The merit system is the process of promoting and hiring government employees based on their ability to perform a job, rather than on their political connections. It is the opposite of the Spoils system. A system of hiring and promotion based on the merit principle and the desire to create a nonpartisan government service. Merit Principle The idea that hiring should be based on entrance exams and promotion ratings to produce administration by people with talent and skill Merit System. System used by federal and state governments for hiring and promoting governmental employees to civil service positions on the basis of competence. The merit system uses educational and occupational qualifications, testing, and job performance as criteria for selecting, hiring, and promoting civil servants.