Getting A Civil Service Job

Today is my last day in my current civil service job. On Monday I will start a new civil service job, on promotion, with a different civil service department.

Londres - HM Treasury
100 Parliament Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Figuratively, I will be at the other end of Government. Physically I’ll be in Parliament Street, a five minute walk from my current building.

I’ll be quite sad in many ways. I’ve worked with some very good people on things that I’ve both found interesting and felt that it was improving things from a citizen perspective. I expect that to continue in my new job, just with new people and new subject areas.

This is not the end of my first chapter, not is it the start of the last. I describe myself as a career civil servant, having had many civil service jobs since 1992. I might not stay until I’m 60 (I get just over half my pension then, the rest at 67) but I’ll only leave if there is a compelling reason to do so. Public service is ingrained in me.

I’ve been with my current group of people, on and off, since October 2001 (admittedly with three years spent elsewhere between 2004 and 2007 and five distinct civil service jobs in that time). So I’m going to miss them, especially the ones that were there when we had exciting times and worked hard to solve problems. I’m not naming names, but I’m sure they all know who they are. Especially over the last two years life has been very interesting and the only reason I’m moving on is because it’s time for a bigger challenge.

Finding a Civil Service Job

Like most civil servants I found my latest civil service job through civil service jobs website (and in fact if you didn’t then it doesn’t count as fair and open competition). One of the things that I have been telling the people that I manage and mentor is to persevere. The system is not as objective as we’d like it to be. Overall I applied for 30 posts, using the exact same 250 word competency examples for many of them (at most one of the competency examples had two revisions).

Those same 250 words scored between 2 & 6 on a scale where 4 is the right level of evidence for the level of the post. So some people thought it was weak when others thought it was very strong evidence. This is not a surprise, certainly not if you’ve ever served on a selection panel. It simply underlines the need for perseverance, and acting on any feedback you get to improve your competency examples.

So those 30 applications, all written to the SCS1 (level 5) competency statements rather than the Grade 6 (level 4) statements, got me 6 interviews. Those six interviews mostly found me suitable for promotion, but not the most suitable candidate for the job. The last two found me to be the best candidate that they saw.

The competition on a number of the civil service jobs that I applied for was very high, and a number that found me suitable at sift didnt invite me to interview. They simply had too many suitable candidates to interview everyone. Priority often went to those already substantively in the grade, and then those with the highest sift scores.

Although providing feedback along with the scores is mandatory, many of the 30 only repeated the label attached to the number. However those that did write things in the box were always constructive (except in one case where they seem to have read a different example from the one I sent in). The best feedback was always where I had a conversation with the recruiting manager.


  • Write your competency examples to follow the Civil Service Core Competency Framework
  • Revise them when you get constructive meaningful feedback
  • Talk to the advertising line manager if you can about the job (and for feedback after you have applied)
  • Be persistent and keep on applying, regardless of the scores
  • Record the scores for each example, and revise the consistent poorly scoring examples

Leave a Reply