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The Complete Guide to Getting a Job With the State of California

The Complete Guide to Getting a State of California Job

This is a guide to help you get a job with the State of California. In order to gain employment with the State, you’re going to need to follow several steps. The State of California's hiring process can be a little confusing, but this guide should help you get started. There are a lot of great resources online (like the California Job Blog). The CalHR and CalCareers websites are full of good information about the requirements for positions and the hiring process.
  1. Examination
  2. Eligibility
  3. Vacancies
  4. Apply
  5. Interview
  6. Clearances
  7. Notes

1. Take the examination

The first step in starting your career with the State of California is to take an examination. An exam is how you obtain eligibility for a classification. There are a few exceptions (described below) but for most people an exam is where the hiring process begins.  All hiring for California State Jobs is merit-based, and merit is determined through the examination process.

The type of exam you are applying for may include any of the following: written tests, oral interviews, supplemental written exams, performance tests, or education and experience evaluations. The type of exam you are taking will depend on the classification and the agency administering the exam.

There are a number of exams that are available to complete online, and there some you can register for online, but take in person. Paper applications submitted through the mail are still pretty common.


  • Before you can apply for or take an exam online, you need to create your CalCareer account. Your CalCareer account gives you the outlet and the verification necessary to take an exam. After you've taken an exam, you will need this account to apply for open jobs. Get started with that in our post How to Create A CalCareer Account.

  • Exceptions. There are a few jobs that are considered non-testing classifications. This means you don’t need to take an exam before you can apply. Student Assistants are an example of a non-testing class. If you worked for the State in a certain classification, passed probation but then either left the State or transferred into a new position, you have reinstatement eligibility. If you work in a classification and successfully pass probation, you are considered “permanent” and retain the right to return to that classification without having to re-examine. If you currently work for the state and want to transfer departments, you have transfer eligibility. To transfer departments but stay in the same classification, you don’t need to have already passed probation.

  • Lateral Transfer. It’s also possible to transfer to a different classification that is very similar to your current classification in terms of pay, responsibilities and scope of duties. This can be a lateral transfer. The department you are seeking a transfer to makes the determination if you are eligible. Indicate on your State Application (STD 678) and that you are applying using Transfer Eligibility.

  • Exam Bulletins. A bulletin specifies how to apply, and the Minimum Qualifications (MQ’s) you must meet to participate in the exam. The bulletin will have the date you need to apply by and where to send your application. Exam bulletins can be found online at CalCareers ( On the front page of the CalCareer website you can search for an exam for a specific classification in the Exam/Assessment Search field.

  • For exam and job bulletins, read them thoroughly. They often have special instructions for how to submit an application and/or additional documents that you’ll need to submit.

  • Submit your application. Many exams require applications to submit a State Application Form (STD 678). You can find the State Application on the CalCareers website (search for “Std. 678”) or by clicking here. The State Application was updated in July 2019. Make sure you are using the most up-to-date version.

    You can print a blank application and fill it out by hand or download it and fill it out on your computer to print. However, when you create an account on CalCareers, you can fill out your application once in the Job Applications section and have it available to update or print whenever you need. You can even create and store up to 10 templates. Also, through your CalCareer account, you can submit an application electronically. The State is moving away from paper, and electronic application submissions are becoming more common.

  • Read the exam bulletin carefully. Some exams can be completed online (such as Training and Experience Evaluations). Also, some exams are available for self-scheduling online through your CalCareer account. Online exams are also becoming more prevalent. The very popular Office Technician and Associate Governmental Program Analyst exams are available to complete electronically and on a continuous basis.

  • For exams that you can self-schedule, pay attention to the date and time that scheduling becomes available. If the exam format is in-person, space is limited and it’s not uncommon for spots to fill up fast. If it is an exam that hasn’t been offered in a while, it’s a good idea to be online, logged in and ready to register as soon as scheduling opens up.

  • Take the test. If you submitted a paper application, it will be reviewed by an analyst in the department’s HR office. If it meets the minimum qualifications for the classification, and it was submitted according to the instructions in the exam bulletin, an acknowledgement that the application was accepted, and notice of a test date will be sent to you.

