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Advice please for Civil Service Interview

(31 Posts)
Figmentofimagination Tue 30-Oct-18 17:18:51

I was hoping someone would be able to provide me with some advice and tips on preparing for my interview with the Civil Service, especially the competencies.

I have applied for an AO position, doing admin, data entry and casework processing. This will be my first full time job since my 1 year contract ended at the beginning of last year, and my son was born 18 months ago (currently working part time at weekends in a shop). My previous experience is Management Information doing Data Analysis and Reporting in both Finance and Education.

The competencies I will be tested on is Making Effective Decisions, Delivering at Pace and Managing a Quality Service.

When applying for the job, I thought I produced really good competency examples, making sure to use the STAR method, however I’ve only been rated as 4 (acceptable demonstration). On the sift feedback, I’ve only been given a rating of 4 for two competencies (a time I’ve worked quickly and accurately, maintaining attention to detail; and completed a large volume of work within a tight timescale). I have not been given a rating for communicating with a range of people, ensuring it’s tailored a clear. I’m wondering if that is because I won’t be assessed on communication, as it sounds more like Leading and Communicating than Making Effective Decisions.

I was hoping to use these examples again for my interview (obviously can’t use the communicating one again) as well as preparing some other examples as back ups, but I’m now worried they were not strong enough. In one of my previous jobs I applied a few times for a higher role, only to fail on the competencies (not strong enough examples, and nerves made me lose focus).

I really don’t want to fail, so would love any advice. I’ll give a brief summary of my examples below so as not to clog up this post.

Figmentofimagination Tue 30-Oct-18 17:19:36

Shortened version of two of my examples. Don’t think I need to provide the communication one since I won’t be assessed on it.

Delivering at Pace - completed a large volume of work within a tight timescale.

S - large number of employees were being hired within short space of time (moving offices)
T - I had to ensure all new employees received relevant systems access within a short timeframe, as I was only advised of the new employee a few days before starting
A - created a checklist template that documented all systems, what information I would require about an employee, how a manager would request this access, and had a status bar to keep everyone updated. I also liaised with IT so they were prepared for the increase in requests, and understood the urgency
R - most of the process ran smoothly, couple of hiccups that I resolved, received lots of positive feedback from management. The checklist was also helpful when I trained my replacement on the process.

Managing a Quality Service - a time I worked quickly and accurately, maintaining attention to detail.

S - A Level results day. Results needed to be acquired and distributed within one day to students, teachers, newspapers etc.
T - results needed to be downloaded from examining body portals, uploaded to the database and distributed via results slips and reports.
A - working within a team, I first checked the results had been uploaded correctly, checking for anomalies. I used process notes to ensure accuracy. Printed off results slips once checked. Then referring to the day’s timetable, I assisted in producing the rest of the reports, documented when I completed a report, and also quality checked other team members reports.
R - results were all distributed to the students, and all reports were completed to timescale.

Figmentofimagination Tue 30-Oct-18 17:33:39

Also, what can I expect from the interview? And what happens if I pass this interview (says first interview on the website)? Will I be expecting more interviews, another test like the verbal reasoning that I have already done? I have applied for Civil Service jobs before (about 10 years ago) and never got further than the first interview.

Figmentofimagination Wed 31-Oct-18 07:19:37

Hopeful bump

aurorie11 Wed 31-Oct-18 07:30:11

The examples of this are a bit I did this, then I did that. Just some thoughts.

Think about how you did things as well and context. On delivering at pace, were you doing this at the same time as other work, were you balancing priorities, were there any difficulties/ challenges how did you overcome these? E.g did you have to persuade IT, if so how did you do this?

On quality service, you talk about working as part of a team be clear on what you took responsibility for, how did you know you delivered a quality service e.g. you clarified requirement before starting this work and sought feedback at the end

In term of next stage, it should just be notification of results, no second interview or further tests.

Figmentofimagination Wed 31-Oct-18 08:33:00

Thank you aurorie. That is really helpful. I know I did the points you made, so I can expand on the examples for the interview. Also glad I won't be having a second interview if I do pass this interview.

