Careers at Civil Service
The Civil Service delivers an extensive range of public services and supports the Government to develop and implement policies. Over 480,000 people are currently employed in the Civil Service across the UK and overseas.
Whether you’re passionate about foreign policy, want to deliver vital services to the public, develop the tech and infrastructure needed to ensure the country stays ahead, or influence future generations through education — there’s a job in the Civil Service to suit almost everyone.
Each of these departments needs a whole host of skills and professions to function effectively, so by combining your passions with your strengths as an employee, countless civil service career opportunities will be available to you.
Aside from the roles themselves, the Civil Service is renowned for offering outstanding employee benefits including generous pension plans, flexible working hours, career and personal development opportunities as well as striving for continuous improvement in its diversity and inclusion execution.
The Civil Service is guided by four core values, across all departments, agencies and professions: Integrity, Honesty, Objectivity and Impartiality. Whilst some projects may have additional values they commit to, the organisation is looking for individuals who are respectful, confident and engaged to drive its purpose forward.
And it’s yet another reason why it’s worth putting the time and effort into the highly competitive Civil Service recruitment process.
Civil Service Fast Stream
Within the Civil Service sits the Fast Stream programme, specifically designed to nurture and train future Civil Service leaders.
The Civil Service Fast Stream is a leadership development programme that recruits for Civil Service positions once per year. Working at the heart of government, Fast Streamers work on some of the most complex issues facing Britain and the rest of the world.
If you’re accepted onto the Fast Stream, your development will be heavily invested in and you’ll be trained up with leadership in mind. This does mean you won’t initially be able to choose which department you work in, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the country’s brightest minds and discover where your true passion lies.
Civil Service Application Process
Situational Judgement Questionnaires
Numerical Reasoning Test
Final Selection Board
The Civil Service has developed a fair, open and multi-staged method of recruitment which gives candidates’ the best opportunity to showcase strengths and experience.
Civil Servant roles are highly sought after, so the application process can be competitive, however, the organisation has worked to develop an unbiased and accessible application process to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed should they possess the talent or potential.
After the online application and online aptitude tests (more on these later) candidates are put through a ‘sifting’ process, which essentially means shortlisting against the benchmark requirements and results. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview, possibly asked to carry out further tests or attend an assessment day before finding out if they have got the job.
The Fast Stream recruitment process is made to challenge even the most competent of individuals since its purpose is to help find the Civil Service’s future leaders.
It’s a lot of work to apply for Civil Service jobs, but if you’re willing to put in the time, effort and preparation, the results could be life-changing.
At each point, you’ll be required to showcase your skills and strengths, while demonstrating the key competencies that are required of every individual who gets accepted onto the Fast Stream.
The online application form is the first stage of the process.
You’ll be asked to share details of your previous education and experience, to ensure you meet the minimum criteria for the role you’re applying for.
The application form also includes a Civil Service competency questionnaire in which you’ll need to detail examples of where you’ve demonstrated the qualities listed in the Civil Service Competency Framework.
With just 200 words per answer allowed, it’s important to get your point across concisely.
Civil Service Aptitude Tests
The next stage of the selection process is the civil service exam, which consists of several online tests including work-style questionnaires, situational judgement questionnaires, and possibly a numerical test (depending on the scheme).
The work-style questionnaire presents you with a series of statements that you’ll have to respond to with your character in mind. After reading each one, you’ll need to mark on a scale how much you agree or disagree with what you’ve read.
Next, you’ll be shown the same set of statements and asked to rank in order which one describes you best, to which is the least representative of your character.
As always with personality-style questionnaires, honesty is the best policy. But it’s always worth keeping the key competencies in mind as you progress through the questions.
Overall the strengths and weaknesses of your character are being assessed; helping an employer to gain a better understanding of how well you’d fit into the Fast Stream programme and wider department.