    If it is an online exam, you will begin by completing an electronic questionnaire to determine if you meet the requirements for the position. If your application is rejected based on a determination that you do not meet the minimum qualifications, you will be notified as well. For paper applications you’ll be emailed or sent a letter telling you this, and if it is an electronic application, you’ll be notified instantly.

  • Conditions of Employment. Once you’ve created and are signed in to your CalCareer account, you will see a tab on the left labeled Exam/Assessment Records. Here you can see all the exams you have taken and the score you received. If you click on the List Code of an exam you have taken you will see a section titled Conditions of Employment. In this section you should double-check that the county of the position you applied for is checked is the Locations section. If you are interested in applying for a position in a county that is not checked, you will need to make this adjustment first. Similarly, you will need to double-check the Tenure/Timebase tab. If you are applying for a Part-Time position, but you only have Full-Time checked, you will need to change it.

  • Other options in the Conditions of Employment section include limited-term or permanent. Limited-term appointments can end at any time. When a position is marked as Limited Term, it’ll tell you the length of the appointment. Usually it is 12 or 24 months, with 24 being the max. But, Limited Term positions are not guaranteed to last any amount of time and could end sooner than 12 months. However, LT positions also have a chance of becoming Permanent at some point. You can check if you’d like to be considered for Limited Term, Permanent or both.

  • Results. If you took an exam online, your results will be available for you to see as soon as you finish. If you took the exam in person, your results will appear in a couple of weeks. The department giving the exam will score it and then upload the results on the job website, which you’ll be able to view from within your CalCareer account. Results might also be mailed to you around the same time. In order to move forward in the process, you must have successfully passed the exam and scored high enough to be reachable on an eligible list.

Read More in our article Overview of the State of California Exam Process.

2. List Eligibility

State eligibility lists are divided into ranks by exam score. All candidates achieving the same score are placed together in the same rank. For most classifications, only those candidates in the top three ranks are "reachable" and may be considered for appointment to a classification. Don’t be discouraged if your score places you lower than the third rank. As candidates are hired, become unavailable or decline a position, the ranks are “cleared” and the lower ranks move up. For example, the fourth rank will become rank three when the candidates from rank one are cleared. Once rank four moves up to rank three, the candidates in that group become reachable.


  • The State of California operates a great program called Veterans' Preference. Through this program, a qualified veteran can automatically be placed in the top rank if they pass an exam. Veterans' Preference isn't applicable to every classification and it is limited to those entering state service for the first time. We encourage all members of the military to take advantage of this program. Read more about Veterans' Preference on the California Job Blog.

3. Locate a Vacant Position

Once you’ve taken an exam and become eligible on a list, you’ve completed the first step in the hiring process. The next step after gaining eligibility is to find and apply for vacant positions.


  • Job Opportunity Bulletins are often posted in a department’s human resources office, but for a complete listing of Statewide vacancies you’re going to want to go online. At the CalCareers website you’ll see a search box with Search all job openings by Job Title/Keyword. If you know what you’re looking for, enter it here. If you use the Advanced Job Search option, you can use a number of different criteria to narrow your job search down. You can search by the specific job classification you are interested in, geographic region (Sacramento County in the Location field, for example), or department.

    You can find an entire article about How to Search for State Jobs on the California Job Blog. This article will help you navigate your job search and narrow down the opportunities you're interested in and qualified for.

  • Remember, you must have eligibility before you can apply for a vacancy. If you don’t know exactly what kind of job you’re looking for yet, a lot of people start by doing a geographical job search. If you start by searching for what is in the area you'd like to work, you can start to narrow down what classifications you might be suitable for. You can also start by searching for available exams near you, because taking the exam is the first and most important step.

  • Contact letters are standard form correspondence sent to candidates in reachable ranks for current vacancies. After you have successfully completed an exam you may automatically start receiving contact letters from State agencies. Contact letters (or more likely contact emails) are the standard recruitment process when a department posts a vacant position.

