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Civil service competencies, need help with specific examples please.

(52 Posts)
HarryPottersMagicWand Sun 26-Mar-17 20:53:37

I have a job interview this week, civil service, competency interview.

I know the competencies they are going to ask me on:
Seeing the big picture
Delivering at pace
Collaborating and partnering
Managing a quality service

The application needed clear demonstration of Professional expertise which I scored a level 4 - adequate demonstration. I don't know if they will ask more of this in the interview. If I score like this on them, the surely the positions available are going to go to people who give good demonstrations?

I'm struggling for examples. I haven't worked in years due to ill health. I have 2 children at school. I volunteered in school last year and I often help out with the PTA. I have recently completed a business administration qualification and am due to start an IT one at the end of April. My previous job was with a mortgage company (which I had to leave for ill health in 2004 but I remember it very clearly) and in 2006-2007 I went back to college and did my levels 2 and 3 TA qualifications whilst working in a classroom, breakfast club and after school club. I don't really want to be a TA though, my strength does lie in admin and everyone I know says I would be very good at it, even my tutor on the business admin course.

This is all very spread out though and I'm not sure I can think of relevent, up to date examples of these competencies.

Any help would be very appreciated please.

OP’s posts: |
AndNoneForGretchenWieners Sun 26-Mar-17 21:02:36

Seeing the big picture is about understanding how government priorities affect your area of work, and how you take into account changing landscapes and interdependencies with other teams. So if you are working on a help desk for example and your department is reorganising, thinking about the implications for your team, and how they will impact on how you can deliver the departmental priorities (Google is your friend here and you should be able to find the departmental priorities for the dept you are applying to).

Delivering at pace isn't actually about working quickly, it's about teamwork and efficiency. How you make sure your workload is managed effectively and your team are all on track to deliver their objectives.

Collaborating and partnering is about working across the department, not just with your immediate team, and how you can deliver the departmental priorities by engaging with others, being considerate of their workload pressures but working together to improve things. If you have ever had to work with people in other organisations or teams, think of an example from that.

Managing a quality service is about inspiring and empowering others, to deliver the work of the department in a way that meets the needs of its customers.

I have an interview on Tuesday for a promotion in the civil service, good luck!

Wigeon Sun 26-Mar-17 21:02:50

Am a civil servant - have just taken part in a big recruitment exercise for my department (sifting forms then interviewing). Some thoughts:

What grade job is it for? What is the professional expertise?

I would guess they won't be testing the "professional expertise" in the interview, just those competencies.

You can use the same examples in the interview as you put on your form if you only have limited examples.

You can use examples from years ago if they are your best example.

The interviewers will be looking to see that you can demonstrate the behaviours expected at the grade you are applying for in the Competency Framework here. Have a look at the behaviours and see if you can speak about your experience under each competency in those terms.

Voluntary work would be ok for a competency example if you don't have a paid work example (or if your voluntary work example is stronger).

If they shortlisted you, they think you are worth seeing.

Yes, the job will go to the person who scores highest, so if there is a candidate who scores 5s or 6s, and you score all 4s, they will get the job not you. But you don't know the strength of the field, and you are pre-judging what you might score!

Have you thought of some answers to questions like:

Why do you want this job?
What do you have to offer this job?
What is your biggest strength?
What is your biggest weakness?
What do you think are the big challenges of this job and how would you approach them?
What do you find most attractive about this job? (Not: it's near home/ I just need any job)

Wigeon Sun 26-Mar-17 21:06:33

I would say that a good "delivering at pace" example does have a sense of delivering under pressure, whether because of high volumes of work, or short deadlines, as well as an ability to manage competing priorities (and managing a team effectively, if the role includes management).

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Sun 26-Mar-17 21:09:53

Yes, I'd agree with that - I think what I wrote was somewhat clumsily worded. What I meant was, it's not how fast you can complete a piece of work, but that you can manage your workload (and that of your team) consistently and meeting deadlines. The working under pressure part is really important because you could get an urgent PQ or ministerial briefing to do, and you would need to drop everything (or delegate) to get it done.

HarryPottersMagicWand Sun 26-Mar-17 21:30:31

It's an admin assistant for the Valuation office. So low grade. I'd be more than capable of doing it but getting that across just by specific, limited examples won't be easy.

Unfortunately i haven't been shortlisted because they think I am good, I qualify under the guaranteed interview scheme.

I had a competency interview recently and they didn't ask me anything else apart from examples of the 5 competencies, then that was it, no 'why do you want this job?' Etc etc, I assumed they would ask further questions to try and get a more rounded picture, but they didn't so I assumed that was normal for a competency interview (was it not normal?).

OP’s posts: |
Wigeon Sun 26-Mar-17 21:35:23

In my experience there are sometimes other (non competency) questions, and sometimes not, so prepare for both, and hope for just competency!

Honestly, go with examples from years ago if they will help your interviewers score you well.

How did you do in the other interview? Presuming you didn't get the job, and that's why you've got this next interview, did you get feedback from the last interview?

