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Step by Step Guide To Applying To The Civil Service

If you are thinking of applying to work in the Civil Service, here are some key steps which will help to guide you through the process.

Step 1. Researching Grade Structures of the Civil Service

The Civil Service offers a very wide range of career and role opportunities across 18 main departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Defence, or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. If you are new to applying to the Civil Service you’ll find Civil Service Interviews a useful resource as we offer specialist application and interview coaching.  When applying to the Civil Service it is important that you select a grade which is commensurate with your skills and experience, whilst also satisfying your ambitions.

Step 2. Searching for Civil Service Roles and Creating an Account

Civil Service jobs are advertised by many mainstream recruitment agencies, but it is best to apply directly though … the Civil Service Jobs portal because all applications are ultimately submitted via this gateway. The first step is to make an account:  Although you can search by location, department, or specialism, without a login, you will ultimately need an account to apply. The Civil Service Jobs search engine is fairly self-explanatory, but it is best to have read up on the grades and departments first in order to orientate yourself.

Step 3. Make Time

The Civil Service values inclusivity, diversity and fairness, and as such all job descriptions are comprehensive, clear and transparent. Every applicant who can demonstrate that they have the skills, knowledge, and experience required of the role has an equal chance of succeeding to interview stage. This is a real positive for all applicants, especially those from outside of the Civil Service.

Before starting to review the online application form, applicants must be prepared to invest and set aside a decent amount of time. Completing a credible and powerful application can take many hours, even days! However, don’t let this put you off because whatever the outcome of your submission, your work will be transferable to future Civil Service applications, as explained later in this post. An additional point to consider is that each application you make is based on its own merits, and the numbers and types of applications are not being monitored or limited, so you can re-apply for the same role or to the same department

Step 4. Read Success Profiles and Strengths Documents

Having identified a role, you will then need to prepare carefully. This involves downloading the job description, and accessing and downloading the Success Profiles and supporting Strengths documents.  You can access numerous documents here that explain the various frameworks, which you are advised to read. There will be a link to the Success Profiles within the job description. Nearly there! Have a copy of your CV and education history/timeline at hand, having checked all dates for accuracy and continuity.

If you need more support with your Civil Service application you can find out more Civil Service interview coaching at Interview Skills Clinic, or book a free consultation online or contact Interview Skills Clinic.

Step 5. How to Interpret the Job Description

Starting from the top of the job description, you should make a note of the role grade e.g. EO Executive Officer, HEO Higher Executive Officer and so on. It is also important to understand what is expected of you at each of the levels, for example, in terms of leadership experience and people management responsibility; the Success Profiles document provides a good reference.

The job description sets out quite clearly what the role is looking for under the Key Responsibilities and Personal Specification sections. You will need to evidence how you have demonstrated these skills throughout the examples in your submission. Make a note of each and think about your examples.

The next section lists the Behaviours the applicant needs to demonstrate. These are taken from the nine Success Profiles. A role will typically list between three and five competencies e.g. Making Effective Decisions, Delivering at Pace etc. Use the Success Profiles document to learn more about each listed competency on the job description and compare against the grade that you are applying for.

Step 6. Making Sense of the Selection Process Details

The section ‘Selection process details’ is where you will be able to learn exactly what is needed within the application, and you should cross-check this against the form in the online application portal to be clear exactly what [CK2]  they are asking for. There are typically several combinations of written work which are requested within a submission, and since 1 January 2019, this is no longer a standardised process. You could be asked for any number of the listed competencies in a 250-word STAR format. It [CK3]  may be that is all required is a  simply CV. An Application Statement is now widely used and could be requested in addition to the competency examples. So think carefully and plan your approach.

Step 7. Completing the Online Application

Typically, you will be asked to complete these sections:

  • A CV section: This must be anonymous and asks for each current and previous role to be listed i.e. you are not asked to upload your traditional CV but only your work history. It is important to list your achievements under each role and make certain, as far as possible, that they demonstrate the skills, knowledge and experience listed within the job description.
  •  Education section: Qualification, Grade, Education Establishment, and Dates.
  • An Experience and Skills section: Within this box you must set out under separate headings the skills and experience you have which are relevant to the role. For example, this could be Customer Service experience, Administration, IT and Communications etc. Support each where possible with a brief example e.g. under IT and Communication you could list the software you have used.

Then in addition – a combination of the following:

  •  Written competency examples: You will often be asked for 250-word written examples of one or more of the listed competencies under the Success Profiles section. These must be set out using the STAR format and should be commensurate with the level of role you are applying to in terms of complexity. Most job descriptions will state that applications will be ‘sifted’ on the lead competency, or the first listed in the job description. They will typically be given a score out of seven, and a mark of four or five should be enough to secure an interview. However, it is probable that other factors will be considered such as the knowledge or education requirements. In some cases, you may be asked to carry out initial online tests before making an application which will also affect your score. For more guidance on how to write behaviour examples refer to our article Civil Service Interview Questions which outlines some written examples.
  •  An Application Statement. This is typically limited to between 500 – 1200 words. You will be asked to set out why you have the skills and experience for this role, or words to this effect. This provides an opportunity to state why you are interested in this role and department, and to offer several examples which demonstrate that you have the requisite skills, knowledge and experience. Where written competency examples have not been required in the submission, then they should be covered in this statement. It is important to list clearly within the text how you have demonstrated these competencies, for example, when you have shown strong leadership, or been able to communicate an idea and influence a person or team to do something as a result. It is not necessary to stick rigidly to a STAR format in an Application Statement but be certain to retain the clarity around the situation and task and what you achieved. Listing a few brief examples of each competency is advantageous. Then finish with a brief summary explaining why all of this is relevant!

Step 8. What Next?

At last! You can now submit your application and wait for the next stage. Your application will be scored or ‘sifted’. Competency examples are marked out of seven and you will need at least four for each submitted competency to secure an interview. However, with the number of applicants for each role seemingly rising, a score of five or above is often now required, and it may be that the lead competency only is sifted. Similar logic applies to the statement in terms of scoring. You will generally receive feedback on your score(s). If successful you will be invited to select an interview slot from a range of dates and times. Don’t delay with your choice because once the available slots are filled, it might be difficult to secure another one and sometimes no further dates are released. If you are a graduate then as well as this application guide you’ll find it helpfult to read our post Graduate Opportunities – Civil Service. For more advice read How To Ace A Civil Service Interview

In any event, and whatever the outcome, the work that you have completed will not be wasted. The Success Profiles are consistently used across roles and you will have also crafted an Application Statement which can be adapted for use in future applications.

You can find out more Civil Service interview coaching by booking a free consultation online or contact Interview Skills Clinic.