Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

Prepare for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recruitment process with tailor-made practice materials.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Aptitude Tests

Careers in the DWP(Department for Work & Pensions)

As part of the Civil Service, the DWP is the largest public service department in the UK and is the body responsible for pensions, welfare and child maintenance policy.

Operationally it is split into four divisions which, between them, deliver core services and benefits to around 20 million people:

Jobcentre Plus - helping job seekers find employment, and issuing Universal Credit and Working Age benefits to those out of or unable to work.

Pensions services - delivering pension payments and retirement advice to UK citizens, and issuing pension age benefits such as Winter Fuel Payments.

Child maintenance services - working with separated parents to calculate, collect and give advice on child maintenance payments.

Disability services - providing disability-related benefits such as Personal Independence Payments and the Disability Living Allowance to those with additional needs.

Types of DWP Jobs

The DWP employs around 80,000 people across the country, promoting a culture of diversity, inclusion and development.

Job opportunities exist on the front line across its four service divisions, as well as behind the scenes in business-critical departments like IT, finance, administration, communications and HR.

There are also many roles to be found in the DWP's digital team as it looks to transform the way services are delivered through new technologies and innovation.

How to Get a Job in the DWP

The DWP offers many paths to entry including apprenticeships, graduate programmes and direct entry opportunities.

To be successful in your application, you'll need to show a commitment to meeting the needs and delivering on behalf of service users.

You'll also need to be familiar with the Civil Service Success Profiles Framework, as this informs the recruitment process for the DWP.

DWP Application Process

For every job opening, the DWP assigns a set of relevant criteria taken from the Success Profiles Framework. This lays out the experience, behaviours, skills, abilities and technical know-how of the ideal candidate.

To assess how well you meet the criteria, the DWP uses multiple techniques. These can vary between roles, but the typical process includes an application, screening tests and interviews.

Online Application

The first step to securing a role in the DWP is to submit your CV and complete an online application form.

Your CV should be tailored to highlight the specific criteria detailed in the job description, with a particular focus on experience, skills and technical knowledge.

The application form will also assess relevant behaviours as laid out in the Success Profiles Framework through one or more long-form questions.

These will ask you to give examples of how you've applied these behaviours in the past, usually in around 500 words or so.

The application form will make it clear which behaviours are under assessment. These may include:

  • Communicating and influencing
  • Delivering at pace
  • Working together
  • Making effective decisions

Online Tests

On submission of your application, you'll be sent a link to one or more online assessments. You'll also be given a deadline by which you'll need to complete them.

These tests are used to further measure your behaviours, as well as focusing on your natural abilities. Common tests issued are situational judgement, numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning.

Situational Judgement Test

The DWP uses a situational judgement test to better understand your professional decision making, problem-solving skills and working preferences.

The test is structured in two sections. In the first, you'll see a series of statements that may or may not apply to you, for example, “I enjoy meeting new people” or “I prefer to work as part of a team than on my own”;. You'll need to rate each statement on a scale from completely agree to completely disagree.

The second section contains hypothetical scenarios that you'd reasonably expect to come across in the job. Each will be accompanied by four ways of responding to the situation. You'll need to decide how appropriate each response is and rate it as effective, fairly effective, ineffective or counterproductive.

Whilst technically there are no right or wrong answers here, you should keep in mind the behaviours outlined in the job description, as they will influence the decisions you make.

Numerical Reasoning Test

If you're asked to take a numerical reasoning test, you're being assessed on your ability to process, interpret and draw conclusions from numerical information that is new to you. This relates to your natural problem-solving skills and gives the DWP an indication of how well you'd perform in the job.

The numerical reasoning test is multiple choice. Each question will show data in the form of a table, chart or graph with an accompanying word problem. There will be five possible answers, with one correct and four distractors.

The DWP's numerical reasoning test does not have a time limit, though it is adaptive, meaning that for every question answered correctly, the next will increase in difficulty. Equally, if you get a question wrong, the next will be easier.

Though not a maths test, you will need to perform basic calculations and have a good grasp of things like percentages, ratios and conversions.

Verbal Reasoning Test

In the verbal reasoning test, it is your ability to solve problems based on written information that is under assessment.

For every question, you'll need to read through a passage of text, at the end of which you'll be given a statement in relation to it. Based only on the information you've read, you'll decide if this statement is true, false, or if there is not enough detail to say conclusively either way.

A strong performance on this test shows the DWP you're able to sift through lots of information to find relevant detail, understand the differences between fact, inferences and assumptions, and can draw logical, evidence-based conclusions.

As with the numerical reasoning test, this is an adaptive assessment with no time limit.

Interviews

Based on your performance in the online assessments, you may then be invited to interview. Depending on the circumstances and the role applied for, this may be a pre-recorded video interview, a face to face panel interview, or both.

For the video interview, you'll be sent an invitation link and instructions. When you access the interview, you'll be given an introductory guide and some time to practice before moving on to the real thing.

You'll then face a series of questions with a minute to think about an answer, and three minutes to record your response. Questions will be based on the Success Profile behaviours, and you should provide strong examples for each.

A panel interview will focus on much the same and may be conducted by two or three people.

Tips to Get Hired at DWP

1. Take Plenty of Practice Aptitude Tests

If you've never come across them before, these are perhaps the trickiest part of the DWP application process, particularly the numerical and verbal reasoning tests. Practice tests will help you understand their format, strengthen your reasoning ability and build confidence.

2. Be Honest With Your Answers

This applies to the situational judgement test in particular. Whilst there are certain responses that will be looked on more favourably, you should avoid trying to cheat the test by giving the answers you think the DWP wants to hear. If your working preferences and behaviours don't fit, you'll find little satisfaction in the role anyway.

3. Use the Success Profiles Framework

This was introduced to guide a fair and inclusive recruitment process and tells you exactly what you need to be considered a strong candidate. Read the job description and highlight the experience, behaviours, skills, abilities and technical elements required, then reference the framework to learn more about each. This understanding will be helpful at every stage, from initial application to interview.

4. Use the STAR Technique

The questions you'll be asked at the interview will be competency-based, meaning you'll be expected to provide examples. The best way to construct these is by using the STAR techniques, explaining your past experience in terms of a situation, task, action and result.

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