Top 10 Most Common Civil Service Interview Questions & Answers for 2023

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 services interview questions is to ensure that you integrate the competencies referred to within the success profiles within your answers.


Prepare Your Self for Civil Services Interview Questions - Job Interviewology

With our wealth of experience in civil service interview coaching, I have put together a list of the 10 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.


How to deal with difficult collogues or co-worker - Job Interviewology

#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 questions. 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 and answer your 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.


Civil Services Interview Questions

#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.”


Civil Service Success Profiles Behaviours

The Civil Service who is the largest employer within the UK, and has a vast number of departments from HMRC, DWP, Cabinet Office, MoJ, Visa & Immigration and so on. Huge amount of diversity in terms of the functions that each office has as well as the types of roles and positions within various business areas. This is where success profiles and behaviours become crucial because they allow the department to acutely identify which qualities are required for the job and then be able to appropriately apply the best possible approach to assess the candidates through the interview process.

What are Success Profiles?

Success profiles are how how the Civil Service assess candidates for their suitability for a job role. There are 5 Key success profiles which are assessed during the recruiting process whether it be the application, test or interview process. Below is the breakdown of the 5 Key success profiles.

  1. Behaviour: refers to the conduct and tasks that a potential candidate might engage in that lead to being able to perform at a high level in a particular job.
  2. Strengths: Are activities that drive and motivate us and equally we enjoy and consistently excel in.
  3. Ability: is the inherent potential to perform at a level which is required for the job role.
  4. Experience: is the understanding or expertise gained through participation or hands-on exposure to that particular activity.
  5. Technical: skills refer to professional abilities, knowledge, or qualifications that are specific and specialised

What are the Civil Success Profiles Behaviours?

There are 9 civil service success profile behaviours: 1) Seeing the Bigger Picture, 2) Changing and Improving, 3) Making Effective Decisions, 4) Leadership, 5) Communicating and Influencing, 6) Working Together, 7) Developing Self and Others, 8) Managing a Quality Service, 9) Delivering at Pace. East success profile behaviour assesses a particular quality that is required for the role this is usually done at the interview stage. Also not all the behaviours are assessed for every role for example the success profile behaviours i.e. leadership will only be assessed in a role that requires the need to manage or lead a group of people.

Definitions of Behaviours

Below we have given detailed definitions of 10 success profiles behaviours:

  1. Seeing the Big Picture: Understanding how your role contributes to and aligns with the wider objectives of the organisation, as well as being aware of the broader priorities of the Civil Service.
  2. Changing and Improving: Identifying opportunities for improvement and delivering innovative solutions to problems. Also continually evaluating, assessing and refining current processes.
  3. Making Effective Decisions: Using evidence and knowledge to inform sound, expert judgement, and thoroughly considering the consequences and risks of different options before making a decision.
  4. Leadership: Demonstrating a strong commitment to public service and inspiring and galvanising others to work towards a shared vision, while promoting fairness, equality and inclusivity.
  5. Communicating and Influencing: Clearly and effectively conveying purpose and direction, while also respecting the perspectives and opinions of others at all levels.
  6. Working Together: Building productive relationships with a diverse group of people both within and outside the organisation, and sharing information and resources.
  7. Developing Self and Others: Prioritising ongoing learning and growth for oneself and others, as well as the organisation as a whole.
  8. Managing a Quality Service: Providing service that is professional, knowledgeable, and efficient, while also being responsive to the needs of diverse customers.
  9. Delivering at Pace: Taking ownership of timely, high-quality results and approaching tasks with focus and determination.

How we assess behaviours

Success Profile scoring for Behaviours are assessed on a scale of 1 to 7 , with 1 being the lowest score and 7 being the highest. A good answer usually should be at least a 5. It makes the Civil Service success profile scoring process difficult compared to other sectors. Success profiles behaviours for the role of immigration officer at an AO, EO or HEO level can include delivering at pace, making effective decisions, managing a quality service and communicating and influencing.

Farhan Raja

I'm Farhan, the Founder and Coach at, one of the world’s leading Career and interview Coaching specialists. Bringing over a decade of industry experience and a passion for guiding individuals in their career journeys. As an Interview and Career Coach, I've authored the eBook '10 Simple Steps to CV & Resume Success,' directed a leading UK CV writing specialist, and pioneered the iPREP interview coaching methodology.

My career and interview coaching has spanned over 10 years across diverse industries, from IT giants like Google and Microsoft to vital sectors like Civil Service & NHS, Pharma, Finance, Engineering, Automotive, Construction, Logistics, Banking, and Management Consulting. I've had the privilege of assisting professionals in presenting their best selves, and targeting roles at renowned companies like Amazon, GSK, EY, Shell, Rolls Royce and more.

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