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ARE FORMAL CIVIL SERVICE EXAMINATIONS THE MOST MERITOCRATIC WAY TO RECRUIT CIVIL SERVANTS? NOT IN ALL COUNTRIES

Journal article
Authors Anders Sundell
Published in Public Administration
Volume 92
Issue 2
Pages 440-457
ISSN 0033-3298
Publication year 2014
Published at Quality of Government Institute (QoG)
Department of Political Science
Pages 440-457
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1111/padm.12077
Subject categories Political Science

Abstract

Recruitment to the civil service is, in order to prevent patronage, often centralized and based on performance in competitive examinations. This approach, albeit slow and occasionally cumbersome, is generally assumed to be the most meritocratic method of recruitment. However, while some applicants may have skills suited for a specific position, they may not perform best in a general examination. As long as the system is not abused, a more flexible recruitment process based on, for example, interviews and CV screening, may be more meritocratic. It is therefore necessary to weigh the risk of abuse against the potential gains from more flexibility. Formal civil service examinations are hypothesized in this article to be the most meritocratic way to recruit civil servants only in countries where the risk for patronage is high. Analysis of a dataset describing the structures and characteristics of bureaucracies worldwide lends support to the hypothesis.

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