  • You won’t receive contact letters for a county you haven’t selected for in the Conditions of Employment tab we discussed earlier. Make sure the county you want to work is selected as one of your locations. Similarly, you won’t receive contact letters for Limited Term positions, if you’ve only selected that you’re interested in Permanent.

  • If you're looking for a specific position, generally looking for a position in a specific location or any other combination of factors, you can sign up for notifications. These notifications let you know when the exact job you're looking for becomes available. Follow our guide for creating tailored notifications in your CalCareer account

  • Contact letters include classification, location, and instructions on how to apply. You may not always receive a contact letter, though, so it’s important to be proactive in your job search. You can’t rely solely on these letters to learn about positions you have examined for or vacancies you might be interested in. You should be active in your job search and applying often. We strongly believe in a "10-10-1" rule. For every 10 applications you submit, you might be invited for 1 interview and you might have to go on 10 interviews to receive 1 job offer. If you do the math that might be 100 applications you have do before you get a job. This isn’t a steadfast rule, but it’s not unheard of for common and entry level classifications with the State of California.

4. Apply

In the coming years you will see more departments accepting the State Application (STD 678) exclusively in its electronic form, but for now applications can generally be submitted in paper also. Your application can be submitted to the address in the job advertisement or dropped off at the hiring department’s HR office. The advertisement will have all the information you need to apply, including contact information for HR staff if you have any questions. The job posting should have a duty statement attached to it. If it doesn’t, you’re entitled to request one. There are many important things you need to do when filling out your application. Below you will find some tips for filling out a state application.


  • Make sure you check the address for where the application should go if you are mailing it in. For a lot of smaller offices outside of Sacramento applications are sent to the department’s headquarters.

  • Make sure you meet the Minimum Qualifications and have eligibility for the classification that you are applying for. It is the applicant’s responsibility to make sure they meet the minimum qualifications and have eligibility before submitting an application.

  • Pay close attention to the Final Filing Date listed in the official announcement. Applications received after this date will not be accepted.

  • Applications are a legal document and must have an original signature. Applications without an original signature are likely to be rejected by the hiring unit. Electronic applications are different.

  • Include all work history and the duties you performed. The information provided in this section is how the analyst reviewing your application will determine if you are qualified for the position or not. Simply taking an exam does not make you qualified, and it is your responsibility to provide a complete and accurate work history. Eligibility and minimum qualifications are separate requirements and applicants must meet both to be invited for an interview.

  • Don’t skip the part of the application that asks for the names and phone numbers of former supervisors. Hiring managers will be calling these people, so make sure the information is up to date. You cannot get a job with the State without reference checks. Even if you are transferring or promoting within State Service it’s probable that your references will be called.

  • Many jobs with the State of California, including Office Technician and Office Assistant, require a typing certification. The typing certification states that the applicant can typing at a rate of at least 40 words per minute with 3 or fewer mistakes. You can apply for these jobs before you obtain a typing certificate. However, if you are selected for an interview, you'll probably have to provide the original at that time. The CA Job Blog has an article on The State Of California Typing Test.

  • Make sure you include the position and Job Control numbers (JC-xxxxx) you are applying for on your application. If you interested in multiple vacancies, you must submit a separate application for each one. Applications for multiple classifications will not be accepted by the hiring unit. The JC or position number is very important. Large departments may have multiple vacancies posted for the same classification. Make sure it’s obvious the department you are applying which specific posting you’d like to be considered for.

  • Make sure your eligibility is clearly stated on your application. If you currently work in the classification you are applying for but at another facility, you must indicate that you have Transfer Eligibility. If you took an exam, you must indicate that you have list eligibility. Also, if you are applying for a Training and Development (T&D) assignment, you must write this on your application.

  • There are sometimes additional documents that are required to be submitted with your application. This can include a copy of a professional license, a Statement of Qualifications or a resume. We have an article Additional Documents For Your Application Package with more information.

