Civil Service Job Applications That Stand Out: 24 Top Tips to Help You Pass

By: Joe McDermott | Updated: 22 May, 2024
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Make your job application stand out

Want to know how to make a Civil Service job application that stands out? Want to boost your chances of getting a Civil Service interview?

In this post, we give you 24 tops tips showing you how to create Civil Service job applications that impress and how to avoid making applications that fail.

The first step on the road to a great new job in the Civil Service is the application. It is a hurdle you must overcome as otherwise, of course, you will not get that interview invite. Your application is your calling card and it will be used as part of the overall selection process.

The vast majority of Civil Service applications get rejected and in this section, we will show you how to boost your chances of getting your application selected and onto the interview invite list.

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The Challenge With Civil Service Job Applications

In comparison to other employers, getting a role in the Civil Service is comparatively hard. Getting through the initial sift is a challenge and there are a number of hoops you will have to jump through.

Your success will depend on your ability, skills, experience, strength, and behaviour.
You will be asked to complete an online application and submit your CV along with either a personal statement or statement of suitability.

Your application will be judged on your suitability against the Civil Service Success Profiles framework.

Here we explore how to pass the Civil Service application process in more detail and give you our golden rules to help you submit a successful application.

Good Civil Service job Applications Get Interviews

The job application is the key that unlocks the access to the job interview.

However, getting that interview is not easy. Stats have shown that 75 out of every 100 Civil Service applications will be screened out and rejected in the first round. Of those about 25 will be seen by an actual person and from those only 4 to 6 will be invited for an interview.

So, you have a 4-6% chance of getting an interview which is pretty low.

On a positive note, surveys show that those applicants who spend proper time researching and preparing their perfect job application do in fact get an interview.

Research shows that over 60% of people spend about 30 minutes on a job application. However, we suggest that more time perhaps up to an hour is needed for a better outcome.

Save Time by Getting Your Civil Service Application Right First Time

Avoid making failed applications.

By choosing to apply for Civil Service jobs that you know you will have an excellent chance of passing, you will save yourself countless hours and heartache.

In advance, know the job and be clear about what they want in the application.

Read on for our top tips for making a perfect application that will get you a job interview.

Before You Make Your Civil Service Application – Our Top Tips

1. Find out about the Civil Service department you are applying to work for

Are you looking to get into the DWP? Perhaps after a role in the Department of Transport or MoD?

Having an excellent idea about the department is going to help with your application in so many ways. In addition, it will help in your interview when the inevitable question “why do you want to work for the Civil Service and why this department?” pops up.

Pertinent details could include the department’s function and core purpose. Understand the Civil Service values and standards of behaviour and see how they fit with your values.

Seeding your application and cover letter with little details like these and what they mean to you, is going to make you look like an ideal candidate.

2. Study the job description and person specification

You really must be clear about what the job involves and who they are looking for. Spending time doing this now will avoid a failed application and wasted time.

To effectively study a job description and person specification, carefully analyse each section to understand the role’s requirements and the description of the Civil Service ideal candidate.

3. Match your skills to the job requirements

When the Civil Service process a job application, they will sift by matching the skills and criteria required with those on the application.

To give yourself the best chance of getting the job interview, we suggest you spend time studying and identifying the skills, experiences, and qualifications they regard as essential. See how InterviewGold will help you create amazing applications that pass.

You will then be able to tailor your application to these points, highlighting those precise skills and achievements and detailing how your experience aligns exactly with the job’s demands and the attributes sought.

4. How does this Civil Service job fit with your career goals?

Ensure that the Civil Service role you are applying for is in line with your career plans.

Does it make a logical next step in your career journey? Perhaps it is a move down or sideways to fit with your personal or home life. Or are you considering a career move after the age of 40 or older?

All of these are valid however, now is the time to check and be clear how this post will help you achieve your career objectives.

See how InterviewGold will help you breeze through the Success Profiles and boost your chances of getting your target Civil Service job.

5. Check the instructions – what do they require on the job application?

Start by reading the application instructions carefully well in advance of the submission deadline. This will give you time to research and prepare any additional documents they require. The most commonly requested documents are a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and personal statement or statement of suitability.