HarryPottersMagicWand Sun 26-Mar-17 22:29:58

I actually don't want just competency questions. I don't feel they give the whole picture of a person, just a snapshot of that specific situation. I feel that I coukd explain more what I am like and how I am suitable with more general questions. I will prepare for both, I did last time as I expected it.

No didn't get the other job and I did get an email which had an attachment but I couldn't open it then when I went back to the email again, the attachment just doesn't seem to be there. I should have had feedback as apparently the civil service always give it but I thought it would be on under my log in profile, but it isn't. I should have rung really but I only had main phone numbers, nothing direct.

OP’s posts: |
trashcansinatra Sun 26-Mar-17 22:40:47

You need to think about this from their perspective.

The point of competencies is that previous evidence is a good predictor of future performance. They know you won't have done the same job before, but by abstracting core competencies into the categories you list, you should be able to find common ground.

So, they aren't interested in whether you could do the the job; they need to know you can do the job. And they will want specific evidence against those abstracted competencies to give them that proof. You need to help them with good examples.

minihobbit Sun 26-Mar-17 22:44:00

I have a Civil Service interview on Tuesday too!

minihobbit Sun 26-Mar-17 22:44:39

That wasn't helpful-sorry OP!

Wigeon Sun 26-Mar-17 22:51:07

Ok, I would say the single most important thing you can do to prepare for this interview is to get feedback from the last interview (you said the last one was competency-based - was it civil service too?). Was the last one through the Civil Service Jobs website? If so, you should be able to see any feedback when you log on. Even if you can see written feedback, I would strongly recommend asking for a conversation with someone.

You will find out that you did some things better than you thought, and you will discover areas to improve that you didn't realise you needed to improve on. If you don't have the direct phone number of any one on the panel (very common that you wouldn't), then you need to track them down via the main numbers. Even if you didn't catch their name, you can still find out who was interviewing for X position in Y team on xx March at 3pm.

The thing about competency examples are that they ARE meant to be testing something general and transferable, about the way you behave (see the competency framework I linked to above) in doing particular things. So you use the specific example to draw out some general principles of how you act at work.

MrsChopper Sun 26-Mar-17 23:09:53

I am also a civil servant with recruitment experience. The interviewers won't have seen your application. Feel free to use the same examples if you wish. They might ask you a couple of follow on questions but that is usually to help you hit all the right points iyswim.

Remember you need to tell them exactly what YOU did, not "we as a team...".

Good luck, OP smile

MrsChopper Sun 26-Mar-17 23:11:48

PS: definitely read the Competency Framework that was linked previously!

Wigeon Mon 27-Mar-17 08:26:11

In my experience, interviewers have always seen the application form. If I'm recruiting for a position in my team, I would have shortlisted the applications myself and therefore seen all the forms. Recently I took part in a big exercise for recruiting to Grade 7 vacancies across the department, and I was on one panel for shortlisting some of the applications, then another panel for interviewing. Although I hadn't personally shortlisted any of the candidates I interviewed, my interview panel was still supplied with the interviewees' application forms.

But agree you can still use the same examples from your form, in the interview!

Good luck to everyone on the thread with civil service interviews this week! smile

MrsChopper Mon 27-Mar-17 18:46:22

In my experience, interviewers have always seen the application form.

Whilst I have never taken part in the shortlisting process I have been part of numerous interview panels and I have never seen the applications beforehand. Maybe it's different depending on which part of the CS you work for smile

Wigeon Mon 27-Mar-17 19:08:57

Oh strange. Well, there are a few hundred thousand of us, so not surprising that practices vary. I've worked mostly in central govt departments (HO, CO, DH) and a couple of ALB type bodies. Have you never shortlisted for a position you manage, MrsChopper then?

EwanWhosearmy Mon 27-Mar-17 19:24:42

Unfortunately i haven't been shortlisted because they think I am good, I qualify under the guaranteed interview scheme

Don't underestimate yourself. Even under the GIS you have to meet the level they are looking for to get an interview.

NotCitrus Mon 27-Mar-17 19:40:07

What Ewan said. I've just had another rejection under GIS for a job I certainly could do ("very high level of interest", allegedly), but have got 3 interviews lined up...

HarryPottersMagicWand Tue 28-Mar-17 14:31:38

The level to get to interview was 2 Cs at GCSE including English Language and evidence of the professional expertise competency in a CV, which I scored the 4 for, so quite low levels.

I've been through and sorted my examples. I hope they are strong enough, I'm just not sure tbh. What do you think?

Seeing the big picture
An example of how I calculated redemption figures for my job, working in a team to achieve this, average turn around times, finding the right info, giving to correct team member to check, solicitors or customers receiving necessary info to redeem their mortgage.
A second example could be similar, an example based on closing a mortgage account, on promotion in the same team.

Delivering at pace
Daily task of sending out deeds requested by solicitors. Checking through deeds, listing enclosed documents in a standard letter, getting more requests when completed my pile, average edpected per day was 20, I averaged over 30, highest over 50, high turnaround with accuracy.
A second example could be being secretary for the PTA, taking minutes then typing them up and emailing to the school as soon as I got home whilst the meeting was fresh in everyone's mind.

