-competitive examinations, the number of correct answers (the raw score) determines which band is applied. An individual band-scoring table is prepared for each examination. The typical scoring formula used in promotional examinations adds seniority credits to the raw score before the band is applied. Veteran’s credits are added after the band has been applied in both open-competitive and promotional exams. Neither seniority nor veteran’s credits can be used to bring a failing raw score up to a passing score.

Q. I’ve received my score, what happens next? How is the eligible list used?
A. When a vacancy exists, agencies may request our office send out “canvass letters” to eligible candidates to enough high scoring eligibles to fill their jobs. A canvass letter is an inquiry into your interest in the job and its location, and your availability. Canvass letters are not job offers. If you receive a canvass letter, do not leave your present employment. Return the canvass letter by the return date if you are interested in the job. If you return the canvass letter late, your name will not be considered for that vacancy; however, your name will remain active for future canvasses. While the law does not require agencies to canvass or conduct interviews, in most cases they do. Agencies are required to hire from the eligible list according to the rule of three (see next question). If you are undecided about accepting a particular canvass inquiry, you should indicate that you are interested in being interviewed. If you are called for an interview and after you have found out more about the job, you can always decline. A declination will then restrict you from appointment from that canvass only.

Q. What is the “rule of three?”
A. All candidates at the highest score are immediately eligible for consideration for appointment. Candidates at lower scores can only be considered when there are fewer than 3 candidates at the highest score. Any candidate’s eligibility for appointment depends not only on his or her rank, but also how many other candidates are tied at that and higher level ranks. The following two examples illustrate how this might work:

Example One:

Score: No. of Candidates at
this Score:
Rank of Candidates at
this Score:
100 1 1
95 1 2
90 1 3

In this case all three candidates at all three scores and ranks are equally eligible to be appointed.

Example Two:

Score: No. of Candidates at
this Score:
Rank of Candidates at
this Score:
100 10 1-10
95 10 11-20
90 10 21-30

In this case, only the ten candidates at score 100 and rank 1 – 10 are eligible for appointment. If, however, through hiring or declinations the number of interested candidates at 100 is reduced to 2, then all 10 candidates at the score 95 (rank 11 – 20) can also be considered. Only if there were only 2 or fewer candidates at the scores of 100 and 95 (ranks 1 – 20) can any of the 10 candidates at the 90 score be considered.

Q. How long does an eligible list stay in existence?
A. In accordance with the New York State Civil Service Law, an eligible list must remain in existence for one year from the date of its establishment or until there are no candidates left who are willing to accept appointment, whichever occurs first. The Personnel Officer may extend the list beyond one year to a maximum of four years. A new examination in the title may be requested and held at any time during the life of an existing eligible list. It is the responsibility of the candidate on the existing list to keep abreast of the examination schedule and to apply for and participate in the new examination. At the time of establishment of the new list, a decision is made on whether or not to allow the existing list (over one year of age) to continue or to replace it with the new list. Generally, the “old” list is discontinued upon the establishment of the new list. In the event the old list is continued, the new list “supplements” the old list until a predetermined date. The old list is used first.

Q. What happens if I change my address?
A. Candidates are responsible for notifying this office, in writing, of a change of address.

Q. Will I get the job if I get the highest score?
A. If you are the top scorer you might be considered for the job, but having a high score does not guarantee that you will be hired. (See the “rule of three”.) The canvass and interview are equally important parts of the selection process. If you are interested, return your canvass letter promptly and do your best to make a good impression during the interview. The interview is also an opportunity for you to learn if this is the job for you.

Q. What is a probationary appointment?
A. The probationary period is a time when new employees must prove themselves capable of doing the job for which they were hired. The probationary term is a period of not less than eight (8) weeks, or more than fifty two (52) weeks for most open-competitive positions. Promotion appointments and transfers have different probationary periods.

Veterans and seniority credits:

Q. What are seniority points?
A. Civil Service Law requires that due consideration be given to seniority on promotion examinations for candidates who are permanent employees of the participating appointing authority. Seniority points are added to passing scores only. The formula for awarding seniority points is listed on the examination announcement.

Q. What are veterans credits?
A. In accordance with the New York State Constitution, veterans of the armed forces, as defined by New York State Law, are entitled to additional points to be added to a passing score. The Application for Veterans Credits may be found in the Forms section on the Home Page.

Q. What is the Role of Civil Service?
A. The Department of Personnel and Civil Service was created in Schoharie County to provide for a departmental branch charged specifically with the responsibility for the administration of New York State Civil Service Law, Rules, and Regulations for all political sub-divisions within the boundaries of Schoharie County. The Department of Civil Service plays a key role in local government human resource management by describing the nature of work to be performed in each job, the skills, abilities and responsibilities they encompass and the minimum abilities needed to perform the work. Civil Service Law empowers this department to classify all local positions, prepare job specifications and to create and maintain a classification plan. The Department of Personnel and Civil Service also plays a central role in the recruitment of qualified candidates for local positions. Civil Service Law requires that competitive class positions be filled through competitive examination of candidates and ranking based upon merit and fitness.