The UK Civil Service Fast Stream is one of the most competitive graduate schemes that there is. Typically there are nearly forty times as many people registering an interest as there are places available, and fewer than one in twenty five of those who get as far as applying will be offered a place. Should this put you off applying? No of course not – but any application requires careful consideration and planning.
Here are a few key things which could help with applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream:
• Check nationality requirements
Especially if you are reading this article some months after it was written. At the time of writing, some roles (many in security) are restricted to British Nationals, but the majority are also open to citizens of the European Economic Area, the Commonwealth, Switzerland and in some cases, Turkey. This may change, and it is of course more likely that the eligibility list will get shorter rather than the opposite. FAQs is the place to go for up-to-date information on these kind of practical details.
• Get to know the Civil Service Competency Framework.
These are the skills or abilities which are expected of all Civil Servants, and they are described in some detail here. It is not a straightforward document, but it is a comprehensive one. One of the advantages of this framework for first time applicants is that there is no need at all for closely related experience in such hard-to-find areas as politics or government. Any experience which reflects these competencies will be valued.
Understanding these competencies will first of all help you to consider whether it is worth making an application now, or whether you might be better off spending more time further developing relevant skills before applying. Applicants can and do apply successfully from the final year of their degree.
The Civil Service however is also very positive about applicants who have spent time doing other things before applying. If you do decide that you have a realistic chance of being considered now, knowing these competencies will help you to make a compelling application. Reassuringly though, the Civil Service does not penalise anyone who makes an unsuccessful application. Although it can be personally disappointing if you spend a lot of time on an application which is not successful, you are entirely free to try again the next time around (and may by then have additional experience to strengthen your application).
• Demonstrate why you want to work for the Civil Service
This is likely to be a key part of a strong application. If you want to work with complex and challenging projects which make an impact then the Civil Service is likely to be a good place for you – but management consultancy and legal work, for example, also have such projects. But their clients and their purposes are often different. Is it perhaps the public service aspect of the Civil Service which appeals to you, or the opportunity to work on something which will make a national impact – or something else? If you are clear about this and this comes through in the application procedure, this will strengthen your application.
• Get to know the application procedure.
There’s no need to go into a detailed description of these here when there is plenty of information on-line, for example as part of the Civil Service FAQs page mentioned above, or Glassdoor If you feel that there are certain areas of the application procedure with which you are particularly unfamiliar, then take advantage of any opportunities to practise these. Student Careers and Skills will provide such opportunities, or be able to direct you to other sources of information and help.