AIBU to ask for your advice about Civil Service Fast Stream applications?

(20 Posts)
PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 20:58:19

Hi everyone.

I applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream last year, and was rejected unfortunately after the initial assessment round (verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, a situational judgement test and a competency questionnaire).

I decided to reapply this year for the Fast Stream, and found out that they'd changed their entry requirements. Now, candidates are only asked to complete a situational judgement questionnaire and a competency questionnaire.

I've just completed both questionnaires, and have found out that I've been unsuccessful unfortunately. I found both questionnaires difficult, and have struggled to understand how to perform well on them.

I would really appreciate it if anyone could give some advice about how to perform well on these kinds of tests please. I'd also be very grateful if anyone might be able to offer particular advice on the Civil Service tests in particular.

Thanks very much!

PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 21:03:27

Bump smile

Thatwaslulu Tue 22-Nov-16 21:11:23

Competency based tests and interviews are definitely an art and can be very tricky until you get the knack. For each competency, they will be looking for one clear example rather than a generalised statement. So for Making Effective Decisions, they will score highly for an example which shows that you considered all available evidence, perhaps took into account where you haven't got all the relevant information, and took steps to find it, and then analysed the information to make a decision. The decision is the key thing here, so a woolly statement that you always consider all aspects before making a decision will score poorly, but being able to articulate an example of one decision that you made in one scenario, that's what will see you scoring well.

Use the STAR method to structure your example: what was the situation, what needed to be done, how did you do it, and what was the outcome.

Do say "I did", "I considered", "I analysed", rather than "we did" etc, as they are interested in your own contribution to the situation. For the delivering at pace Competency, that's not really about delivering quickly but about teamwork, so give examples of how you worked as part of a team but again make sure it is all what you did and how you got your team to focus on the task.

Good luck!

Haggisfish Tue 22-Nov-16 21:12:22

Good thread.

Thatwaslulu Tue 22-Nov-16 21:21:02

Just while I remember, you can also get onto a Fast Stream programme more easily from inside the civil service. So it may be worth looking on Civil Service Jobs for stage 4 jobs that are open to non civil servants, as once you are in there are lots of different talent schemes and opportunities for progression. And ask for feedback - if you get through to the interview stage they will likely give you feedback but there's no harm in asking if you are rejected at application stage. Don't be disheartened if it takes a while either - I recently recruited for some new HEOs. We had 4 vacancies and received 170 applications.

PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 21:21:47

Thanks for your post thatwaslulu", I really appreciate it smile

With the situational judgement questionnaire, the format of the questionnaire is four statements per question. For each question, a 'most effective' and a 'least effective' response have to be selected. So unfortunately, there isn't a opportunity for me to include my own examples - it's just selecting from a list of pre-written responses.

With the competency questionnaire, candidates again have four statements per question. For each set of four statements, they have to rate how far they agree with each statement and also choose a 'most effective' and 'least effective' statement.

Thatwaslulu Tue 22-Nov-16 21:31:15

Ah, slightly different from the standard then. I would read the competency framework as it gives examples of what a less effective person would do as well as a more effective person. So you will have some pointers using those as a guide.

I went through the promotion panel recently and thought it would be similar to that. I think if you understand what the competency is about, and look at the higher grades (aim to be knowledgeable about what is expected of grades HEO to G7 for Fast Stream), then you will find it easier. Read the short precis of the competency and try to think of a situation where you would need to act in that way, and then apply the questions to your example (eg what would I do if I were to be demonstrating value for money, what would be the most effective statement in this scenario and what would I be least likely to do).

Does that help at all?

Giveusawobble Tue 22-Nov-16 21:32:45

It's like you are all speaking Greek, what is a civil service fast stream??

Thatwaslulu Tue 22-Nov-16 21:53:16

It's a talent programme aimed at getting clever and competent people into the civil service and moving them around and up through the grades within a short period of time (2 years usually).

PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 22:41:54

Thank you so much everyone for your replies smile

Just another question smile

I've started applying for a job on the Civil Service website (thanks for your tip lulu!), and it asks candidates to write about a time when they demonstrated specific competencies.

My current situation is that I've just left a job (I recently started another thread on here about leaving a teacher training job) that I started in summer. In terms of my answers on how I demonstrated specific competencies, how far back could these go?

Thanks smile

GoneGirl Tue 22-Nov-16 22:48:29

From recollection, they ask for job history for the last 5 to 7 years but this is not explicitly mentioned in the competency section. Just use whichever examples you think are most relevant. Good luck!

IamalsoSpartacus Tue 22-Nov-16 22:56:18

Most applicants to the Fast Stream will be recent graduates so would be expected to use examples from their uni days.

I read your other thread. You said you were a perfectionist and this was one of the things which exacerbates your anxiety.

I'll try and put this as kindly as possible - is aiming to go from teaching to another high-pressure environment a wise move while you are still working on your health? The hours are very long, the stakes are high and you are expected to turn work round very quickly - in less than a couple of hours if you are briefing for Prime Minister's Questions.

PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 23:17:27

Spartacus thank you for your post - I completely agree.

My feeling is that I want to go into another job as soon as possible now, but I don't think it's what I need health-wise (if that makes sense).

Ideally, I would love to apply for a job like the Civil Service Fast Stream, but I definitely don't think it would be the right decision in terms of my current mental health.

Do you think I might be better off doing some tutoring and perhaps working at a language school/doing some temp work for the next few months? I'm looking into getting some counselling, so I'd like to have time for that alongside this. I also think volunteering work would be good to do over the next few months, but I'll make sure not to take too much on.

Although I think part of the problem is that I don't really know my own limits, so I tend to take too much on and then only realise when I'm really struggling.

WhereDoesThisRoadGo Tue 22-Nov-16 23:26:36

Hi there. I applied and was successful for the CSFS in 2014. The shift away from all the tests is reflective of how recruitment is being changed across the board over the next few years so this is a good thing. My advice on the situational judgement one is probably unhelpful... but it is the only thing I can say. This is based your instinct of what you would want to see as a leader/have done to you as an employee. You don't have to have experience directly, or be tutored in it, but you do need to be able to think bigger than just what you know.

As you have MH issues and because of the fact you have failed these tests twice now, have you considered entering the CS through the CS Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme? The aim is the same but those jobs start at a lower level, and therefore less pressure, after which you will feel more confident going for promotions. Good luck with it!

PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 23:40:34

Hi Where, thanks for your post smile

I have looked into the Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme, but as I've finished a degree, I'm not sure whether I'd qualify for it.

As lulu suggested above, would you recommend that I apply for other jobs within the Civil Service outside of the Fast Stream?

PamplemousseRouge Tue 22-Nov-16 23:53:04

Out of interest, does anyone know of any EU work or government work in Brussels that might be worth going for?

I'm a recent graduate with a languages degree, and I think that kind of work would be really interesting smile I'm just about to start having a look. If anyone else has any ideas for possible jobs, I'd be really grateful to hear them. Thanks!

SwedishEdith Tue 22-Nov-16 23:59:21

Sign up for CS jobs - EU posts are advertised on there pretty regularly. Set it to get regular alerts.

PamplemousseRouge Wed 23-Nov-16 00:01:55

Thank you so much SwedishEdith smile

M0nkington Wed 23-Nov-16 05:21:17

If you couldn't cope with teaching, I doubt that the CSFS is the place for you. It is extremely stressful and competitive and you need a really thick skin to cope with all the back stabbing and nastiness. Not to mention the piles of work and out of hours commitment that is expected.

PamplemousseRouge Wed 23-Nov-16 11:31:33

Thanks for your post M0nkington.

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