Hacking civil service hiring

Rose M
Rose M
May 31 · 3 min read

TL;DR we’re trying a new approach to hiring at DfE Digital. If you like this you should come to the OneTeamGov bureaucracy hack in July that I’m helping to organise.

Candidate point of view

It wasn’t until I applied to join the civil service just under a year ago that I began to appreciate how different civil service hiring is to what I’d known before. It started with a browse of Civil Service Jobs and a lengthy application form (reminiscent of the dreaded UCAS form I’d filled in about 15 years previously to get my place at university). Next up I was interviewed by a panel of three people who asked a series of generic questions such as “When are you most creative in the workplace?”. The whole thing felt formal, impersonal and spanned months without clear communication or clarity of what was going on during this long period.

While hiring in the private sector varies greatly and isn’t perfect, it can work really well: a simple up-front application, good communication from a single point of contact and fast decision making to both reduce the amount of anxiety involved in getting a job and secure great people who may get many offers.

Hiring manager perspective

I joined The Department for Education’s digital team in November last year. Having since played the role of hiring manager, I can validate that the pain does not stop with the candidate experience. Here are some issues (not exhaustive by any means) that I’ve identified with hiring civil service roles for the DDaT (digital, data and technology) profession:

  1. Delays in making official offers to successful candidates
  2. Difficulties finding specialists for interview panels
  3. The time needed to sift applications, especially when there are lots to get through
  4. Instances of the same role at the same grade having varying levels of responsibility and expectation across different areas of the department

It appears that hiring pain isn’t specific either to me or to DfE. Civil Service World published an article highlighting some very similar issues last year. At DfE Digital, we’re trialing a new, centralised process for hiring people into specialist digital roles. We hope it’ll help us overcome some of the things listed above. It’s a step in the right direction but we haven’t got there yet.

What next?

We’re bringing people together with a range of problems (hiring, business cases, governance and collaboration tools) in Hackney on 3rd July. We’ll spend the day together coming up with an approach to hacking the ‘bureaucracy’ — and start solving problems then and there. We’ll be there to help you throughout the day to make sure your solutions turn into real change. You can sign up for a ticket using this google form.

I’m starting a list of inspiration sources, ideas and examples of hiring related ‘hacks’

  1. @jukesie’s weekly public service jobs newsletter
  2. Glassdoor’s best places to interview — could we ever do something similar for departments?
  3. DfE Digital’s centralised hiring pilot — more details on this later

If you’ve seen a good hiring hack, post it in the comments below or tweet me and I’ll add it to the list here 👇.

Rose M

Written by

Rose M

Digital product and delivery in government

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