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Civil Service job interview AIBU

(39 Posts)
WellAlwaysHaveParis Tue 06-Feb-18 19:28:16

I recently posted about my application for a Civil Service job in another thread.

I’d prefer not to go into much detail about the role here, if that’s okay, but it’s an executive officer (EO) role and would involve quite a bit of writing and proofreading.

I recently sat a written assessment for the role after submitting answers to competency-based questions online.

Earlier today, I found out that I’ve been invited to an interview for the role.

It’s my first interview for a Civil Service job. I’m sure it’ll be a really useful experience and I hope I’ll learn a lot from it, but as I’d really like for it to go as well as it possibly can, I was just wondering if anyone on here might have any tips for the interview please?

Thanks very much smile

DontCallMeCharlotte Tue 06-Feb-18 19:53:41


Peachsnowpop Tue 06-Feb-18 21:23:20

PM'd you

WellAlwaysHaveParis Wed 07-Feb-18 08:20:03

Thanks so much everyone. If anyone else is able to help out in any way, please feel free to post on here or to send me a PM - I’d be really grateful.

HoleinmyBucket Wed 07-Feb-18 08:34:11

Congratulations on getting through to interview stage.

If things haven't changed since I left the MOD then my advice would be:

Expect competence based questions rather than hypothetical ones - they should have provided you with a job/position description with the key competences required of the job holder. Along the lines of Working As a Team; Communicating and Influencing etc.

Think through what experience you have had that demonstrates you are skilled in those competence areas and try and structure your answers, using an example of something specific you have done, using the STAR technique:

Situation - a brief 'scene setting' - eg "While working for X company I led a team responsible for proof reading advertising material"
Task - what was the task - "we were given the task of proof reading a magazine spread for Cosmopolitan Magazine - the biggest contract the Company had ever won."
Action - what did you do "I delegated tasks to my team etc etc"
Result - what was the outcome - "We did the best job ever and won several industry awards based on our fantabulous performance" etc.

Then expect follow on questions such as: What hurdles did you have to overcome; how did you deal with tricky situations arising during that task; what would you have done differently etc etc.

Very best of luck with the interview. I loved my time there - and stuck around for 27 years before emigrating!

misssjw Wed 07-Feb-18 08:38:46

Hi there

I second everything 'Hole' said above, I would also advise writing the competencies down before you attend and taking your notes with you, they let me use mine in the interview and it made me look much more prepared than I felt!

Good luck! Please do let us know how you get on.

WellAlwaysHaveParis Thu 08-Feb-18 14:24:57

Thanks so much everyone. This is all so helpful. If anyone has any further advice to add, please do mention it here smile

HazelBite Thu 08-Feb-18 14:35:50

Retired Civil Servant here.
Do prepare some "intelligent" questions to ask them, the sort of thing that you can't find out with a little research.

PistFump Thu 08-Feb-18 14:40:47

Absolutely agree with all pps- just ensure you know your competencies back to front and inside out. Good luck and let us know how you get on!

meredintofpandiculation Thu 08-Feb-18 14:41:14


Dress at the formal end of suitable interview wear. Expect to be interviewed by 3-4 people at the other side of a big table, including a HR person, your potential boss, and one or two others from "the business". The HR person will probably come and collect you from the waiting area, and make small talk as you walk to the room "to set you at your ease".

If you're thrown by a question, ask them to repeat it. Don't waffle, but do if appropriate think aloud, eg to demonstrate a logical approach to trying to solve a problem you haven't a clue about. Don't worry if they press you hard about something you've said - it means they haven't written you off.

Remember that they all want you to do well. They want to end the day with a front runner, and a choice of good runners-up if the first person turns the job down. So they want you to show them what you CAN do, not what you can't.

If they say "any questions" ask when you'll hear, but don't ask about flexitime, days off etc. The time for that is when you've got the job offer.

They'll grade you against a standard for each of the candidates (rather than grading you directly against the other candidates). Then they'll choose the candidate with the highest score and recommend to the decision maker that they should be offered the job. So not necessarily a quick process. They're usually good about giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates if asked.

Good luck!

WellAlwaysHaveParis Fri 09-Feb-18 18:39:37

I’m thinking of wearing a dark navy Closet long-sleeved dress that I’ve worn for previous interview. And I’ll buy some smart black heels - just low ones. Would that be appropriate? Should I also wear a black jacket?