5. Participate in a hiring interview

After you have submitted your application but before an interview is scheduled, the selection analyst will go over every detail of your application to make sure it is complete and all the qualification and eligibility requirements are met. If the classification you are applying for requires a specific license, they will check that yours is active and valid. If all the requirements are met, you’ll be notified of the date and time of your interview. Please read the notification completely and be aware that it may ask to bring additional documents like a license, diploma or certificate to your interview.


  • Hiring departments must give you at least 10 days’ notice for a selection interview. They must also provide a duty statement if you request it.

  • Interviews for positions with the state of California are done before a panel most of the time. This means there will be at least 2 people conducting the interview.

  • Interviewers must be completely neutral. Don’t expect to see a nodding, smiling face looking back at you. But don’t take it personally. This is a safeguard to ensure that no candidate gets an unfair advantage.

  • Arrive to your interview at least 10 minutes early. There will be paperwork to complete. Hiring departments do notice if you are late, and they do have the right to cancel your interview.

  • If you are not selected for the position following your interview, you will receive a notification in a couple of weeks. Your name will remain on the eligible list to be considered for other vacancies. Your application will not be retained by the hiring agency, and you should resubmit it for future vacancies.

  • If you were selected for a vacancy following your interview, the hiring process begins, and the HR office will start working on your pre-employment clearances. Pre-employment clearances are different across the State’s agencies.

  • Interviews are a competitive process used to determine the best fitting candidate for a particular position. If you weren’t selected it doesn’t mean the panel thought you couldn’t do the job or wouldn’t be successful in the classification. You just weren’t the right person at the right time. Don’t hesitate to apply for the same classification with the department again. The next time around you might be the ideal person for the job.

Read More in The California Job Blog's in-depth article about How to Ace A State Interview.

6. Pre-Employment Clearances

Every potential State of California employee is required to complete a series of pre-employment clearances before they can be appointed to a position. Each department has their own clearances, and certain classifications have special requirements. These clearances may include:
  • Reference checks are generally required for every potential State employee. If you are employed, your current supervisor will probably be contacted, even if you already for the department.

  • Fingerprints. A lot of departments require potential employees to submit to fingerprinting as part of a criminal record background check.

  • Physical. A pre-employment physical is required by some departments. For some classifications this may include drug screening. If they don't require a full physical, most departments require appointees to complete a health evaluation form prior to employment.

  • Employment Eligibility Verification. Form I-9 is used to verify an applicant’s identity and employment authorization. This is an across-the-board requirement for State of California Jobs.

7.Additional Information

The hiring process for the State of California can be very confusing at times. Below you will find some notes and tips to help navigate this frustrating process. There are a lot of resources available at CalCareer and the California Job Blog.
  • Follow up time. After you submit an application for an exam or vacancy, it could be up to a month before you receive any kind of response. The same is true following an interview. The hiring process can be lengthy, but be patient and feel free to follow up with the hiring department if it’s been more than a month.

  • More on references. One of the few things candidates can do to help speed up the hiring process is to provide complete and up to date reference information. Remember, you can’t be hired without reference checks so be sure the supervisors and phone numbers listed on your application are accurate. Even if they no longer work for the organization it is generally OK to use as references. It’s always a good idea to give your references a heads up if you haven’t been in touch with them for a while.

  • Non-Testing Classes. There are a few classifications that are non-testing. For these classes you can skip the examination and eligibility portions of this guide and go right to looking for vacant positions. Some of these classes are: Seasonal Clerk, Park Aid, Student Assistant and Pre-Licensed Psychiatric Technician (PLPT).

  • More on Eligibility. This guide has focused on list eligibility earned from an exam, but eligibility for a classification can be obtained in a number of ways. If you are currently permanent in a classification – meaning you have passed probation – you are eligible to laterally transfer. Make sure you indicate “Transfer Eligibility” on your application. If you were permanent in a classification and left state service you have reinstatement eligibility. You still need to apply and complete the hiring process, but you don’t need to take an exam.

Thanks for reading!

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  1. Thank you for this helpful information guide. Hopefully they will find me qualified and hireable for the position I'm applying for.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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