CIVIL Services Interview Preparation Guide
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CIVIL Services Interview questions and answers will make you able to ANALYZE vast amounts of information to prepare briefs for ministers and have excellent communication skills to WRITE drafts of government White Papers They work in teams and therefore need to CO-OPERATE with many other people They have to make difficult DECISIONS such as which route a new road should take, they may have to PERSUADE others to their point of view and PLAN meetings for government ministers.

17 CIVIL Services Questions and Answers:

1 :: How did you find the Qualifying Test? Any particularly tough sections?

There are bound to have been some challenging aspects about the Qualifying Test. This question, however, gives you the chance to start the ball rolling by talking yourself up a little. You may admit to it being tough, for example, but state that you were well prepared and that this made the task much more manageable.

Concentrate on your strengths. If a section was hard, try and show how you dealt with it. In other words, how you worked out a logical and intelligent answer to the most difficult section. Alternatively you can treat this question as the ice-breaker it really is and say you are just pleased to have got the test over with and are now concentrating on the challenge at hand.

2 :: Tell me something interesting about yourself?

Don’t be embarrassed or mention that you collect beer mats. Take this opportunity to make some positive statements. In particular your relevant strengths, qualities, achievements and recent experience could all be described. Equally, if you possess a particular distinction it should be mentioned here. An example could be a sporting achievement of significance, a local honor for helpfulness or bravery or anything else that will help the interviewer single you out in their mind: as long as it is positive and commendable of course.

You may be asked about something you have mentioned in your application. In which case you will be expected to be reasonably knowledgeable and interested in the topic. Be prepared!

3 :: Why are you interested in your first choice department?

You must have your reasons. This is your opportunity to declare them.
Consider the following when formulating your answer:

What the department in question does
What it has been noted for in the recent past
Relevant government initiatives
The name of the minister responsible
Other departments/agencies with which it works
How you first became interested
Relevant skills/qualities etc, you would bring to it
How clear a first choice is it?

4 :: Why are you also considering the ____ department as your second choice?

The same considerations as for the previous question on your first choice apply. In addition you may want to consider the following:

Why it is your second rather than your first choice
Differences from first choice option
Similarities with your first choice option
Your response to being asked by the panel or an individual interviewer to focus more on your second choice rather than your first choice.
Any apparent inconsistencies between your first and second choice departments (for example, the difference between Clerkship and the Security Service).
How close a second choice is it really?

5 :: You say in your notes (provided at the selection board) that you firmly believe in, for example, the concept of open government. Tell me more about this.

Whatever issue you declare you have a particular belief or interest in it is likely to come up as a discussion topic. Make certain you have researched it fully.

You are likely to be asked a relatively open question such as this to begin with. You may then also be asked some quite probing and specific questions. You may be challenged on an opinion or asked to clarify a point you make. For example, you state that a policy of open government is good for encouraging public confidence, how can you be sure of this? Or, can you give any recent examples of voters being influenced in their voting habits by the issue of open government (or any other issue)?

6 :: What is your experience so far of the public sector?

You must have some kind of answer to this question. It does not necessarily require you to have had some relevant work experience, although this would undoubtedly help. It is asking you about your "experience of" the public sector. So any contact with local or national government departments or agencies could be useful examples.

Are there any initiatives local to where you live at home that could provide some examples. Any local policies that relate in some way to national ones? A hospital closure, for example, a new road being built or army barracks being relocated!

You should demonstrate your awareness of a wide range of issues. You should also show your consideration of the difficulties involved in making some decisions.

7 :: Why does working in the public sector attract you?

Down to the nitty-gritty. In other words "Tell me why you want the job." The way the question is phrased, however, it means rather more than that. The kind of things which might attract you to the public sector and the Civil Service in particular include:

Working alongside ministers
Being involved in contemporary issues (often featured in the news)
Being at the heart of policy formulation
Working in the context of a not-for-profit organization (bearing in mind that this does not mean there are no financial considerations!)
Having a positive role and being relied upon to work to a high level
Team working where your "team" is the rest of the Civil Service and hence a very large and significant organization
Making a contribution to a service that really matters to people and has an impact upon them

8 :: What advantages or disadvantages can you see arising from a job at the heart of government?

Advantages might include:

Doing a job that really matters
Having a positive input in to current issues
Taking responsibility early
Seeing the practical impact of your work take effect
The satisfaction of having an impact on the way people live, hopefully for the better

Whatever the disadvantages are they must obviously not dissuade you from the job! They might include:

Decisions you make could have repercussions which you had not intended.
The work entails a good deal of pressure and stress.
You may have to work long hours
Many people are counting on you to do a good job
One becomes very job-focused (could also be an advantage!)

9 :: Which government minister of recent years do you feel best achieved his/her remit?

Try and be a little astute here. Consider the relevance of your answer to the department in which you are interested. If the Department for International Development (DFID) attracts you, for example, then this is an opportune moment to display your knowledge. Discuss its remit and how successful or otherwise you feel Hilary Benn has been in his role as the government minister in charge recently

Do not forget to mention the importance of the staff to the department's success. The minister is only as good as his/her staff's abilities and experience. Then go on to show how your experience and skills would be useful in the job.

10 :: To whom, in your opinion, should public servants be directly responsible?

In other words is it the minister, the government, the state, their direct line manager, the department, or the public at large? The correct answer is probably the state. You can spend a good deal of time in answering this question, however.

Much press attention is often taken up by so-called whistle-blowers. These are individuals who declare to the general public via the press the activities of a particular organization, especially if these activities are deemed in some way inappropriate or deceitful. They have obviously decided that their principal responsibilities have changed. This would be a dangerous argument if you supported the whistle-blowing stance. A better approach would be to demonstrate your ability to help originate, establish and apply policy on behalf of government and the state.