Civil Servant Recruitment in Vietnam

A good contingent of civil servants including ones who are qualified in profession, competent in management and exemplary in morality, serious and dedicated in civil service is the desire of  almost civil services in countries in the world. Without them, state disciplines would be loosened, society would become disordered and state would confront difficulties in performing its management functions over socio-economic issues. 

Nowadays, in response to requirements of socio-economic development, Vietnam is on the way of further renovating, to a deeper and wider scale, its public administration, including strengthened renovations civil service and civil servant system. The first and foremost stage in developing a modern and responsive public administration is to select talented and enthusiastic people to be civil servants. Accordingly, civil servants must be upgraded in both quality and quantity to meet strict working requirements, and recruitment process must be focused on meritocracy as recruitment is a determined factor to competence and performance of civil servants in public administration. Therefore, quality of civil servant recruitment is necessarily improved in all public administrative agencies in management socio-economic fields.


1. Legal framework

According to the Law on Cadres and Civil Servants 2008:

“Civil servants are Vietnamese citizens who are recruited and appointed to ranks, posts or titles in agencies of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the State, socio-political organizations at the central, provincial and district levels; in People’s Army agencies and units, other than officers, professional military personnel and defence workers; in People’s Police offices and units other than officers and professional non-commissioned officers, and in the leading and managerial apparatuses of public non-business units of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the State and socio-political organizations, included in the payrolls and salaried from the state budget; for civil servants in the leading and managerial apparatuses of public non-business units, they are salaried from the salary funds of these units according to law”.

2. Legal regulations on civil servant recruitment

          Concurrently, civil servant recruitment is regulated in the following legal documents: Law on Cadres and Civil Servants promulgated in 2008 and came into effects since 01 January 2010; Decree No.24/2010/ND-CP dated 15 March 2010 by the Government on recruitment, using and management of civil servants; Circular No.13/2010/TT-BNV by the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 30 December 2010 stipulating in details some articles on recruitment and rank-upgrading for civil servants.

3. Civil servant recruitment process in public administration agencies

Civil servant recruitment in public administration is a multiple-stage process conducted in an inter-related sequence which ensuring objectivity, fairness and accuracy in recruitment. Pursuant to the Law on Cadres and Civil Servants and by-laws instructing implementation, the recruitment process comprises of the following steps:

- Identify human resource demand and quantity to be recruited;

- Setting up recruitment plan;

- Establish Recruitment Regulation;

- Announce vacancies;

- Collect and review registration portfolios;

- Organize competitions and/or non-competitive examinations;

- Consolidate examination results;

- Announce results of recruitments, complaint solving or verification (if required);

- Issue recruitment decision;

- Review and evaluate recruitment;

- Appoint to civil service rank.

4. Conditions for registration for civil servant recruitment

A person who meets all the following conditions, regardless of nationality, gender, social status, belief and religion, may register for civil servant recruitment:

a) Bearing the sole nationality of Vietnamese;

b) Reaching full 18 years of age;

c) Filing an application for recruitment; having a clear personal record;

d) Possessing relevant diplomas and/or certificates;

e) Possessing political qualities and good ethics;

f) Being physically fit for the job;

g) Meeting other conditions required by the working position for which he/she applies.

The following persons may not register for civil servant recruitment:

a) Not residing in Vietnam;

b) Having lost civil act capacity or having such capacity restricted;

c) Being examined for penal liability; currently serving a criminal sentence or court ruling or having completely served such a sentence or ruling but such criminal record has not yet been remitted, or serving the administrative measure of confinement to a medical treatment establishment or a reformatory.

5. Methods of civil servant recruitment

          Civil servants shall be recruited through examinations, except for cases who commit to voluntarily work for at least 5 years in mountainous, border, island, remote, deep-lying or ethnic minority or special socio-economic difficulty-hit areas may be recruited through selection.

Principles for civil servant recruitment

-         Ensuring publicity, transparency, objectivity and legality

-         Ensuring competitiveness

-         Selecting proper persons who meet task and working position requirements

-         Prioritizing recruitment of talented persons, persons with meritorious services to the country and ethnic minority people.