Thanks so much for all of your support and help. You’re fab!!!

WellAlwaysHaveParis Fri 09-Feb-18 18:53:32

If they ask if I have any questions at the end, would it be appropriate to ask what the induction period is like? This is what I normally ask.

WellAlwaysHaveParis Fri 09-Feb-18 20:08:48

Bump smile

Couchto5ktowine Fri 09-Feb-18 20:14:06

That’s a good question to ask. Another good one is to ask what the priorities are ie if you got the role what would they want you to focus on

insertimaginativeusername Fri 09-Feb-18 20:23:39

Why the role is available. If it's a newly created post why was it created?
Priorities as PP said
Induction period
What training is required, is there any prep you can do beforehand?
Is there anything they would like expanding on to ensure you are the best candidate for the role?

Take the questions with you and any documents needed in a folder.

WellAlwaysHaveParis Sun 11-Feb-18 11:13:42

Thanks so much everyone. Just wanted to ask if my outfit suggestion sounds okay? It’s not the most important thing in the world, I know, but I just want to make the best first impression that I can.

Merryoldgoat Sun 11-Feb-18 11:19:22

I wouldn’t combine navy and black - it just doesn’t work (except for shoes).

Either a suit with a blouse/shirt or a nice dress would be fine.

My last interviews I’ve worn smart black trousers, leopard print shoes and a plain blouse. But my interviews seem less formal. I got both jobs so it wasn’t obviously professional enough for them.

Merryoldgoat Sun 11-Feb-18 11:20:28

Obviously WAS professional enough!

viques Sun 11-Feb-18 11:24:28

Your outfit sounds suitable, but I would try to include something memorable as well , lots of the other female candidates might be wearing similar outfits, and you need to be remembered! Maybe a strong statement necklace, or earrings, or a bright red or purple scarf IF you can tie them nicely and aren't a fiddler. nothing that moves or clanks distractingly though , or pulls attention away from your face.

saffz Sun 11-Feb-18 11:28:18

Like other posters have said, use the STAR method for each answer and know your competencies inside out.

The interviewers should be marking on the behavioural indicators so try and hit those points - there should be bullet points listed under each competency in the advert.
Good luck!

WellAlwaysHaveParis Tue 13-Feb-18 08:38:09

Thanks everyone.

Is there a chance they could ask more general questions about the job vacancy or why I want the job? Or will it just be competency-based questions?

I’ve emailed the person who’s the point of contact for the vacancy buf haven’t had a reply yet.

I’m really not sure about how to prepare for the interview apart from preparing answers to competency questions. Can anyone help please?

AHungryMum Tue 13-Feb-18 11:08:48

Paris - my experience of Civil Service interviews is that it is primarily all about how you do on the competencies. You have to tick off every indicative behaviour listed fo the competency they are testing, you can't just demonstrate one or two of the indicative behaviours brilliantly, you have to tick all of them. They may ask some more generic questions but in my experience that's more to establish a rapport with you than anything else. Worth checking whether you can take notes in, for my last interview I took in cue cards, and for each I had competency I had the competency written on one side with the indicative behaviours listed for it, the on the other side I had the examples I had in mind, and did a spider diagram with bullet points coming off it, covering all of the various indicative behaviours. It's worth getting a couple of examples lined up for each competency as you may find the specific question they ask for some competencies doesn't fit the particular example you have in mind.

I hope that helps!! If you want to ask me any more questions pm me - I'm civil service but presently on mat leave so I have the time available to discuss if you want.

saffz Tue 13-Feb-18 22:38:30

One of the issues I find when interviewing, particularly from candidates who aren't used to competency interviews is they tend to provide lots of generalised statements rather than specific examples, so make sure your example is specific.

I've had one civil service interview where they asked what interested me about job and also questions on what I knew about department. Those generally shouldn't be marked as it's about the competency. Which competencies have they asked for?

When I interview, I generally start by asking about their curent/previous role as an icebreaker.

HopefullyAnonymous Tue 13-Feb-18 22:58:48

I’ve just started a job after a similar recruitment process, although not civil service. When answering competency based questions, make sure you tell them what YOU did, not what the team did if that makes sense.

Efferlunt Tue 13-Feb-18 23:05:05

Know your examples in great detail. Be able to talk about why you chose to take a certain course of action and what you learned from it in order to demonstrate your skills. Practice talking about examples that demonstrate the competencies you are looking for beforehand.

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