Anna Shipman : JFDI

Applying for a job at GDS

24 December 2013

Over the next few months we will be recruiting for a number of roles, including developers and web operations engineers. Since a civil service application is a bit different to other jobs you might be applying for, we thought it was worth explaining what the process involves, with some detailed guidance on how to write the most unusual part of the application - a statement of suitability.

Open and fair process

There are a number of measures in place to make it more likely that applications to join the civil service are treated fairly and on their own merit. You can read more about the civil service recruitment and selection guidance on the Civil Service website, but the main thing you should be aware of is that we try and ensure objectivity by having consistent criteria that we assess applications on.

Consistent criteria

The job advert will list some essential specialist skills and competencies. The specialist skills are likely to be what you are familiar with in job applications, for example for a WebOp, “Experience configuring and managing Linux servers”.

The competencies are a bit more unusual. They reflect important civil service behaviours, like leadership and delivering value for money, because we are recruiting not just technical people, but people to become civil servants. This helps us build a team of people who are not just great technically, but also have other crucial skills, like communication and team-working.
For more information on civil service competencies you can look at this document.

Why this matters to applicants

One of the three documents we ask for in your application is a statement of suitability, which is extremely important, as it is where you get a chance to show the panel the evidence for how you meet the essential skills and competencies described in the job advert.

If a candidate's application does not show evidence of even just one of the competencies, we are not allowed to invite that candidate for interview. This may seem a little harsh, but it's actually this kind of rule that tries to ensure the process is open and fair.

Based on this, we can see how the statement of suitability is so important in the application. Your CV is unlikely to provide quite the right sort of information on its own, as CVs tend to be a collection of achievements and responsibilities. The Statement of Suitability is your opportunity to fill out the gaps in your CV and explain you have the experience to do a great job at GDS. You must remember to give examples, as that is what we are looking for in the application.

How to write a good statement of suitability

The main thing required in the statement of suitability is that you demonstrate the essential skills and competencies asked for. Here is an example.

We recently advertised for Web Operations Engineers (and will be doing so again - watch this space!). One of the essential competencies we are looking for is evidence of how you "coach and support colleagues to take responsibility for their own development (through giving accountability, varied assignments and on-going feedback)".

If you have managed a team, it should be fairly straightforward to think of an example. But if you haven't, there are other ways you can provide this evidence.

The point here is that we feel an ability to coach and support colleagues is essential to being successful in the role, and we are looking for evidence that you have done this in some context before.

A word on how to phrase your answers

It's good to give detail, but your answers don't have to be really long. The best thing to do is think of the example you want to use and give us the essential information.
It may be useful to think of the CAR approach:

If you've covered all these points, you will have structured your example to give us all the information we need.

How to structure the statement

You might find it helpful to list each of the essential skills and competencies as headings and give an example under each, or you may prefer to write it in a letter or essay format. The structure is not important - just make sure that you cover all of the essential competencies asked for.

The other documents

The other documents we require are your CV and CV cover sheet. There's nothing different about how you should structure your CV compared to applying for a job in the private sector.
The CV cover sheet is a form which requires you to fill in some straightforward details so that we know how to contact you. Download this from the very bottom of the job application page, and include it with your application. If you are not already a civil servant you only need to complete three parts of this form. For existing civil servants, you need to fill in more sections of the CV cover sheet - your line manager should be able to help you with this.

Interview stage

Once we have sifted all of the applications we invite some of the applicants to interview. All candidates are asked a consistent set of questions for that role, and you are likely to also have to do some kind of coding or whiteboard exercise. If you are called for interview, you will get more information about what to expect in advance.

This post originally appeared on the GDS Technology Blog.