6. Format and subjects of examinations

Applicants to civil service recruitment examinations are obliged to take four subjects: General knowledge test, Professional test, IT skills test, Foreign language test:

a) General knowledge test: a written test on political and machinery apparatus of the Party, the State, socio-political organizations; state administrative management; guiding principles, directions and policies of the Party, legislation of the State on the recruiting field or sector.

b) Professional test comprises of one written test and one multiple-choice test about the working major as required by the job position. For the position requiring foreign language or IT to be the main profession, the professional test will be foreign language or IT. The determination of format and contents of professional tests in the case where foreign language or IT is required as the working major is vested in the jurisdiction of the head of recruiting agency and must be ensured appropriateness.

c) Foreign language test: a written test or an interview in one language among English, Russian, French, Germany or Chinese or other foreign language in accordance with requirements of the job position determined by the head of recruiting agency. In case that job position requires the uses of language of ethnic minority, the foreign language test will be replaced by ethnic minority language test. The determination of format and contents of ethnic minority language test is vested in the jurisdiction of the head of recruiting agency.

d) IT skills test: on-computer practicing test or multiple-choice test relevant to requirements of the job positions and is determined by the head of recruiting agency.

7.  Agencies recruiting civil servants

·        The Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the State Audit may recruit, and decentralize the recruitment of, civil servants in agencies, organizations and units under their respective management.

·        The Office of the National Assembly and the Office of the President may recruit civil servants in agencies and units under their respective management.

·        Ministries, ministerial-level agencies and government-affiliated agencies may recruit, and decentralize the recruitment of civil servants in agencies, organizations and units under their respective management.

·        Provincial-level People’s Committees may recruit, and decentralize the recruitment of, civil servants in agencies, organizations and units under their respective management.

·        Agencies of the Communist Party of Vietnam and socio-political organizations may recruit, and decentralize the recruitment of civil servants in agencies, organizations and units under their respective management.

8. Recruitment Council

On the base of number of applicants, the head of recruiting agency has jurisdiction to establish the Recruitment Council, in case of holding competitive recruitment examinations, and Review Council, in case of holding review session to select applicants (hereafter called generally the Recruitment Council).

In the case of non-existence of Recruitment Council, the personnel management departments/divisions of the authorized recruiting agency conduct recruitment activities; concurrently, assisting units are still established in recruitment as regulated.


1. Problems

-   Demands on recruitment have not well identified and non-scientifically been done. The recruitment criteria did not help select appropriate applicants to to-be-filled position.

-   Recruitment contents confined judgements of applicants’ meritocracy. Few renovation in recruitment content have been made. So far, it has not identified particular contents relevant with type of applicants across different majors. The compulsory recruitment tests have not truly facilitated to select qualified civil servants to work in state administration agencies. The uses of Question Bank for civil servant recruitment have not yet been unified nation-wide.

-   Recruitment has not been diversified in format. The major formats applied in practice comprise of recruitment examinations for most of cases, and recruitment reviews for special cases. In recruitment examinations, applicants are obliged to do written tests in general knowledge subject and professional test; and multiple-choice test format is applied to foreign language, IT and professional tests. Such forms of examinations have inadequately assess in-depth the knowledge, skills, attitudes and motivations of applicants.

2. Limitations

-   The organization of examinations to choose competent people stays in concerns, especially the lack of important focus on evaluating motivations of applicants. It is mainly considered by plentiful of applicants that civil service job is a stable.

- Several agencies, during it preliminary recruitment process, created their own improperly recruitment conditions, for the sake of their family members or acquaintances to easier get passed of exams, such as discriminations in gender of applicants, in training institutes provided education to applicants; training forms, types of certificates; restrictions of professional scale registration, etc, to exclude other candidates. In few agencies, certain contents, which were non-objective in nature and against State regulations, were exceptionally required in professional tests.

- Security and confidential protection are limited. During the course of examinations, frauds and violations of examination regulations exist. In remarking examination papers, big disparities in marks exist; there even occurs the case where candidate whose mark stays lower than what passing level requires, is still employed for the reason of being in special priority.