Apply on the Civil Service Jobs website. You will be required to:

  • Provide personal information on the application form.
  • Enter your CV in the space provided, including education, professional qualifications, and full employment history, giving details of key achievements, including specifics of the work and projects that you have been involved in.
  • Complete a personal statement or statement of suitability. This can range from 250 to 1,250 words and should demonstrate how you meet the essential skills as described in the job description.

How to Write a Successful Civil Service Job Application

Civil Service Application Help

6. Customise your application for each Civil Service job

Every Civil Service job will be different in some way. You must tailor your CV, cover letter and personal statements for each job application to better match the job description.

Highlight your core skills, competencies and experience earlier on so as to make it easier and faster for the recruiter to see.

In this way, you can highlight relevant achievements that align with the specific role and which showcase your abilities and what you will bring to the role.

7. Create a brilliant CV and Personal Statement

For some roles, the sift process will assess your application by using your CV and personal statement only.

To be successful, these documents must be perfect and must demonstrate your experience matching all the Essential Skills listed in the job advert.

Learn more about how to create Civil Service personal and suitability statements here.

8. Target important keywords

As most applications will go through a sift and screen process, you must optimise your application for what is called an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). This is a piece of software that reads the application or documents and looks for certain keywords.

Use vital keywords from the job description in your CV and cover letter. For example, if great communicating and influencing is a core behaviour, then mirror these words back so that the ATS software will pick them up instantly and score accordingly.

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9. List your core and relevant skills, competencies and experience

You will usually have sections within the application which ask for key information.

Your research of both the Civil Service department and job description will be vital again here. What you need to do is edit your entries, reorder to show the skills, experience and abilities they want first in the list.

So many applicants just copy and paste from their CV with no thought to what is required by the employer. This can result in a failed application.

10. Civil Service behaviours – showcase your achievements

You will be examined on a selection of the 9 core Civil Service behaviours. For example, you maybe told that Delivering at Pace, Managing a Quality Service and Working Together are all key behaviours for the role.

They will want to see that you demonstrate these behaviours clearly. Your application must show what you have done, what you have achieved and where you have shown these behaviours.

Use the STAR formulas to structure these achievements and you can learn more here.

Whenever possible, use numbers to quantify your achievements. For example, “increased sales by 20% within the first quarter” is more impactful than “responsible for increasing sales.”
For the behaviour questions, we suggest you create your examples using the required STAR approach. Our powerful Answer Builder will create brilliant STAR examples for you based on your task or achievement. See how it works.

11. Focus on essential skills and abilities

The Civil Service job advertisement will outline the essential skills required. On your application these are the skills and abilities that should be shown and detailed first. This is what they want to see and could result in your application passing to the next stage without needing to be read any further.

If you’re changing industries, emphasise transferable skills that are valuable across various fields, such as leadership, communication, and project management.

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12. Add a professional summary or profile

This is a useful piece of content to have whether on an application or in an interview. It is a short version of the Tell me About Yourself interview question and is a powerful summary of you and what you bring.

Use this professional summary at the top of your CV and in your job application to encapsulate your experiences, skills, and what you bring to the table.

13. Create and include a brilliant cover letter (even if it’s optional)

A well-crafted cover letter can tell your story in a way that a CV cannot. Use it to explain why you’re passionate about the role and how your background makes you the perfect fit.

Read more about how to create a great cover letter here.

If you are able to put the correct name on the cover letter and application as well, then that is the ideal way to go. Everyone likes being addressed by their name as opposed to Dear Sir or Madam.

The first place to look would be the company website as some businesses will list who is responsible and some will have a name for the head of Human Resources. If there is a name for the HR head, it is perfectly acceptable to address your application to them unless otherwise specified in the job advertisement.

InterviewGold will create an expert Cover Letter for you based on your experience and skills.  Perfect for any Civil Service application.

14. Review and check your job application before submission

Before submitting your job application, meticulously review it for accuracy and completeness. Ensure all sections are filled out as per the instructions, and tailor your responses to the job description.

Double-check for spelling and grammar errors.

Verify that all attached documents, like your CV and cover letter, are the correct versions.

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What to do After The Job Application is Submitted

15. Update your LinkedIn and other online profiles

Having submitted your application, now is an ideal time to tweak and update your LinkedIn and other social profiles. This is to ensure that they are in line with the details you have provided on your job application and cover letter.

Before calling someone for interview, recruiters will almost certainly check LinkedIn and possibly social media. After all, they don’t want to waste time on an interview if there are red flags raised by an out of date or unmatched profile.