Civil Service situational judgement questionnaires
Using the core Civil Service competencies as a guide for your answers, you’ll need to answer a series of multiple-choice questions about your relationship-building skills and the way that you think, in two different situational judgement questionnaires.
The first questionnaire requires you to show how comfortable you are making important judgement calls and big decisions. These will always be framed as workplace challenges; ones that you may well have to deal with should you be accepted onto the programme.
The second questionnaire is designed to probe how you think, by giving you a limited amount of information about a workplace situation and then asking you to use the information to resolve a problem.
Both questionnaires consist of 12 questions followed by four potential actions. Your job is to rate the actions according to their effectiveness in solving the particular challenge you’re dealing with.
Civil Service verbal test
Civil Service verbal tests (CSVT) are more commonly known as verbal reasoning tests. They assess your ability to identify relevant information and draw conclusions from written passages of information. Presented with various paragraphs of text, followed by a statement relating to the information,you’re required to determine whether the statement is true, implied truth or false. The Civil Service uses these to highlight candidates with strong communication and comprehension skills.
Whilst the test is not timed, it takes candidates between 15-45 minutes to complete. We’d recommend finding a quiet space to run through practice tests and the real thing.
Civil Service numerical test
Depending on what scheme you have chosen to apply for, you may be asked to complete a numerical reasoning test.
The Fast Stream numerical test is multiple-choice and supplied by Cubiks, so be sure to practice Cubiks tests to get to grips with the style and format of the questions.
Based largely on your ability to analyse and interpret data from different graphs, charts, and tables, the numerical test is your chance to show off your mathematical skills — skills that will be highly valued in many different areas of the Civil Service.
It’s crucial to prepare for the numerical reasoning test part of the assessment, particularly if maths isn’t one of your strengths. The best way to prepare for the numerical reasoning test is to take some online practice tests. This will help you become accustomed to questioning style and format, as well allowing you to identify any areas of weakness to focus on.
Civil Service management judgement test
Similar to the (CSJT), the Civil Service management judgement test is, you guessed it, specific to management positions. The test focussed on an individual’s decision making regarding the day to day management of colleagues. This is done using 15 hypothetical workplace scenarios that are presented in video and text format, you then have to select the action you are most likely to take, and the one you are least likely to take.
The Civil Service focus on five key behavioural areas to identify strong management candidates. You need to demonstrate you are collaborative, decisive, empathetic, confident and agile to achieve a high score.
Civil Service work strengths test
The Civil Service work strengths test comes in several formats and the one you receive has been selected to discover what you do well and what motivates you. For junior positions, the tests focus on strengths such as being analytical, a team player, organised, and adaptable. Whereas senior positions are also measured on their leadership, resilience, strategic mindedness and influence.
All tests are delivered in three parts. Part One is a self-assessment of your typical preferences at work. Part Two, workplace scenarios, just like the (CSJT). Finally part three, similar to the management judgement test, you advise on what actions are most and least likely to take in a given situation.
Customer service skills test
If you are applying for a role that is user or community-facing for the Civil Service, you’ll be required to complete a customer service skills test. This will assess a candidate’s ability to manage difficult customers, judgement concerning a range of situations encountered in the Civil Service specifically, and work accurately under timed conditions.
This is a three-part test, the first two sections following the same format as CSJT’s and management judgement tests, just with a focus on customer interactions. However, the third section is timed. Candidates are given 10 minutes to complete an error checking assessment, review customer data and identify errors and input the correct data.
Casework skills test
A Casework skills test is specific to this profession and focuses on a candidate’s comprehension - being able to process information from a wide range of sources and analyse them effectively. Situational judgement and attention to detail are also highly sought after skills for a caseworker to possess.
The first part of this assessment is similar to the CSVT in that candidates are given a range of written material, in this case, various correspondence from multiple sources, along with a statement. Candidates are required to identify if the statement is true, false or cannot say. The second part of the test follows the same structure as CSJT’s and the third the same as the timed customer service skills test.