- IT applications have not been boosted and widely used in civil servant recruitments.

          - The announcement of results of civil servant recruitment and complaint solving and verification results sometimes fail to meet the principles of disclosure, transparency and fairness.


          Improving the quality of civil servants in general and improve the quality of recruitment of civil servants in particular have always been requirements at all times. In the course of building rule-of-law State and implementation of public administration reforms and international integration currently in Vietnam, quality improvements in civil servant recruitment is an objective requirements not only urgently but also  a long-term issue.

In order to improve quality in civil servant recruitment in state administration agencies, the following solutions shall be synchronously implemented:

          1. Finalize the legal framework on civil service and civil servants

1.1. Work analysis and building job position system should be carried out in state administration agencies; simultaneously, building and supplementing to perfect the system of rank-based titles and standards for civil servants in response to the realities and professional requirements of each type of civil servants. To supplement and perfect the standards to match with titles of civil servants holding leading and managerial positions .

1.2. Recruitment of civil servants must be strictly conducted following the principles: To choose the person having sufficient capacity, the ability to perform work according to current requirements and able to respond to the growth of the organization, that means, to choose talented people to serve in long-run for civil service. A position-based mechanism of civil servant recruitment must be established; job description system shall be developed relevant to each job position of each organization, unit; contents and approach to organize recruitment examination must be reformed; particular mechanism and polices in civil service recruitment should be developed for ethnic minorities in localities.

1.3. Building a set of recruitment criteria for job positions assists the recruitment to be responsive, more objective, scientific and easier. A great deal of people serving in state administration agencies, varying from sector to sector and from field to field; however, the current recruitment approach has not promoted the evaluation of to what extent to candidates appropriate to specific job position. To perform work analysis in order to attain standards in work performance should essentially performed and soon brought into practices.

1.4. When building standards for each job position, due attention should be paid to identification of subjects, contents, formats of recruitment examinations in order to ensure the selection of the best candidate for a job position. The process of recruitment must ensure to be open, transparent, objective, impartial and positively competitive.

1.5. Building the position-based recruitment of civil servant system must base on the key principles, which are the openness, particularly the meritocracy, that means select the best person for the job in order to create motivations, strengthened professionalism and the sense of responsibilities of civil servants. Therefore, competitive recruitment examinations should be widely implemented to apply to leading and managerial civil servants. By that, authorized recruitment agencies would be able to select competent individuals to hold leading, managerial positions to a wider extent, even out of the public administration.

Concurrently, to create better competitive mechanism, candidates shall be provided with chances to compete their talents and get more involved in state administration. On the other hand, content of recruitment tests shall be designed to tie to narrow major of the recruited position, to examine the capacity and ability of the applicants and ensuring that the candidates can immediately perform the job in vacancy. To realize that, the focal emphasis should be shifted from written format to multiple-choice one (not only be restricted in testing knowledge but also IQ, EQ and other contents appropriately) and interview. The system of multiple-choice questionnaires and interviewing questions should be adjusted to relevant to each specific job position.

          2. Develop remuneration and incentive policies to attract talented people into civil service

2.1. Continue to move current remuneration mechanism to flexible remuneration for civil servants. Accordingly, the payments to civil servants includes wage, bonuses engaged to working position and civil service performance. The minimum wage rate is regularly adjusted according to the rate of costs of living every 6 months (or when the increase of the price index reached 10%) and guarantees the wage level of civil servants equal to that in private sector in order to increase competitive strength to attract talented people into public sector.

In addition to remuneration, civil servants get benefits from allowances i.e., regional allowance, housing allowance, overtime allowance, hardship allowances; sickness allowance, allowances for spouses and dependents, social services and housing were subsidized partly or wholly. These non-wage benefits play a useful role in the overall incomes if they are well designed. Besides, allowance payments should include the seniority allowance for civil servants. This type of allowance helps encourage people to engage with the civil service, retaining civil servants to devote to state administration agencies.

