Oral Examinations

Some county positions require that candidates take an oral examination. You may wonder what this means and what will happen. Oral examinations administered by the New Castle County Office of Human Resources are not employment interviews - the oral examination is a test. You take this examination before a board of raters. These raters ask every candidate the same basic questions. They rate you according to a structured guide. An employment or selection interview, on the other hand, usually is a more free-flowing and open-ended process used to determine if you are suitable for a specific job opening.

Typically, the oral examination will measure such things as oral communication, technical skills, interpersonal skills, judgment and problem solving skills. Some oral examinations are designed to measure job knowledge; others are not. The oral board will rate all candidates against the same criteria. You will not be rated on anything that has not been determined as relevant to job performance.

What to Expect

Each candidate is tested by a board consisting of approximately three raters who are subject matter experts in their field. The board will ask every candidate the same basic questions in order to ensure uniformity. The board members are instructed to listen carefully; therefore, you will be doing most of the talking. The board will not argue, agree, or encourage you. They are there to give you a chance to show that you possess the required qualifications. The board is there to rate your responses to the predetermined questions. Personal information will not be explored.

Most oral examinations have a time limit. All candidates will be given approximately the same amount of time. You will have enough time to answer all the questions.

Oral board members may take notes while you are talking. Do not let this bother you. These notes are important, because memory alone is not precise. The board will use its notes when rating you.

You have the right to a relaxing, impartial atmosphere, free of noise and distractions, in order to have a fair chance to do your best. Aside from administering the examination, the Human Resources representative is responsible for setting the proper tone so that you have a fair opportunity to demonstrate your skills.

How to Prepare

One key to success in the oral examination is simply to be yourself. Relax and pause for thought before you answer. Snap responses or "canned" speech-making is less valuable than reflective and logically developed answers. You will receive ample notice of when and where to report for your oral examination. Be on time. If you are late or do not report, you may be disqualified. Should you encounter a problem, contact the Office of Human Resources.

After the Exam

After you finish your responses and leave the examining room, the board begins the rating process. Each rater independently completes a structured rating of your performance on the factors outlined in the examination announcement. A discussion among the board members may follow to bring out differences and to assure fairness.

Your rating in the oral examination may be combined with your results from any other test components, e.g., a written test, before you receive your results. The Office of Human Resources will notify you of your examination results within two weeks of completion of the examination.

An oral examination establishes your qualifications in certain job-related areas. It does not mean you will be offered a specific position by the department where the vacancy exists. The oral testing process does not directly result in hiring decisions or hiring recommendations. If a vacancy exists, the Office of Human Resources will provide a list of names to the department where the vacancy exists for its consideration. Depending on your placement on the eligible list, you may be considered for the opening and/or contacted for a selection interview. If not, your name will remain on the eligible list for a one-year period. Hiring decisions rest solely with the hiring department and are made within certain guidelines specified by the Merit System and appropriate union contracts.