Civil Service United Kingdom Senior Policy Advisor Interview Questions

Updated Aug 28, 2019

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Anonymous Interview Candidate in Bristol, England, England

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Difficult Interview

I applied online. The process took 3 months. I interviewed at Civil Service United Kingdom (Bristol, England, England) in Aug 2019


In various online forums, people (including people who work within the civil service recommended to strongly use the STAR approach and basically read from notes as it made it easy to remember all examples and easy for the interviewers to tick the competency boxes. My actual preparation for this interview was a 31 paged document of detailed examples using the star approach for every single sub-behaviour under 5 of the major competency behaviours the job advert said the assessment would be on. In addittion to these, I also drafted detailed examples using the STAR technique for each of the requirements under the person specification. To put this in context and perspective, I have a PhD in law and not even my PhD viva examination preparation was this nerve-wracking and time consuming and it was a fairly detailed process. This was single handedly the worst preparatory experience in my life that amounted to nothing. Needless to say that I incorporated all the above when I went to the interview. Now, before I describe my experiences, I just want to make it clear here that this particular interview was categorically the worst interview I have ever been to in my life and I have been to one pretty poor one before this. Firstly, the whole set up was very uncomfortable. Myself and the 3 interviewers were sat in a really small room that was very hot and had no fan or air-conditioning. The panel of 3 were polite enough but I strongly suspected that they had inherent biases about my age (being a young female- 29 years) and experiences for such a senior role. This is of course in spite of the fact that I currently work and have been working as a Senior lecturer and module leader in a UK Higher education institution for the last 3 years, none of my work experiences really mattered in light of the box ticking exercises they undertook using the insincere civil service competency framework. During the actual interview, I was so nervous because all I did was mostly look at my notes or read from my notes to find relevant written examples to answer their questions. By this time I had inherently worked myself up so much because I felt they were judging me negatively for referring to my notes. Put simply, the overall experience for me was the most dreadful thing I have ever experienced in life. I have never ever been to an interview where I was not relaxed and myself and this set up was so unnatural. I felt that I was trying to metaphorically squeeze myself in every example to try and fit within their predefined behaviours. This is a very unnatural thing to do especially for a free thinking academic who is trained to think outside the box and challenge existing systems and ideas. Unfortunately, the civil service competency framework a fundamentally flawed approach to recruitment as it removes any reference to personality, experience or actual ability to do the job. As long as the applicant can talk the talk, they will get through. This is exactly why the civil service is notorious for sheer incompetency because they have a ton of incompetent individuals who can talk the talk but not walk the walk. Whether a person has the personality or potential to fulfil the role is irrelevant and taken out of the interviewing panel's hands. People are not numbers or inanimate objects and attempting to deal with real breathing human beings in such manner is despicable. It is frankly an insult to the uniqueness each human being has to offer and context is everything which they desperately lack insight to. As an individual, I am very much aware of my own professional strengths and weaknesses and always take constructive feedback on board to improve myself. However, I resent some box ticking exercise telling me I am incompetent when I am actually very competent, efficient and creative in solving problems and have tons of work experiences to prove this. I don't care if the civil service folks think my experiences are not good enough for them, that is their loss as they could have gained a very competent researcher who comes up with creative solutions to solve problems and could have been particularly useful the current Brexit mess.

Interview Questions
  • I was given 10 minutes to prep for an on the spot presentation on the day. The details were: Tell us how you would lead change in a situation which was constantly changing and full of uncertainty. What approach would you take to ensure you are effective?
    1 Answer
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