          2.2. Attract top talent to civil service. Procedures, policies and mechanisms should be put in-place for attracting the "excellent" people to enrol in state administrative agencies. The government, ministries, sectors and localities should attract outstanding students from universities through scholarships funding their studies to get them working for civil service in certain period of time after graduation.

          Recruitment of “talent” should always be accompanied by appropriate uses of talent and favouring them with deserved treatment mechanism.

Besides, more studies should be conducted to build bonus mechanism as well as to regulate the duty to find and invite talented people to serve in state administration agencies.

3. Simplify procedures and process for civil servant recruitment in public administration

In personnel profile, judicial records should be replaced by curriculum vitae or brief version of this document after recruitment. If doing so, time reduction would be made for the candidate, who have passed examinations to shorten their time in preparing their papers and profile, simplifying administrative procedures, responding better the requirements of public administration procedures reform, reducing fees for judicial records.

Abolishing requirements of birth certificate in the case of Recruitment Review to facilitate document procedures and quickly enrol the candidates having passed the entrance exam to get in to State administration agencies.

4. Reform legal regulations on rewarding for good performers in civil service and setting out serious and transparent sanctions to ensure disciplines and effectiveness of state management in general and of recruitment in particular

Carry out discipline measures to timely address violations of people performing recruitment activities (even terminate civil servant status in case of serious violations). Nowadays, practices show few of individuals or organizations being punished for overuse of their authority to intervene in recruitment and appoint weak competent and low qualified people into state administration apparatus.

5. Establish a particularly institution responsible for civil servant recruitment (an independent Recruitment Council)

          A common civil servant recruitment examination nation-wide should replace separate examinations held by different agencies. It helps restrict subjectivity and enhance quality of recruitment through separating relationship between recruiters and candidates. This only comes true when Recruitment Council comprises of “outsiders”, who are independently from recruiting agencies and candidates. That means a national independent recruitment body shall be established. This body is under the Government, responsible for organizing recruitment examinations and selecting the best candidates to fulfil in the vacancy order by state administrative agencies. Development of concentrate recruitment system operating objectively and independently means to avoid synchronisms in quality of civil servants recruited by ministries, sector and localities at present.

          6. Perfect the procedures, renovate contents and formats of civil servant recruitment examinations

          6.1. Completing the selection process of civil servant holding managerial positions in state management

          - Clearly identify objects, targets and criteria of selection

           Selection criteria must originate from standard bases developed in the standards for professional titles.

          Selection criteria must adhere to actual needs of the organization, and should rise from organization’s demand on human resource and civil servant planning.

          Selection standards and recruited targets must adhere to general direction of the organization and personnel management, that is, to choose young people to be civil servants, improving their qualification to meet requirements of industrialization and modernization of the country.

          Selection must ensure equality to all candidates having the same level of competence and conditions to be civil servants to show their capabilities.

           - Building scientific and realistic selection process

          Multiple round selection process should be designed: Round 1 scanning on national scale or regional scale of candidates meeting at minimum requirements of recruitment by using IT applications; Round 2 is held after the candidates having completed their computer-based test, written test, in this round candidates are interviewed or tested with case-study for in-depth problem-solving requirements, which close to each job positions. This round was held directly by the agency having recruitment demands.

          6.2. Conducting competitive recruitment for leading and managerial positions from the levels of ministerial department, provincial department and divisions to higher level in the trends of expanding applicants

Innovate methods for selecting departmental and divisional leaders and managers is the focal duty in strengthening renovation of civil service and civil servant regimes.

          To attract talented people to the civil service, competitive recruitment of leading and managerial positions should be widen in scale to include people who have not yet put in personnel plan. One of the core principles of recruitment examination is the competition and fairness. The principle of competition must be designed to ensure equality and fairness, no privileges or partiality for all candidates from “starting point”. The solutions to this requirement include the expansion of subjects tested, allowing candidates from business sector to supplement their criteria of state management and political reasoning skills after passing entrance examinations.