Isleepinahedgefund Wed 31-Oct-18 12:15:29

You can use the same examples but make sure your expand on them. I've just done some competency based interviews and the candidates who used new examples scored lower than they did in the soft for their original examples. They way I see it is that if it got you through the sift, you know it's good enough already.

Candidates who didn't score well either didn't answer the question (eg for managing decisions didn't tell us what decision they had to make), or didn't give enough of the "how". Your competencies read a bit too much "what" and not enough "how", so maybe something to bear in mind. The interviewers aren't allowed to prompt you in any meaningful way so it's up to you to make sure your answer is comprehensive.

Check if you're allowed to bring in your application to refer to. We allow it but some departments don't. If you are allowed, use it as a prompt for yourself and don't assume the interviewers are familiar with it.

Don't assume anything - even down to the description of your current job - assume they know nothing.

Isleepinahedgefund Wed 31-Oct-18 12:16:38

Oh and these days any tests are almost always done up front as part of the application process, so don't worry about that - they would have told you about it already.

Figmentofimagination Wed 31-Oct-18 18:43:32

Thank you Isleepinahedgefund. Reading my competency examples back, I can see that I only briefly touched on the how. I am also planning to take a few bullet points written down with me, to help keep me on point as I can sometimes waffle. I blame nerves.

mumofnat Wed 31-Oct-18 20:30:37

When I went for my interview they allowed us to take in notes, so take some with you just in case.
Compared to other interviews this one was easy IMO.
We also had another part of the interview (it was for a different role than yours) where we had to do case studies- this was difficult and not something I think you could particularly practice for.

Read the competencies, think of examples, make sure you use their wording and make notes 

Figmentofimagination Tue 06-Nov-18 20:28:07

Ok, so I have read the job description and competencies information numerous times. I have also researched the department the job is for. I have written 6 examples (making sure to include/ expand on the how), 2 for each competency, and have made sure to refer to parts of the competencies and the job description in my examples (used excel, created plans, followed process notes, short timescales etc.). I have now written my examples into short notes, and am planning to practise presenting these examples using my short notes.

Is there anything else I haven't thought of? I'm getting very nervous.

Isleepinahedgefund Tue 06-Nov-18 21:33:51

Be well prepared, but not too rehearsed. Use one example per competency. Remember you might not be allowed your notes, so don’t be relying on them.

If you’re nervous, I would stick with the examples that got you through the application sift. By the way, nervous doesn’t come across badly, so long as you still perform well/answer the questions adequately. The first few questions will be “ice breakers” designed to get you to relax into it a bit before they start on the scored questions. They will be clear about what is and isn’t being scored.

Make sure you listen to the question and answer it! Don’t just regurgitate your prepared answer. If they ask you to tell them about a time when you made a difficult decision, make sure you tell them up front what the decision was and why it was difficult, before launching into the “how”.

Also make sure you have a good question to ask at the end of the interview. Nothing worse than a candidate who doesn’t have a question. Things about start dates, terms & conditions, that sort of thing.

Good luck, don’t forget to update after your interview!

Isleepinahedgefund Tue 06-Nov-18 21:35:32

Oh and re delivering at pace - it doesn’t mean you did things quickly, it’s also about how you juggled your workload when something unexpected came up. People often forget to bring that out.

Figmentofimagination Tue 06-Nov-18 21:58:19

Thanks again Isleepinahedgefund. I've prepped 2 examples for each just in case my my first example doesn't quite match up with the question they ask (had that from experience). So each competency has 2 examples that are very different to each other. But my first choice examples are from my original sift.

Your right about questions to ask them, I usually ask when will I hear back from them about the job, will feedback be provided if I am not successful, and start dates.

And with delivering at pace, I've made sure to slip into my examples that I did the tasks whilst continuing my regular BAU work. And some examples (not just delivering at pace), briefly touch on if things went wrong/ minor hiccups.

I promise to update you as well.

