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February 16, 2018, by Carla

What to Expect If You Apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream

By Oliver Munns, BSc Economics (2014)

After graduating, I initially worked in sales for a software company, earned good money, and was flown to Vegas every year. After a year or so, I decided I’d had enough. I wanted to do something where I could make a difference and work on the real problems facing the country. So I applied to the civil service.

The Civil Service Fast Stream takes graduates from every background and turns them into the future leaders of the civil service. Applications open in September/October, and the process can take six months or more to complete.

For the generalist scheme – the scheme I chose – there are two online questionnaires, an e-tray exercise testing decision-making skills, and a video interview before the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC). For other schemes there are more assessment centres specific to the requirements of each programme, which makes the process longer.

Right now, you have plenty of time before applications open again. This is actually great, as that means lots of time to get the experience they are looking for, and to practise the skills required to make a successful application.

1. Work backwards

My advice for the application process is simple: work backwards from what they are looking for. Align your skills and experience with the civil service competencies by constructing examples that follow the STAR technique.

Editor’s tip: The three core competencies are delivering results, setting direction, and engaging people. If you’re struggling to think of examples right now, there’s lots of opportunities at Nottingham to take part in activities that will enable you to develop them. The Nottingham Advantage Award, for example, offers over 200 modules and is a great place to begin to get some experience in these areas.

2. Take your time

The first part of the application process are some online questionnaires. These are fairly simple to complete, but don’t rush through them. You get a chance to write about extra-curricular activities and work experience, so consider your best examples.

Remember to highlight what you got from your experiences and draw clear links to the civil service competencies. Don’t be afraid of using the same language as they do: make it obvious. I literally lifted phrases like “positive, professional and trusting working relationships” from the competency framework and used them in my application.

Editor’s tip: Still looking for work experience? You could try the Nottingham Internship Scheme.

3. Keep calm

The next step is an e-tray exercise – a fake inbox with emails coming in – and you have to pick the ‘most effective’ and ‘least effective’ responses under timed conditions.

You get a pack of information to read through before your first email, but you won’t have enough time to read all of it. Don’t worry! Skim read all of the documents, so you know where to look if an email does come in about that. All the responses are already drafted too, so you don’t have to type anything, just pick.

4. Plan lots of examples

Then comes the video interview. For this, I prepared a sheet of paper that had the competencies written on it, with examples of when I’d shown them underneath. You won’t be faced with an actual person, but a question will be asked and you’ll have two minutes to respond.

Once you’ve used an example, try not to use it again. But if you can’t talk for the full time, don’t worry – I didn’t for every question. Just confidently smile at the camera for the remaining time. It’s better to do that than babble or repeat yourself. However, I’m sure you will be prepared with your sheet of examples and you’ll have too much to talk about if anything!

If you get through this, you’ll then be invited to an assessment centre. Would you like to talk about it some more, hear my advice for the assessment centre, get a copy of the document I used to prompt me in my video interview, or have any other questions? Please comment below or get in touch by email.

Interested in the civil service? Read more about it. Think you need to brush up on your application skills? Come along to one of our job-hunting workshops. Would you like to talk to an expert in person? Make an appointment on MyCareer now.  


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