1. Some questions are asked in order to determine your ability to argue a particular case, both for and against in some cases. Here are some questions which can arise:

The NHS should be abolished. Tell me why I am right?

A return to capital punishment at the earliest opportunity is in the best interests of everyone concerned with reducing violent crime. Do you agree?

The summary dismissal of bad classroom teachers is in the best interests of parents, schools and pupils. Why is this assertion impractical?

Asylum seekers should, in every case, be deported if unable to prove their case within 60 days of their entry to the UK. Tell me why I am right?

For the sake of pensioners the age limit at which the state pension becomes activated must be increased. Is this correct?

2. Where, in government, do you hope to be in fifteen years time?

A common question at the Selection Board. It is mostly used in order to assess that you have an appropriate level of ambition for the role of a fast stream entrant. That you are ambitious needs to be at least evident to the interviewers!

They will probably expect you to show that you have been successful in many different contexts. This question can also reveal some more of your knowledge of the department you hope to enter.

You should certainly therefore be optimistic in your answer. Assume promotion will take place at regular intervals and anticipate where that would put you. Consider also where you might like to be and show that you have given the question some thought. This is no time to be modest!

3. What would your present employer say about your suitability for the Civil Service?

Bearing in mind that the Board has plenty of references from your previous employers you need to be careful here. Be confident, but also be honest. Just pick on a few issues to start with and see if the discussion goes any deeper. There may be a reason for the Board to be checking something out that a previous employer of yours has said about you. This could be either positive or negative.

Alternatively it could just be a conventional and routine question. It is best to be prepared and perhaps check with your referees before attending the Selection Board.

4. Explain what you will bring to the fast stream should you be successful?

A straightforward question asking you to outline your strengths and qualities. At least that is the way you should look at it. You should ideally consider the key requirements made of fast stream applicants from the information the selection board provided you with and reflect this back to the board.

You should certainly consider mentioning some or all of the following:

Desire/ambition to succeed
Interests in taking a lead role
Willingness to work flexibly and as required
A profound interest in researching and preparing policy documents
An interest in and aptitude for team work
Ability to take decisions
Ability to priorities activities etc,

5. Which piece of bad publicity do you feel the government could have avoided in recent years?

It is no good to simply identify the bad publicity (ie H.E. top-up fees haven't gone down too well). You should also offer your opinion as to why the situation was avoidable. This is an example of a question where a straightforward answer with no further explanation simply is not enough. You may wish to consider:

How partial or widespread the bad publicity was
The precise nature of the incident or activity leading to the publicity
How it was dealt with at the time
How things have changed since
How you would have dealt with it with the benefit of hindsight
What has resulted from the publicity

6. Do you foresee any circumstances where there might be a conflict between your own beliefs and opinions and the policies or practices of the department in which you will work?

You need to read the Civil Service guidelines on this very carefully. You should be able to answer that your own opinions on matters of policy or politics are not relevant to your work in government administration. If you cannot do this then you have probably applied for the wrong job!

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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!)

10. 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

Download Interview PDF