Competency interview questions for civil service behaviours
As part of their success profiles, the Civil Service have developed a set of defined behaviours that are associated with job success. Behaviours are defined for each job role and are specific to the level/grade of that role. An individual will be asked to demonstrate all the behaviours set for the role in which they are applying for, but there are no expectations that examples will be given for all of them.
The Civil Service assess behaviours in a number of ways, including:
- Application form or CV
- At interview
- Psychometric testing
Taking the interview assessment method, for example, is likely to be made up of competency-based interview questions. The main points discussed within this type of interview are:
- How you approach tasks and challenges
- How you will use your past experiences to relate to the job role
- How you will use the skills you have learned and apply them to the job role
- The elements contained within the person specification and how you can demonstrate these
The Civil Service have nine behaviours that make up this section of their success profile, these are:
- Seeing the bigger picture
- Changing and improving
- Making effective decisions
- Communicating and influencing
- Working together
- Developing self and others
- Managing a quality service
- Delivering at pace
There are six levels for each ranging from Administration up to Director.
When preparing for an interview where Civil Service behaviours will be assessed, it is key to understand why they are important. Therefore, this is explained below along with example interview questions and answers for each.
Seeing the bigger picture
This is important because it shows you understand how your role fits within the organisation and its overall objectives.
Q: Please can you tell us about a time when you worked in partnership with another team?
A: To answer this question, you could talk about a time when you shadowed another team to understand how they work and the challenges they face, or, perhaps how you recognised that additional skills/knowledge were needed in order to achieve a goal.
Changing and improving
This is important because it shows that you are able to seek out opportunities to create change, make improvement, and provide feedback.
Q: Can you tell us about a situation where you had to deal with change?
A: Experiences to draw on here could include; a move to a new way of working or a new location, and how you dealt with that. Perhaps you reviewed and implemented a process or system within your team.
Making effective decisions
This is important because it shows how you can both support, and make, decisions.
Q: Can you tell us about a time where you had to choose between a number of different options and how you approached it?
A: To answer this question, think about a time where there was more than one way forward – a problem you had to solve may be a good experience to draw on. Perhaps this is related to an issue that a customer had with an order, or has there been a time where there was an error within a piece of software. Another example may be that you’ve had to market a product and there have been a number of ideas to consider. How did you approach your decision?
This is important because it assesses the pride and passion you have for public service, as well as ensuring that you value difference, diversity and inclusion.
Q: Can you tell us about a time where you showed leadership skills and what you learned from the experience?
A: Here you might talk about a time where you took on additional responsibilities to advance your knowledge, or took on a leadership role as part of a project. If you have had responsibility of managing someone else, you could talk about that experience, or it might be a role you have taken on outside of work, such as coaching a sports team.
Communicating and influencing
This is important because it shows how effectively you can communicate, whilst respecting the needs, responses and opinions of others.
Q: Please tell me about a time where you have communicated effectively with others.
A: Here you could talk about a presentation you have given, or a time where you had to deliver a difficult message to someone. Another idea could be a time where you have explained something to someone to increase their understanding.
This is important because it shows your ability to form effective partnerships and relationships with people both internally and externally.
Q: Please tell us about a time where you worked together with a colleague to achieve a goal.
A: Here you could talk about a time where you noticed a colleague was struggling with their workload and you offered to help them, or perhaps you needed information from a colleague in order to get something completed and how you managed that situation.
Developing self and others
This is important because it demonstrates your commitment to the continuous learning of yourself and your colleagues.
Q: Can you tell us about a time where you helped a colleague develop their knowledge?
A: Here, you might talk about how you shared what you learned from a training event with your colleagues, or perhaps you are a whiz on a particular piece of software and you took on the role of training new team members.
Managing a quality service
This is important because it shows your ability to deliver service objectives to a high standard whilst considering diverse customer needs.
Q: Please can you tell me about a time where you dealt with a difficult client/customer situation?
A: Here you could talk about a time where you resolved a customer complaint successfully, or how you defused a situation that was escalating.
Delivering at pace
This is important because it shows your ability to take responsibility for delivering timely and quality results with focus and drive.
Q: Please can you tell us about a time where you have had to re-prioritise your workload, and how you approached it?
A: Here you can weave in how you manage your workload generally as part of your answer. You might talk about how you look at your priorities based on risk and impact. An example could be that an urgent request has come in from a customer, or that an error has been identified which needs fixing. It would also be good to include how you manage the expectations of stakeholders as part of your answer
You can read our blog post on competency-based interview questions here.
Structuring your answer
When preparing for your interview and thinking of examples for your answers, the STAR method is a really useful tool for ensuring the answers are well rounded and concise.
S – Situation
In this section, talk about the situation itself. Describe the context in which you were working, or the challenge you were facing.
T – Task
In this section talk about the tasks which needed to be completed in order to resolve or address the situation. What were you asked to do, or what did you decide to do?
A – Action
In this section talk about what your responsibility was in completing the tasks. Focus on the part you played specifically and how you contributed, rather than what your team or colleagues did.
R – Result
In this section, talk about what the outcome was, and what you achieved.
Some people also add an additional “R” at the end for Reflection. Here, you could talk about
what you felt went well, and if there would be anything you would change next time.
For further detail on the STAR method, please see our blog post.