I recently went along to observe candidates who were taking part in a Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment centre. I thought it might be useful to share the insights I gained:
What I learnt about the Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment process:
1. Once at the assessment centre, your odds of being offered a Fast Stream position might not be as low as you’d assume:
In 2013 26,000 candidates completed the Civil Service Fast Stream online tests, 2,500 attended assessment centres and 700 were offered roles – so around 1 in 3 people who attended assessment centres were offered positions (perhaps better odds than some interview situations where there might be six candidates for 1 position).
2. Working elsewhere for a couple of years and then applying for the Fast Stream can be a good idea:
Candidates with post-graduation work experience can perform particularly well at assessment centres. Perhaps because they have more work-related examples which they can refer to when talking about their skills and also more experience of negotiating office politics and dealing with colleagues who may have different agendas.
3. The Fast Stream Assessment Centre process is rigorously checked to ensure fairness to all candidates:
· The Civil Service have a rigorous system to ensure validity and reliability, for example the patterns of scores given by individual assessors are examined regularly to check that each is marking in a consistent way
· Each candidate is assessed by several different assessors during the day
· Each competency is marked between two and four times (assessed via different activities)
· The Assessors have no information on candidates’ backgrounds when they assess them
4. The assessment centre process can be very stressful but provides a great opportunity for development:
Candidates arrive at the assessment centre at 8am and activities happen at an intensive pace throughout the day. However, regardless of performance, everyone is offered very thorough feedback in relation to the activities they took part in to help them improve their performance.
5. The Civil Service is keen to increase diversity within their teams:
There are no A Level requirements to apply: candidates just need a 2:1.
There are spring and summer placements for currently under-represented groups (black and minority ethnic students, those with disabilities or from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds).
6. The schemes offer lots of support for applicants with disabilities, impairments or learning difficulties:
– Candidates can skip numeracy and verbal tests if appropriate
– Candidates who declare a disability are invited into the assessment centre beforehand to discuss reasonable adjustments e.g. having extra time or bringing a support worker
7. Assessment is based on competencies within the Civil Service competency framework which include commercial awareness and the ability to consider value for money