16. Network and leverage your contacts

Sometimes, it’s about who you know. Networking can introduce you to opportunities and get your foot in the door. Engage with industry professionals and attend relevant events or webinars.

17. Continuous learning and development

To help boost your attractiveness to employers, we always recommend engaging in continuous learning. This can be a big plus, especially if you’ve acquired new skills relevant to the job. It is also a great way to close a competency gap, where you are finding that a particular skill is missing from your CV.

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Online Civil Service Job Applications Golden Rules

18. Make it easy for software to read your job application

For most large employers the screening process will be completed by computer using some form of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

A lot of the time, applications are given a quick once-over by the person responsible for whittling the number of applications down to a more manageable number. At other times this task is given over to automated software using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Either way, your application should be easy to ‘scan’ and read quickly.

19. Include specific keywords on your Civil Service application

When automated software scans your application it is looking for specific keywords and key phrases to see if your application is even relevant.

For instance, if you are applying for a call centre position, be sure to have relevant experience in that field mentioned in your application and that you use words related to it – this is why explaining your duties in your previous positions is important. Your education and past employment, including dates, are scanned and analysed in a similar way.

OCR is the preferred method for most employers, at least the ones that aren’t smaller businesses, but a human is going to be doing the same thing so make it easy for both of them.

20. Choose correct fonts which are easily readable

This relates especially to your CV and cover letter or statements. Fonts should be simple and easy on the eye, Arial for example is a popular choice, and the font size should also be considered – a font size of 12 is the standard. Making a perfect job application is going to be harder if you neglect the small details, and those interviews may never materialise. The easier the text is to read, the more detail that will be picked up on from a quick once over.

21. Use relevant language and terminology

Use words, terms and sentences in your application, CV and cover letter that appear in the job specification. This doesn’t just show that you have read it properly, it also makes it easier to quickly scan for relevant details and, importantly, make your job application stand out from the crowd.

22. Use intelligent text choices and writing style

Left aligned text is also easier for humans to quickly read, so don’t center text in any part of your application – including headings.

If you can avoid having walls of text in your application, you are going to make yourself look more attractive to an employer and your interview invitations are going to go up as a result.

What does this mean? Use short sentences and short paragraphs. You should also not be afraid of using subheadings and bulleted lists.

23. Be succinct and summarise expertly

Your communication skills are being assessed from the moment you submit your application. Being succinct when conveying information is important, so don’t worry about ‘getting to the point’.

No employer is looking for a story, you just need to get in and get out. How often have you been on social media and have been confronted with a wall of text in a post? Did you read it all? Probably not, and there may have been some valuable information in there somewhere.

Let our powerful Answer Builder create clear, top quality answers for you based on your experience. Learn more here. 

24. Avoid the use of slang

Be careful with the language you use. You are not ‘dumbing down’ to anyone, you are just making yourself easy to understand. That said, don’t use slang, be careful with contractions and use whole words.

Spelling and grammar will always be ‘judged’, although the extent is obviously going to depend on the job being applied for. Checking your spelling and grammar is essential, irrespective of the position and fixing any mistakes accordingly.

The Perfect Civil Service Job Application Leads to Interviews

It really is basic logic: taking the time to craft and shape your application correctly (form, CV, cover letter, personal statement) is going to greatly improve your chances of landing an interview.

To summarise: Be ordered, use words and phrases from the actual job posting, clearly show that you cover ALL the essential skills required.

By implementing these tips above, your Civil Service application will stand out and increase your chances of securing interviews. See below how InterviewGold can boost your chances even further.

Know What To Say on Your Civil Service Application and Interview to Get Job Offers

STAR Interview Questions and Answers

The InterviewGold online training system covers Civil Service interviews, Success Profiles and behaviours in detail. It is designed to rapidly bring your interview skills up to date and help you answer brilliantly whether on an application, in an interview or during an assessment centre.

Here are 10 ways in which InterviewGold will help you succeed with your Civil Service applications and interviews.

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About the Author |
Joe McDermott is CEO of Anson Reed the UK's leading interview coaching specialists and founder of the successful InterviewGold online interview training system. Since 2006, Joe and his team of top interview coaches have helped thousands of clients win jobs and in this blog they offer their expert advice - all to make sure you get your top post.
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