A civil service job interview can be extremely trick for most people to navigate. This is mainly because they usually strictly adhere to a behavioural or competency interview questions framework. These are generally scored in accordance to a marking sheet which aligns with ‘success profiles’ that describe which qualities are required for the role. What’s key when answering civil service job interview questions is to ensure that you integrate the competencies referred to within the success profiles within your answers. With our wealth of experience in civil service interview coaching I have put together a list of the ten most popular civil service job interview questions below to help you prepare for your interview.
1) Why have you applied and what skills and experiences can you bring to this role?
This is normally the opening ice breaker and the most common civil service interview question, it’s there to assess your reasons for applying for the role as well as where you can bring value in terms of your skills and experiences. Here it’s important to align your experiences with what’s written on the job description but also provide facts and figures to help provide greater context to your experiences.
2) Provide an example where have had to deal with a difficult colleague or co-worker?
This civil service interview question will almost certainly come up if you’re applying up to a band 5 in the NHS, up to an Executive Officer in the civil service and a band 6 in a local government (authority) role. Here you have to be able to demonstrate your ability to successfully resolve a problem in a diplomatic non confrontational way with a positive outcome.
3) Provide an example where you’ve had to deal with a difficult stakeholder?
In more management and senior roles having to engage with different people and personalities cross functionally whether it’s with different departments, external partners or someone more senior then yourself. The key with this civil service interview question is to demonstrate emotional intelligence, empathy, listening skills as well as the ability to use those tools to pacify or convince the other person.
4) Provide an example where you’ve had turnaround an under-performing team member?
If you have a civil service job interview for a role which has some degree of direct line management duties. You will very likely be asked this particular civil service interview question. The keep with this question is to show how you successfully manage to identify the cause of the issues and work in partnership with the person to come up with a solution which then results in some degree performance improvement i.e. no coming late, improving work accuracy, exceeding KPIs.
5) Provide an example where you have shown consideration with equality and diversity in the workplace?
This particular civil service interview question has recently become more popular particularly within the NHS. However it’s one everyone should be prepared for as they’re not very complex. You have to demonstrate how you have taken in to care or consideration race, religion, disability or sexuality when carrying out a particular action at work. It could be when organising an event or conducting a consultation of change etc.
6) What are your weaknesses?
This tends to come up in lower band civil service job interviews however, it can pop up from time to time in a higher bands too. The key with this particular question is to identify a weakness which has the least negative impact on the role that you’re applying for whilst at the same time not being a cliché answer.
7) Provide an example where you’ve had to lead change?
The change questions tends to come up in a more senior civil service job interview, usually from a band 6 upwards in in the NHS, Senior Executive Officer or Higher Executive Level and band 7 upwards in a local authority or city council/ county council. If you are on the lower band banding (in management) this question will predominately focus on the operational side of bringing in change, the practical things you did to ensure a smooth transition during a restructure. If you’re in a more senior role (band 8a upwards in the NHS or HEO or above) the question will require you to be more focused on the strategic aspect of the change, establishing alliances within the senior management, ensuring that all are on board with the vision of the new change, deciding on the optimal approach for a smooth transition etc.
8) Provide an example of when you’ve been proactive?
In a lower band non managerial civil service job interview this question usually comes up. Depending on your role there are usually two paths you can take with this answer firstly is to talk about how you proactively solved a problem which had existed for a while but or a completely new issue that you resolved. Secondly is where you’ve been proactive it in avoiding or mitigating a potential hazard or problem. Depending on your role and the success profiles you are working to you can decide which this the best option for you.
9) Provide an example where you’ve had to deal with conflicting priorities, how did you successfully navigate the issues and deliver?
If you are in an administrative or back office role this question is likely to come up in a civil service job interview. The key in answering this question is to show a clear process of thinking when deciding how to go about it. So don’t simply mention what you did, importantly mention why you did it.
10) Do you have any questions for us?
This question always comes up at the end of the interview but particularly within a civil service job interview it’s important to also use this as an opportunity to demonstrate you skills, knowledge and research. So be specific in the question that you ask and preferably of the back of doing some reading. i.e. “I recently read the Local authorities new 5 year strategy, I’ve noticed equality and diversity is one of the key areas to improve engagement…etc.”