Figmentofimagination Fri 09-Nov-18 20:02:56

So I had my interview today. I was so nervous before and during. I kept saying ummm and using my hands lots, which is what I do when I am nervous. I did let them know that I was nervous though. I unfortunately wasn't allowed to use my notes, but I'm hoping I managed to get my examples across clearly.

I was asked I think 6 questions, 3 on the competencies and 3 on the job description. I tried my best to remember the STAR approach, and I made sure to also drop in about continuing with BAU work whilst doing other work, and developing my skills when taking on new tasks. I did get smiles and nods when I was giving my examples which I'm hoping is a positive. Now just to wait and find out.

Oh, and another AO job has come up in my area, only a 10 minute drive away from home, instead of 40 minutes that this original job is. So there is a chance I may have to go through this all again.

Isleepinahedgefund Fri 09-Nov-18 20:57:31

It sounds positive overall - hopefully they will let you know soon - I know how ridiculously slow CS recruitment can be sometimes!

If you do decide to apply for the other one, at least you'll know what to expect!

Civil Service recruitment is being changed at the moment, so some vacancies might be using the new success profiles framework. It's a bit different from competency based.

Figmentofimagination Fri 09-Nov-18 21:36:52

Thank you Isleepinahedgefund and everyone else for your advice. I really appreciate it.

Figmentofimagination Wed 05-Dec-18 19:28:25

So I've heard back about the job. I didn't get it. My application has been placed in reserve as I reached the required standard but are unable to offer a job immediately.

I got mainly 4's with one 5 with an overall rating of acceptable. Comments were that I would have benefitted from more tailored specific examples but had adequate positive evidence of the competencies.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Thank you again for everyone's help.

Nat6999 Wed 05-Dec-18 19:35:27

Don't give up, often the reserve lists move very quickly. I applied through internal vacancies, got told at 9.30 I had passed the application & was on a reserve list for a vacancy, by 14.00 I had a phone call that I had been found a vacancy. People leave or move around frequently & vacancies pop up all the time. Which department are you interested in?

Figmentofimagination Wed 05-Dec-18 20:14:13

Hi Nat, it was an AO job doing admin, data entry and casework processing at the Land Registry. There was only 25 jobs for the whole country.

As I'm an external candidate I don't have a particular department that I am interested in, more that I am trying to get back to full time work since my 1 year contract as a data analyst ended in 2017 and my DS was born 18 months ago.

Figmentofimagination Wed 05-Dec-18 20:14:49

Hi Nat, it was an AO job doing admin, data entry and casework processing at the Land Registry. There was only 25 jobs for the whole country.

As I'm an external candidate I don't have a particular department that I am interested in, more that I am trying to get back to full time work since my 1 year contract as a data analyst ended in 2017 and my DS was born 18 months ago.

Nat6999 Wed 05-Dec-18 22:25:04

Just leave your name on the list, if you aren't bothered which department you get, there shouldn't be a very long wait. Have you thought about applying for AA positions? Once you get to the top of the pay scale there is only about £2.5k difference in pay & a lot less hassle.

Figmentofimagination Wed 05-Dec-18 23:04:30

I will definitely be keeping my name on the list. And I will keep applying for anything that comes up in my local area (up to 15 miles away - this one was 9 miles/ 45 mins drive without traffic), whether it's AO or AA. However, they have closed 4 closer sites in the last few years which reduces the amount of jobs being advertised.

Figmentofimagination Wed 12-Dec-18 22:09:51

So...I have news! I have been given a provisional offer. You were right Nat!
So I've said yes please, and filled in the forms I have been sent so far. Now to keep my fingers crossed that all my references and checks come back ok and I get a formal offer.
Of course they say to not resign from my current job until I receive a formal offer, so I have requested they don't ask for a reference from my current employer (or at least not yet), as I don't want it to negatively impact my current job. I am still under probation at my current job, and I don't want the risk of them firing me if they find out I'm looking for other employment.

MelanieCheeks Wed 12-Dec-18 22:14:46


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