Civil Service Fast Stream Application & Interview Process

The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated career path to senior leadership roles within the Civil Service.

Talented graduates are offered structured career development within one of 15 different government professions, all of which are outlined below.

The Fast Stream provides an opportunity to build up a portfolio of skills and experience by moving between a variety of placements and postings.

Work may involve front-line operational delivery, policy and corporate services, and roles involving direct contact with the public.

Depending on the scheme, support may include coaching and mentoring, access to a range of courses and conferences, tailored programmes of development, help working towards a professional accreditation, and secondments outside the civil service.

Programmes last from three to five years and, subject to satisfactory performance and conduct, guarantee a permanent job. Competition for a place is fierce.

civil service fast stream application

Contents

  1. Fast Stream Schemes
  2. Key Competencies
  3. Application Process
  4. Tips for Success
  5. Other Routes into the Civil Service
  6. Final Thoughts

Fast Stream Schemes

Government Economic Service

Postings on this scheme involve applying and developing economic expertise in areas such as international financial issues, taxation and public health.

Duration: Three to five years
Salary: £28k to £32k
Entry requirements: 2:1 degree or postgraduate degree in an economic subject. Mixed degrees should be at least 50% in economics.

Government Statistical Service

On this scheme, you will use statistical expertise to guide and inform decision-making around some of the UK’s biggest social and economic issues.

Duration: Four years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:1 Honours degree or higher degree (such as MSc or PhD) in a subject containing formal statistical training.

Government Operational Research

Applying advanced analytical methods to find better solutions for policy-making. Most Fast Streamers on this scheme work in analyst posts, though it is possible to move into generalist posts too.

Duration: Three to five years
Salary: £27k to £36k
Entry requirements: 2:1 in a highly numerate degree subject (such as maths, statistics or physics), or a 2:2 with a highly numerate postgraduate degree. Where degrees are mixed, at least 50% should be in a highly numerate subject.

Government Social Research

This involves researching and evaluating data around social issues and helping to inform policy responses. Work might include developing surveys, producing statistics and reviewing existing research.

Duration: Three to five years
Salary: From £27k
Entry requirements: 2:1 in any social science degree subject that contains a significant focus on social research methods. Alternatively, a relevant postgraduate degree.

Generalist

This scheme offers an opportunity to complete placements in a variety of roles and departments, so as to identify your individual strengths and leadership potential.

Duration: Three years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Diplomatic Service

You could be based in London or one of the Foreign Office’s embassies overseas. Work involves promoting British interests abroad and providing support to British businesses and citizens globally.

Duration: Three years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree. Must be a British citizen and resident in the UK for at least two of the last 10 years.

Human Resources

Work may include organisational design and development, employee relations and talent management. You will move across different departments and experience a variety of regions, cultures and working environments.

Duration: Three years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Houses of Parliament

This scheme involves taking on a variety of roles within the House of Commons, working with politicians from all parties and providing them with informed, impartial advice.

Duration: Two years
Salary: £25k to £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Diplomatic Service Economics

On this scheme, you will work within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in roles focused on providing sound economic analysis to inform and support foreign policy.

Duration: Two years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:1 degree or postgraduate degree in an economic subject. If the degree is mixed, at least 50% must be in economics. Must be a British citizen and resident in the UK for at least two of the last 10 years.

Digital, Data and Technology

You will help to design, build and run government digital services, such as GOV.UK. Other work could include project-managing a new product or advising ministers on digital, data and technology strategy and policy.

Duration: Four years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 or postgraduate degree in any subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Commercial

Managing central government’s commercial activities, negotiating contracts and nurturing relationships with large international companies.

Duration: Four years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Science and Engineering

You will be responsible for delivering science and engineering advice to help develop and apply government policy. You may work on issues such as climate change, defence and security, and transport innovation.

Duration: Three to four years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:1 in any degree subject including degree apprenticeships. Applicants must also hold a doctorate or Master’s in a biological, physical, mathematical science or engineering subject; or be a chartered engineer or registered scientist.

Finance

You will help to determine the government’s financial policy, ensuring efficient and effective delivery of public services.

Duration: Four years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:1 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Project Delivery

This scheme offers a range of opportunities to work on major projects such as building hospitals or providing digital services.

Duration: Up to four years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:2 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Government Communication Service

This involves working in a range of communications disciplines – from a press office to campaigns and marketing – and learning how to engage audiences effectively.

Duration: 4 years
Salary: £28k
Entry requirements: 2:1 in any degree subject. Existing civil servants can apply without a degree.

Key Competencies

The Civil Service has 10 key competencies which are grouped into three clusters: Setting Direction, Engaging People and Delivering Results.

Setting Direction

  • Seeing the big picture – Understanding how your role fits in with the objectives of the Civil Service, as well as wider public needs and national interest.

  • Changing and improving – Able to take the initiative, being innovative and creating effective change.

  • Making effective decisions – Using judgement, evidence and knowledge to make decisions and offer accurate, informed advice.

Engaging People

  • Leading and communicating – Demonstrating a pride in and passion for public service, and communicating the Civil Service’s objectives with clarity and conviction.

  • Collaborating and partnering – Displaying the ability to work well in a team and build constructive relationships.

  • Building capabilities for all – Ensuring continuous learning for yourself, for colleagues and for the organisation as a whole.

