As graduates finish their final term at University it can be very daunting looking for and applying for job opportunities. We work closely with clients applying for civil service jobs and it is worth looking at the civil service opportunities. There are many different entry paths from the Fast Stream to the Fast Track, together with applying directly for the plethora of roles advertised on the GOV.UK website. Whilst the application process looks complicated once you understand their assessment process it is relatively easy to achieve success and get a job you want.
‘Phew!’, The end of term approaches for many graduates leaving University but ‘What now?’
For many University graduates this can be a testing time. The lucky few will have been able to set themselves up with an internship or full-time role, but from what we see this is far from the norm.
Even though the job market is relatively buoyant, securing that interview and then getting through it can be a very daunting thought – not to mention ‘Do I really know what I want to do?’. The application and interview process is naturally quite alien to many graduates because it’s not something that they have had to do in such a formal way until now. Crafting the CV – what’s relevant? Do I need to write it slightly differently for each application? Writing a cover letter – what are they looking for? How can I spot the precise skills and strengths? Then progressing through all the online tests, video interviews and assessment days can be overwhelming.
There are other options of course to simply trawling through job sites. One area to consider is a job within the Civil Service. In September the Civil Service typically opens to applications for the Fast Stream – open to all those with a 2:2 or above. There is also the Fast Track, an apprentice scheme that offers an alternative to University and is also available to graduate and the HM Treasury graduate programme and last but not least a plethora of roles advertised on the GOV.UK website, start by looking at level 2 EO roles. Don’t be too put off by entry level as it’s possible to progress quite quickly.
Applying to the Civil Service requires focus, time and dedication. However, the recruitment process is incredibly fair and they do actually set out what they are looking for in some detail. Once you fully understand the process and what is required it’s possible to succeed relatively quickly. So worth investigating and a good place to start is the Institute for Government website. Within these pages you can also see how many people typically apply, the success rates by degree subject category, which departments take the most graduates and so on. It’s worth a visit and can help to get those applications flowing.
An interview panel will typically open the discussion by wanting to learn more about you, or rather giving you an immediate opportunity to sell yourself. The opening question can take numerous forms such as, ‘What relevant skills and qualities can you bring to the role and our organisation? Or simply ‘tell us about yourself?’ or ‘Talk us through your CV?’ but ultimately all the questions however they’re phrased are asking, ‘Tell us why we should hire you?’ How you answer this initial question sets the scene for the rest of the interview, get this right and you could be on the way to getting hired. Answering the opening question succinctly and with confidence is much more difficult than it appears. We often find that people just don’t think this question through from an interviewer’s perspective, they assume that the interviewers have read their application and remember everything about them. This is very unlikely to be true.
Crafting and rehearsing a strong answer is more fundamental to the entire application and interview process than one might imagine. The key to a successful answer is to be clear on why you have a right to be in the interview room and what makes you a strong and obvious choice for the role. What makes you standout from the competition? The answer lies in three parts, but don’t just dive in and start writing, work through the role and job description in meticulous detail.
- You must be very clear about the technical skills, behaviours and experience they are looking for and how your skills and experience match the role. The first part of your answer should tell the interviewers that you have the skills and experience to do this job. Prepare a high-level overview of your career to date highlighting some of key responsibilities, achievements and skills. For example, I have 15 years of experience working as a HR professional working across 4 organisations, 7 of these have been working at senior management level. My current role is a Global HR Director for x responsible for .. .One of the key achievements has been leading a cultural change across …
- The next part of your answer should focus on what makes you standout from other candidates. One way to think about this is to identify 3 key strengths you could you bring to the role. Check to ensure that the strengths will be relevant to the role and valued by the interviewers. When have these strengths made a difference at work recently? Craft some short ‘stories’ which you could briefly mention to substantiate your strengths. For example, ‘the key value which I think I can bring to this role is my ability to build strategic partnership for example … You would only mention the example briefly at this stage but can develop the story in more detail later in the interview when substantiating an answer.
- Finally state your motivation for applying to the role. If you are not sure why you’ve applied to the organisation then you need to carry out some research and identify something that you particularly admire about them or you’ve identified a specific problem which you would like to help them solve etc.
So, ‘Why should you hire me?’ Because I completely understand what you are looking for and can demonstrate from my career that I have the necessary experience and skills, together with personal strengths and motivation to make me the strongest candidate for the role. Answer this in a relevant, concise and engaging way in no more than three minutes minutes and you’ll have made a strong first impression. And remember, employers like to see motivated and positive people with energy and enthusiasm. If you are confident about why you have a right to be in the room and to be a strong candidate, then you are a good way to convincing the panel.