Following on from a recent post about preparing for assessment centres, here’s an insight into the assessment centre for the Fast Stream (the graduate scheme for the civil service) from one of the Careers Group’s own Careers Consultants who was invited along to observe.
Our ‘spy’ watched three of the activities for the day: the group exercise, leadership exercise and interview. As part of the day, there was also a policy recommendation exercise which each candidate wrote individually.
What it is: the candidates were given a fictitious scenario where they had to negotiate the best outcome for ‘their’ department and for the group as a whole. The candidates had some time to prepare and then discussed the scenario as a group.
The exercise is designed to test whether the candidates can make effective decisions, work collaboratively with others, lead and communicate and deliver value for money.
What the good candidates did well: Didn’t take charge, but helped keep the group on track both in terms of task and time. Stuck closely to the instructions given beforehand. Listened to the points of views of others and actively encouraged involvement from the whole group.
What it is: Each candidate had to brief a manager on how they would take on the role of team leader in a fictitious team which is facing a number of issues.
The exercise is designed to test whether the candidates can see the bigger picture, change & improve, lead & communicate, collaborate & partner, build capability for all, manage a quality service and deliver at pace.
What the good candidates did well: Gave their briefing a clear structure. Included consideration of risks. Included details of their plan, not just a general outline. Kept calm when asked some really tricky follow up questions from the manager.
What it is: one to one competency based interview
The interview is designed to test whether the candidates can manage a quality service, deliver at pace, collaborate and partner and build capability for all.
What the good candidates did well: Answered using the STAR format (giving details of the Situation, Task, Action and Result). Focused their answer on what they did in each situation. Gave a range of examples from all areas of their life: study, work, personal interests. Didn’t assume the assessor had read their application form (they hadn’t!)
Policy Recommendation exercise
What it is: the candidates had to analyse a file of papers and decide which of two solutions to an issue to recommend to ministers.
The exercise is designed to test whether the candidates can see the bigger picture, change and improve, make effective decisions, lead and communicate, deliver value for money and achieve commercial outcomes.
What the good candidates did well: Thoroughly reviewed all the evidence presented (including the stats!). Recognise the merits of each path of action. Made decisions based on the evidence presented on the day rather than their personal experience.