The civil service of the United Kingdom is one of the most diligent and respected organisations in the world. The civil service helps the government to develop and implement national policies as smoothly and efficiently as possible. In order to do this, the civil service is divided into hundreds of different departments, all of them focusing on specific areas. In this blog, we’ll give you some essential tips on how to get a job as a civil service administrator, including key information about the role and potential interview questions!
What is a Civil Service Administrator?
Civil service administrators and administrative officers play an essential role in the overall running of the service, and are present in just about every single department that you could think of. Civil service administrators have an enormous variety of tasks to perform, and it’s imperative that they are on top of things and can stay organised. Whilst working as a civil service administrator, your daily tasks will include:
- Answering phone calls or emails from members of the public.
- Researching and strategising in preparation for new government initiatives.
- Contacting customers to follow up on enquiries/cases.
- Managing benefit payments.
- Handling unhappy customers, via telephone or via email.
- Updating essential government records.
- Liaising with executive officers in regard to case management.
As you can see, if you do decide to work as a civil service administrator then you’ll be quite busy! Now, let’s look at how the tasks you’ll be doing link in with the core behavioural expectations for an employee of the civil service.
Civil Service Administrator: Core Competencies
Now that you’ve seen the type of activities you’d be doing in this role, let’s think about how these link with the personal requirements for the job. For just about any job that you can think of, including the civil service, there are particular expectations and requirements that employees must follow. This is especially important in the civil service, where you are essentially an extension of the government and Her Majesty The Queen. Therefore, it’s important that you can set an example. You may also have heard these expectations being referred to as ‘core competencies’:
This is a fundamental quality for any administrator to have. Being a good administrator, particularly in the civil service, is all about being organised. You are not just organising your own tasks, but the tasks of the entire service, and therefore it’s essential that you have things in order and can plan ahead. During your interview, you should fully expect that the person assessing you will be asking questions regarding your organisational capability. This is also something that will be tested during the assessment process – where you may have to sit e-tray and in-tray exercises.
As mentioned, civil service employees are representatives of the government. You’ll be dealing with members of the public on a regular basis, and this means that your customer service skills must be impeccable. Whether this is in person, on the phone, or via email, it’s imperative that you have a working understanding of how to deal not just with unhappy customers, but with people who have simple queries. Good customer service is about showing respect, understanding and empathy for the customer – you need to demonstrate to the civil service interviewer that you value the needs of the public and that this is your number one goal when working for the civil service, as we’ll explain in our next quality…
Understands The Ethos of the Organisation
Again, this applies in any job, but it’s really important with the civil service because of who they are and what they represent. You need to align yourself with the goals of the civil service, and think about what they stand for and are there to do. The civil service is designed to aid the government in the smooth and successful running of the country, and this means putting an emphasis upon the public and what matters to the overall population. This is something that you will need to make clear in the interview, and you can expect the assessors to inquire about this in detail. The civil service needs employees who match their ethos, and will actively filter out candidates who don’t.
The civil service is a collaborative organisation, that relies on the input and collective work ethic of the entire workforce to run things. As a civil service administrator, you will need to work with all kinds of people – not just other administrators but people from other departments in the service too, and other public service organisations such as the police or even medical staff. This means that your team skills and ability to communicate with others must be on point. You must be an amicable person, who can get along with everyone you meet – running the administration of a country is not a one-person job. It takes the collective efforts of everyone in the civil service to run things effectively, and this means you need to work together as an effective unit.
Now, let’s look at some potential civil service administrator interview questions, and some tips on how to answer them. You can expect the interview questions to focus strongly on the competencies, so learn them beforehand!
Tell us about yourself. What type of person are you, and what type of things are important to you?
This is an ethos related question, and it’s important to recognise this. If you sit there and give the interviewer a longwinded explanation about all of your hobbies, you won’t score highly here. Really, this question can be reworded to mean the following:
‘Tell us about how your personal values match up with the ethos of the organisation.’
So, what they want here is a short and sweet explanation that confirms you care about the same things as the civil service – meeting the needs and expectations of the public, making the country a better place to live, and representing the government in a professional and reputable manner. Your research into the role will really help here, and you will gain even higher marks if you can point out civil service initiatives or projects which really appealed to you, and lent towards your decision to join.
Tips for answering this question
- Remember that this is a question designed to see how well you match up with the ethos of the civil service – keep your answer on topic and relevant.
- Demonstrating your research here will really help you to score extra marks!
- Keep your answer short and sweet. The interviewer is simply looking for confirmation that you match their values, they do not need a full explanation of who you are and what you like to do.
Do you consider yourself an organised person? How do you think this would help you when working as a civil service administrator?
Obviously, the best way to answer this question is to say yes! Make sure you show the interviewer that you are an organised person, with experience of working in roles that require this particular skill. This is a great question, because it not only gives you the opportunity to show that you have the skills required, but also that you’ve researched into the role and understand why organisation is important. The civil service will expect you to have conducted research about the position before applying, so the more you can tell them the better!
Tips for answering this question
- Demonstrate to the interviewers that you have conducted research into the role!
- Make sure you show the interviewers that you are an organised and disciplined person!
- Think of an example before the interview of when you’ve been organised in the past. Be ready to back up your answer with this example.
Describe your qualities as a teammate. Do you think you would have any issues working as part of a team?
As we’ve explained, teamwork is an essential part of working in the civil service, and this means that you need to show the interviewers that you have great teamwork skills, and thus would be a good teammate. The qualities of a good team worker include:
- Communication ability
- The ability to get on with others
- Empathy and compromise
The best way to demonstrate these qualities, would be to give an example to the assessors of when you’ve used them in the past. So, think of a time when you’ve acted as a good teammate, and use this to supplement your response!
Tips for answering this question
- Similarly to the previous question, back your answer up with a strong example.
- Think about what makes a good team worker, and then demonstrate these qualities to the interviewer.
- If you can, use your research to expand on why you think teamwork is essential for the civil service, and how it would help you to perform in the role.
Want More Tips for Civil Service Interview Questions?
If you’re looking for further advice on how to become a civil service administrator, and other civil service careers, then we’ve got the perfect resource for you! Check out our excellent course for a comprehensive overview of everything needed to ace the civil service interview!