Delivering Results

  • Achieving commercial outcomes – Keeping a focus on long term economic outcomes in all activities and services.

  • Delivering value for money – Making sure taxpayers’ money is put to best use in delivering public services.

  • Managing a quality service – Demonstrating excellence and expertise in delivering service objectives.

  • Delivering at pace – Delivering quality work on time, dealing with challenges constructively and taking responsibility for outcomes.

More detailed information about the key capabilities can be found in the Civil Service Competency Framework document.

civil service fast stream

Application Process

The Civil Service Fast Stream application process varies slightly depending on the scheme applied to but, in general, you can expect to complete the following stages:

Online Tests

  • Situational judgement questionnaire. This test looks at your responses to work-based situations and assesses whether your behaviours match the key competencies required by the Civil Service.

    You will be given a number of scenarios, with a list of four possible responses to each. You will need to rank these responses according to how effective you think each is.

  • Behavioural questionnaire. This test asks you to rank yourself against the Civil Service and Fast Stream competencies, and aims to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and skills.

Once you receive access to the online tests, you will have five days to complete them.

E-Tray Exercise

This timed exercise assesses how you deal with scenarios you may come across during a working day on the Fast Stream.

You will have 80 minutes to complete the exercise, during which you will read some background information and then respond to a series of messages that will appear on the screen.

You can find more detail about what to expect and how to use the e-Tray on the Fast Stream website. You will also be able to try an example before the test begins.

You must do the exercise within five days of receiving the link.

Video Interview

After successfully completing the e-tray exercise, you will receive an invitation to the video interview. You will then have five days to submit your interview.

This stage involves responding to interview questions on a video platform. You will have 20 minutes to give answers to eight questions.

The questions will explore your experience, your interests and what motivates you.

They will also focus on four of the key competencies:

  • Collaborating and partners
  • Building capability for all
  • Managing a quality service
  • Delivering at pace

You can use a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone to record your answers. You will be given one practice question and can record your response to this as many times as you wish.

However, for the real questions, you can only record your answers once. There will be no follow-up questions, so give full responses.

Additional Stages

Depending on the scheme you have applied to, you may need to complete some additional information, or take a numerical test after submitting your video interview.

Assessment Centre

Once you have successfully completed all the previous stages, you will be invited to the Fast Stream Assessment Centre.

There are two assessment centres, one in London and one in Newcastle. Reimbursement for accommodation and travel costs is available.

The assessment centre stage lasts half a day and comprises three exercises:

1. Group Exercise

In this, you will be given a brief about a fictitious scenario. There will be information that everyone in the group receives, as well as an individual brief setting out your personal negotiating position.

The aim is to work with the other candidates to gain the best outcome for the position you have been allocated, as well as for the group as a whole.

Competencies assessed in this exercise are:

  • Analysis and decision-making
  • Building productive relationships and learning agility
  • Leading and communicating

2. Analysis Exercise

This is a written exercise in which you will be presented with a series of fictional documents providing information on a number of scenarios.

You will need to analyse the information provided, answer some questions and provide a written recommendation. You will be given an hour and a half to complete the exercise.

Competencies assessed here are:

  • Strategic approach to objectives
  • Analysis and decision-making
  • Leading and communicating

3. Leadership Exercise

You will receive a brief describing a managerial issue.

You will have 25 minutes to read the brief and prepare, followed by a 30-minute mock-meeting with a peer colleague, played by an assessor. In this, you will explain how you would deal with the issues presented.

Competencies assessed here are:

  • Strategic approaches to objectives
  • Building productive relationships and learning agility
  • Leading and communicating

Job offers are normally made within 12 weeks of the application, but this can vary.

More detailed information on all areas of the Fast Stream Assessment Centre is available in the Fast Stream Assessment Centre Guide.

Final Selection Board

Most Fast Stream schemes require a final selection process for candidates who are successful at the assessment centre.

This is specific to the scheme applied to; more information will be provided at that stage.

In general, you will need to explain why you have chosen the particular scheme and provide evidence or examples to illustrate your interest.

You will also be expected to have researched the work of the Civil Service in your chosen specialism in detail.

Tips for Success

  • Study the key competencies and think carefully about how you can align your own skills and experience with what is required. Use the STAR technique to draw up a list of specific examples; keep these in mind at all stages of the application process.

  • Take your time and make the most of all the practice material and background information provided to ensure you’re fully prepared.

  • Do as much research as you can into the work of civil servants, and Fast Streamers in particular. There is lots of useful information on the Fast Stream website as well as the Civil Service Careers website.

  • Enjoy it and be yourself. This applies particularly to the assessment centre – you will perform better if you're more relaxed.

Other Routes into the Civil Service

Aside from the Fast Stream, there are other programmes offered by the Civil Service, as well as opportunities to join the organisation directly:

Final Thoughts

The Civil Service Fast Stream is one of the most popular graduate schemes in the UK. With fierce competition for every place, you will need to make sure you’re fully prepared. The advice and tips set out above should help to give you an edge.

Remember, if you are unsuccessful, then you can re-apply the following year. Many Fast Streamers are accepted on their second or even third attempt, so keep a note of any aspects of the process that you find particularly challenging or unexpected and think about what you would work on if you were to re-apply.

Further Reading

You may be interested in these other articles on WikiJob:

A Career in the Public Sector

The 50 Top UK Public Sector Employers

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