At the Graduate Jobs and Placements Fair we sat down with a few employers to get their perspectives and advice on the application process, and a little bit about their own career journeys. First up, we talk to Zoe Carmichael and James Koziaryn from the Civil Service Fast Stream.
What are the characteristics of a good candidate for the Civil Service Fast Stream?
James: The Civil Service has some core values which reflect what the Civil Service looks for in candidates; these are honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity, which sound a bit wordy but like all of the definitions and descriptions are available online for people to look at.
Are there also specific technical skills?
Zoe: Well, there are fifteen schemes and each has its own requirements – the lowest requirement being a 2:2 in any undergraduate degree, and some have specific subject requirements including the Science and Engineering scheme.
James: But the majority of schemes allow you to apply from any discipline, you can apply for one of our specialist schemes but without having a specialist background. The application process follows the same route for everyone, and you’re very much tested on merit for how you get through each stage of the application process – so it’s not like they’re looking for prerequisite knowledge, they’re looking for talent.
Zoe: And it’s also worth pointing out that it’s a leadership scheme, so having skills and qualities that would allow you to develop into a senior leader is what we’re looking for.
Can you talk more about the application process for the Civil Service Fast Stream?
Zoe: You start by filling out the simple application form online, including choosing up to four schemes that you want to apply for in preference order- there are then four or five stages of the application process.
The first stage is multiple-choice online tests which you have to complete within five days of submitting your initial application, and the second stage is online work-based scenario tests, based on situations you might face in the Fast Stream. The next stage is a pre-recorded video interview (so you’re not speaking to anyone on the other end). For some of the schemes there can be additional tests if necessary, for example numerical tests.
Then there’s the Fast Stream assessment centre which is spending half a day doing three tasks – a written task, a group task discussion with other applicants and an individual presentation. For some schemes that’s the final stage, but for others there is an additional Skype interview (with live interviewers on the other end this time).
James: It sounds very long winded, but the online tests are relatively quick to go through and it’s a clear stage-by-stage process. The initial application is very short and so you can apply for the scheme and start doing the tests quite quickly without having to do lots of onerous paperwork.
Zoe: And don’t forget the application process covers up to four schemes.
Can you tell us about your career journeys so far?
James: I’m actually 31, so I’m not a 21-year-old graduate and I did an undergraduate degree in Chemistry, I became a teacher and also did a Masters degree whilst teaching. I joined the Civil Service Fast Stream on the Finance scheme as I fancied a career change and it goes to show that you can apply for something that’s different to what you’ve done before – it’s your talent and potential the Fast Stream is looking for. With the Finance scheme you get a finance qualification and, like a lot of the schemes, they try and give you a variety within their roles so I’m going to get to do a Financial Policy role, finance business partner role and a technical financial role. After I finish my qualification I will look to specialise in the area I like the most.
Zoe: I actually went into the Fast Stream straight from Uni so I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics and I also did a year abroad in Germany. I went straight on the Fast Stream on the Project Delivery scheme on project management-based roles and I also get some project management qualifications alongside the scheme I’m on.
Applications to the Civil Service Fast Stream and its Diversity Internship Programmes have now closed for jobs starting in 2020, but If you are interested in applying for Civil Service Fast Stream this year for jobs starting in 2021, please pre-register at https://www.faststream.gov.uk/.
Plus, representatives from the Civil Service will be on campus on the 5th February to talk about Skills and Interview Techniques. See the full details and book your place.