Collaborating and organising.
I have become friendly with a few parenst at school and organise a christmas meal each year. Set up facebook event, sort out dates and venues that everyone agrees with, get and pay deposits, clarify how the bill is split beforehand after some confusion one year.
A second example could be building a positive relationship with the staff at school by volunteering and being open to working with the teachers if my child as had issues in school (there has been an issue recently and my DS's teacher said she knew she would have my support) and I also felt I could approach the deputy head last year when it was apparent that DS's schooo report was identical to another childs.

Managing a quality service (I struggled with this one a lot), helping in the classroom, ensuring I was up to date on the volunteer policy, organsing the materials and children so taking small groups, and reassuring the others who kept asking when it would be their turn, completing the work effectively which freed up the teacher and TA and meant I was finished before time to go home and I was able to assist with either reading or display work.
A second example could be from when I worked on a jewellery counter part time, finding out what the customer wanted, ordering the correct size if necessary, pointing out policies on no return of pierced jewellery, unless faulty. This job was many years ago though so not sure how much notice they will take.

Any and all feedback welcome on my proposed examples. Given my limited work history and extensive time out of work, it is such a struggle to find examples. It's frustrating though as reading the job description, it sounds similar to my job at the mortgage company with what I will be expected to do and I did that well.

I also have a short paragraph for if they ask if I have anything to add like they did last time and I said nothing. About how I am hardworking, organised, have the qualities for admin roles as confirmed by my tutor on a recent business admin course, who has agreed to give me a "glowing reference" and how I am keen to get back to work and looking forward to learning new things and looking forward to the opportunity to prove myself.

Too gushy? It's not worded exactly like that but that's the gist.

OP’s posts: |
Matildatoldsuchdreadfullies Tue 28-Mar-17 14:33:06

Not relevant OP, but I read the title of the thread as 'Civil service incompetencies grin.

Good luck with your application.

MrsChopper Tue 28-Mar-17 17:27:09

I have only got time to give your examples a quick look but didnt want to read and run. They aren't bad examples. Have you had a look at the competency framework? Basically for each competency there is a list of effective behaviours . The interviewers will compare your examples to these behaviours.

For example for Seeing the bigger picture they might askhow your role impacted on the team.
Or for Managing a quality service they might ask how you have taken ownership of issues.
The more your example demonstrates these behaviours the higher your score.

Have you never shortlisted for a position you manage, MrsChopper then?

No, unfortunately not. That was always done by others with previous shortlisting experience. I have always worked in benefits so a completely different kettle of fish to HO etc smile

HarryPottersMagicWand Tue 28-Mar-17 21:02:02

Yes I did look through the framework and wrote down the examples of effective behaviour for the level of job I am going for and tried to taylor my examples to this. If they ask how my role impacted on the team, that can be my role in closing accounts and checking clerks redemption figures were correct, I was very efficient and got through a decent load of work.

Taken ownership of an issue, that will be trickier. I'm not even sure what they want from an answer. Do they mean how I managed a mistake? Got on with something without asking? Unfortunately my best example of owning up to something I shouldn't have done paints me in a bad light and I wouldn't want to tell them. I lost it at a colleague once in the office and told her to fuck off very loudly. I was utterly fed up of her being totally shit at her job and I was always given her work to do because she would be so behind and I was always on top of mine and she just flirted and pissed about. One day she had the nerve to moan that she had to answer my phone whilst I was writing out all her cheques and I stood up snd told her to fuck off, very loudly, and stormed out to lunch. After calming down I went back to my manager (it was a big open plan office so she heard, as did many others), apologised and explained the situation. She actually understood and moved my useless colleague away from the nice distracting man, in the end they moved her teams because she was stil, useless and I still had to pick up the slack but I made a more constructive complaint that time. I was young and it was very very out of character for me. But I'm not sure a future employer would want to know that and I can't see them scoring me highly for it!

OP’s posts: |
HarryPottersMagicWand Tue 28-Mar-17 21:07:09

With taking ownership of issues, could I use an example of the fact I have been out of work for a while and I have seen an advisor at the jobcentre and enrolled on courses to give myself a better chance of securing a job? Obviously I know I have been out of work for a while so I know getting a job won't be easy but I'm trying to do something to give me a better opportunity and I am looking into voluntary work in the meantime.

OP’s posts: |
MrsChopper Tue 28-Mar-17 21:53:56

Taking ownership of an issue doesn't necessarily mean that the issue was caused by you. It just means that you recognised there was an issue, took ownership of it, dealt with it and kept all the relevant people informed. This is part of the managing a quality service competency. You mentioned helping in a classroom and working at a jewellery counter. Can you think of maybe resolving a customer complaint or an issue in the classroom that you sorted out?

Although telling your colleague to fuck off was obviously a bad move, you did address the issue by speaking to your manager.

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