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Civil Service Competency Interviews

The challenge of a Civil Service interview


Civil Service interviews have always been particularly challenging as they have been focused on assessing a candidate against the competencies outlined in the Civil Service Competency Framework. Competencies include:

  1. Seeing the Big Picture
  2. Changing and Improving
  3. Making Effective Decisions
  4. Leading and Communicating
  5. Collaborating and Partnering
  6. Building Capability for All
  7. Achieving Commercial Outcomes
  8. Delivering Value For Money
  9. Managing a Quality Service
  10. Delivering at Pace

Some specialist roles will have their own version of the competency framework, such as Government Legal Services or the Government Communication Professional Competency Framework which needs to be used together with the Civil Service Competency framework.

Coaching is available for from Level 1 to Director General including the Fast Stream programme which opens up shortly.

Civil Service Recruitment Changes

Currently, the Civil Service recruitment process is going through significant changes with a greater emphasis on technical assessment and strength based interview questions in addition to the regular competency based questions. This is called Blended Assessment.  The application process is now often different. Candidates are asked to write a Personal Statement rather than traditional competency examples. Support can be given to prepare for both the traditional Civil Service interview and Blended Assessment. Whilst all applications previously were assessed manually by staff new software BeApplied is being used to sift candidates. The aim of this is to achieve more consistency. Using this software competencies are being assessed out of a maximum score of 5 rather than 7.

One to one coaching is available is available with Application Coaching, Preparation Coaching and Mock Interview Coaching.

Civil Service Competency Interview Coaching

it is essential for interview coaching to be tailored to a Civil Service interview rather than just a general behaviour competency interview.  This involves a much greater emphasis on Preparation Coaching for both competency and strength based questions.

Preparation Coaching

  • Learn how the competencies are assessed for the grade
  • Understand more about how the behaviours can be articulated
  • Develop in-depth competencies stories which achieve a high score
  • Demonstrate the Learning and Communicating competencies across the other competencies

Mock Interview Coaching

  • practise adapting your prepared competency stories to different questions
  • deliver a natural answer with a good clear structure rather than a learnt response
  • modulate your voice with natural rhythm and variation to engage and show enthusiasm
  • show open body language with strong eye contact

The number of coaching sessions you are likely to need depends on your experience of previous Civil Service interviews, your past results and the level you are interviewing for. Most clients benefit from two-three sessions:

Common interview problems

Without coaching many clients fall down in the interview and get low marks. Some of the common reasons for this are because:

  • the answers do not sufficiently address the behaviours and skills outlined in the competency framework
  • the answers are unstructured making it difficult for the assessors to mark the interviewer highly
  • the candidate has learnt the answers ‘parrot fashion’ creating an interview veneer and demonstrating poor communication skills. This often results in a candidate experiencing ‘brain-freeze’ in the interview
  • the candidate has shown limited self-awareness.  Being able to demonstrate emotional intelligence and high levels of self-awareness is important at management levels

Candidates often go through multiple rejections whilst applying for Civil Services roles and inevitably this reduce self-confidence and creates interview anxiety which then becomes an additional issue which can limit your success.

Recent successes

I have always been incredibly nervous at interviews and this has impacted on my performance. After a particularly disastrous experience, I decided to seek some professional help. It’s always hard to choose someone without a recommendation but as soon as I contacted Elizabeth I knew that she was right for me. I started off with a Skype session to help me improve my Civil Service competency based applications. Elizabeth is tremendously knowledgeable and packed the session with sound advice, all recorded to play back later. She has great insight and helped me understand my weaknesses and the areas to improve on my applications. Some time later, I followed up the initial session with a face to face appointment before an important interview. I’d had a couple of recent interviews and was still with struggling nerves. I was a wreck when I saw Elizabeth as even the thought of practising in front of her filled me with dread but she wasn’t fazed by this and explained it was just interview anxiety. She had some excellent strategies to help me cope and patiently coached me through my interview examples. Elizabeth highlighted my strengths and constructively pointed out areas that required further work, with suggestions on what was required. The session really boosted my confidence and helped me focus on selling myself at interview. It worked – I got the job! I cannot recommend Elizabeth highly enough. I always admire people who excel at their job and Elizabeth excels! July 2017
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