Careers In The Civil Service
The Civil Service is a collection of departments, agencies and bodies responsible for delivering public services, and supporting the government in the development and implementation of policies.
It is one of the UK's largest employers, and as its responsibilities are so diverse, so too are the careers it offers.
Opportunities exist in a range of professions including communications, human resources, project management and delivery, operations, and legal, to name a few.
Currently, the Home Office, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Department for Work and Pensions account for 67% of all Civil Service employees, but there are many additional areas where you'll also find an exciting and rewarding career.
How To Get Hired In The Civil Service
The Civil Service offers multiple routes to entry, including:
- Fast Track Apprenticeships
- Summer Diversity Internships
- Early Diversity Internships
- Movement to Work Scheme
- Student placements
- Direct job placements
One of the most popular routes to entry though is the Civil Service Fast Stream programme. This is aimed at graduates, and offers two to four years placements on 15 schemes, some of which include:
- Digital, Data and Technology
- Science and Engineering
- Project Delivery
- Government Statistical Service
- Government Economics Service
- Government Social Research
The Civil Service Application Process
Since 2019, the Civil Service has used its Success Profiles Framework to ensure a fairer, more inclusive approach to recruitment. For each role, candidates are assessed on a set of relevant criteria, based on five key elements:
Multiple methods of assessment are used to measure each area. When you apply for a role, the job description will tell you which elements you'll be assessed on, and how.
The Civil Service application form requires you to submit personal details, and is likely to include some long-form questions which you'll need to complete.
This is one of the ways it measures behaviours. The questions posed will relate to behaviours necessary for the role, and you'll need to provide examples of when you've demonstrated them.
Examples of these behaviours include:
- Making effective decisions
- Working together
- Communicating and influencing
- Delivering at pace
In some cases, you might be asked to provide a CV and supporting statement in addition, or as an alternative to the application form.
You'll then be asked to complete a series of online tests relevant to job specifics. These measure your skills, abilities and behaviours.
Civil Service Verbal Test (CSVT)
This is an aptitude testdesigned to measure your ability to process information, and identify important details to form conclusions.
You'll be given a passage of text followed by a proposed statement, and will need to select from true, false, or cannot say based on your understanding of the information given.
This test is not timed, but is adaptive, meaning the questions will increase or decrease in difficulty according to your performance.
Civil Service Numerical Test (CSNT)
The numerical test is another measure of your natural aptitude, this time for processing data and your understanding of basic calculations.
You'll be given a sentence or two detailing numerical information, supported by a table, chart or graph. You'll then see a question prompt and five possible answers, only one of which will be correct. Again, this is an adaptive test without a time limit.
Civil Service Judgement Test (CSJT)
This situational judgement test measures your behaviours as they relate to workplace preferences, decision making and professional judgement.
It is split into two sections. In section one, you'll rate a series of statements from completely agree to completely disagree, for example, ‘I adapt to new situations easily.’
Section two involves hypothetical work-based scenarios, presented in either a written or video format. For each scenario, you'll be given four possible actions. You'll need to rate these as either effective, fairly effective, ineffective, or counterproductive.
For managerial level roles, you may be issued the Civil Service Management Judgement Test. This is made up of hypothetical scenarios only, with 15 to work through in total.
Customer Service Skills Test
This is administered for customer-facing roles and comes in three sections.
The first tests how well you're able to deal with challenging situations. You'll be given a customer query, including background information and a message from the customer. Three potential responses to this message will also be given. Your task is to select the one you deem most appropriate.
Section two is essentially a situational judgement test, where you'll rate responses to hypothetical situations. Neither section one nor two are timed.
In the final section, you're given 10 minutes to work through a range of customer information, checking for errors and inputting additional information as requested. This skills test measures your ability to work accurately at speed.
Casework Skills Test
This is very similar to the customer service skills test but designed specifically for case working roles.
You'll start by working through a range of scenarios. For each, you'll be given background information and a number of statements relating to the case. You'll need to process all the information available to decide if each statement is true or false, or if there's insufficient evidence either way.
You'll then move on to the situational judgement element, and a 10 minute timed section where you'll be asked to check for inaccuracies in casework information.
These are typically conducted face to face but may occasionally be via phone or video. You'll be asked a mix of skills and behavioural based questions, as well as questions relating to your interests. Many of these questions will ask you to provide examples of certain skills and behaviours in action.
You can expect your interview to last between 30 and 60 minutes.
Successful candidates will then be invited to an assessment centre which will involve multiple activities, the exact nature of which will depend on the role applied for.
Activities you can expect to take part in include:
- Group exercise
- Written exercise
- Leadership exercise
- E-tray exercise
You may also attend another interview here. You'll be informed ahead of the day on your exact schedule and what to prepare for.
If you're applying through the Civil Service Fast Stream for either the HR, finance, generalist, or digital, data and technology schemes, this is the last stage of recruitment. Candidates for all other schemes will be asked to attend a Final Selection Board.
Tips To Get Hired
Understand The Success Profiles Framework
This is what guides the entire recruitment process. So read it thoroughly. In particular, study the behaviours and skills the Civil Service looks for, and think of examples that prove you're a good fit.
Research The Test Programmes
When you know which online tests you'll be taking, find out exactly what's involved in each. Study each question type to get a better understanding of what's being asked of you. The more familiar you are with the content and format, the more you'll be able to focus on the important details.
Practice Aptitude Tests
The best way to improve your performance in the online tests is to practice. This will help you identify strengths and weaknesses, and where you need to focus more attention. It will also help train your brain to think more critically, a valuable skill for the verbal and numerical tests.
Don't Be Afraid To Fail
This applies to every stage of the process. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you'll inevitably slip up somewhere, but if you approach it with realistic expectations you'll lower your stress, and increase your focus. If things don't go your way, don't think of it as a failure, but more a learning experience.
How Long Do The Civil Service Online Tests Take?
Whilst many psychometric tests are taken under timed conditions those administered by the Civil Service are not, though it's recommended you allocate one hour per test. For most candidates, this is more than enough, but since speed has no weight on your score it's a good idea to take your time.
How Many Questions Are On The Civil Service Exam?
This all depends on the combination of tests you're required to take. You'll get detailed guidance on this once your initial application has been screened
How Do I Pass The Civil Service Judgement Test?
Go back to the Success Profiles Framework and review the behaviours the Civil Service looks for. This will give you a good idea of what it expects in terms of judgement and actions. Though it's important to answer honestly, as you may be asked to follow up questions at the interview.
Is It Difficult To Get A Civil Service Job?
As it is fully accountable to the public, the Civil Service runs a stringent recruitment process, assessing each candidate on a range of skills, abilities and behaviours, though these will be tailored to the level of the position applied for. It also aims to be fair and inclusive, so all promising applicants have an equal chance of success.