How to get into Government and Civil Service: Top Tips

On 19 October 2021, we held a ‘How to get into Government and the Civil Service’ careers panel event for Social Science and Law students. Speakers joined from organisations including the Office for National Statistics, the Government Security Group, and the Cabinet Office giving students a chance to find out about roles within the Government and Civil Service, what it’s like working in these fields and get practical advice on how to get there.

Ethan Osborn-Clark, a final year BSc Geography student and Career Peer Support Assistant, attended the event; here are his top takeaways from the session.

Before Applying

Work experience

  • Work experience gives you something to draw on when asked to talk about skills at application and interview. Hiring managers want to see a breadth of examples.
  • For technical roles, it’s beneficial to have prior technical knowledge and experience; for non-technical, any experience which allows you to demonstrate your transferable skills is valuable.

Reflect on, and develop your skillset

  • Show you are willing to learn. For example, think about skill sets you have acquired while learning on the job and use examples from your own experience.
  • It’s not just can you get the job done, but how you do it. Being a team player and collaborating in an effective way is crucial.


  • For the Civil Service, a 2:2 or higher in any discipline is required. Extra qualifications (e.g., Masters or PhD) may be beneficial but for most roles are not essential.
  • For research positions, you need to demonstrate that your degree has included a certain percentage of social research methods.


Where and when to look

  • Civil Service Fast Stream – this is the Civil Service graduate scheme, which is open to applications early in the autumn term.
  • The Fast Stream isn’t the only way into the Civil Service. You can also apply to direct entry roles on the Civil Service jobs website – set an alert for jobs of interest.

Be clear on what they’re looking for

Any job application requires you to demonstrate the behaviours and skills the organisation is looking for, so it is important to know what these are so you can reflect them in your answers. For the Civil Service, find the skills they look for in their success profiles document.

Creating compelling answers in applications and interviews

  • One panelist who conducts interviews said she can tell when someone has a genuine passion or interest. Authenticity comes across. As much as you can, try to relax and “be you”.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your areas for development – identifying things you would like to work on shows that you are able to reflect on your skills and demonstrates maturity.
  • Avoid exaggeration – it’s never a good idea to lie in an application or at an interview.
  • Use the STAR approach in your answers to skills questions: Task. Action. Result. This helps you to guide the interviewer in a clear and coherent way.

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Blog written by Ethan Osborn-Clark, a final year BSc Geography student and Career Peer Support Assistant.