6.3. Improving content and format of civil servant recruitment examinations towards focusing on evaluation of actual competencies of candidates

          Recruitment should be made on the base of key principles including openness and especially the meritocracy, which means to select the best person for the job in order to create motivations, strengthened professionalism and the sense of responsibilities of civil servants. Therefore, a better competitive mechanism should be created to allow candidate to compete their talent and engage more with state management.

7. Improve capacities for people in charge of recruitment

Recruitment is a job that requires professionalism. Good performance requires professional implementers at certain level of knowledge, skills and experiences. Recruiters should be selected to be expertise, understand well regulations and particularly impartial, objective and honest.

Regular policies for fostering and improving capacities for recruiters through professional training held annually and favourable conditions to study in-country and abroad regarding civil servant recruitment. Besides, more supplements and amendments should be made regarding policies on treatment, encouragement, rewarding to good performers in recruitment; simultaneously, strict sanctions should be applied to the ones violating regulations of civil servant recruitment in state administrative agencies.

8. Apply IT into civil servant recruitment

          IT application into improving quality of civil servant recruitment examinations can be conduct under specific forms such as:

- Establishing a website on recruitment of human resources for national administration.

          - Building a database on civil servants.

          - Perfect recruitment software to deploy online recruitment of civil servant nation-wide.

          - Building websites for training, fostering candidates and for civil servants to upgrade their professional level, IT, foreign language skills and knowledge for their working major.

- Building a unique and coherent Question Bank for civil servant recruitment.

          9. Pay attention to assess attitude and motivation of applicants

There exist the candidates who are qualified and skilful but lack of motivations and due attitudes, and they are excluded from the successful passing candidates as they are not likely to engage in long-term with their work or lack of strong commitment to work performance. Possibly speaking, recruitment in state administration agencies in Vietnam currently are not emphasized into assessment of candidates’ motivation and attitudes.

Currently, there is a plenty of people keeping in minds that working in state administration sector is disengaged, easy to spend working time on private job or other work outside the official workplace; and that in state administration sector, there are positions having non-officially incomes, or get more relationship, being trained free of charge, then trained people may easily quit out to seek for better job in private sector with more potentials and better incomes, etc,.

Therefore, assessment of motivations and attitudes of candidates are important to exclude individuals holding such ideas as mention above out of recruitment process.

          10. Strengthen examining and monitoring activities to recruitment

Strengthening examinations and monitoring activities on recruitments is one among essential solutions to ensure the conformity with law and efficiency in recruitment. Of which, first and foremost thing to do is to review the obedience of regulations by recruiting agencies and individuals relating. The monitoring outcomes will show strength, weakness and concerning issues in the course of implementation.

To enhancing inspection and checking to civil servant recruitment in state administration agencies, a legal framework should be established on checking and monitoring recruitment examinations and recruitment reviews. In which, authority, responsibilities in monitoring recruitment of organizations having jurisdiction of management civil servants should be clarified, upholding individual accountable mechanism, preventing general and formalistic frauds in solving violations, ensuring mutual monitoring mechanism to prevent negative behaviours during recruitment.

Besides, strict and accurate regulations should be made on regimes, procedures and responsibilities with involving people in the course of implementing civil servant recruitment. To strictly handle legal breaches and frauds in all steps from reviewing, selecting questions to supervising candidates and giving marks... to ensure fair and objective competition for all candidates.


          Civil servants play decisive role to structural and operational successes of administrative agencies. They directly involve in the course of building and executing legislations, administering all socio-economic aspects, consulting, planning, organizing to conduct and inspecting, examining the implementation of guiding principles, policies of the State.

          To successfully reform the civil service and civil servant regime and public administration in Vietnam in the present period, more emphasis should be made on improving civil servant quality, including civil servant recruitment, the first but decisive stage to quality of civil servants.

          In the up-coming time, the Government of Vietnam determines to conduct more studies to apply coherently and synchronously solutions to improve civil servant quality in state administrative agencies, moving towards a “professional, responsible, dynamic, transparent, efficient” civil service, in response to requirements of socio-economic development and international integration./.

Chu Tuan Tu

Institute of State Organization Sciences