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Roger Evans AM: Would you like a public appointment? Here's a guide to succeeding...

Screen Shot 2012-11-04 at 20.16.19Roger Evans is the London Assembly Member for Havering and Redbridge. Following recent focus on Labour dominance of public appointments he offers some advice to Conservatives on how to successfully apply for public sector posts.

I believe that CCHQ should be encouraging members to apply for public appointments and should provide helpful advice to applicants. In the absence of such help, here are my own thoughts:

Why do people view job seeking as a process over which they have no control, in which they are the victims of others’ decisions and the whims of fate?

As the applicant you exercise considerable power over most stages of the journey. You decide if you should apply in the first place. You write your CV and complete the application forms. You choose how to prepare for the interview and in a professional interview, you should be doing most of the talking.

The decision to call you for interview and the final decision to appoint may seem to be out of your hands, but they are based on your answers to the questions they have asked.

So actually you exercise considerable power in the application process.

The best place to start is the Cabinet Office website. You should be checking this once a week. Obviously eliminate all the posts for which you are clearly unqualified. For anything that looks attractive you can request further information including the all important Job Description and Person Specification.

Take a good look at these and mark yourself out of 100 against each of the criteria they list. Be strict with yourself – applying for an unsuitable role is likely to be a waste of time and the worst outcome would be for them to hire you!

Now it is time to face the application form. For a public appointment this is likely to be a lengthy and complex task. The form is your first contact with the assessor and a poor effort will go straight in the bin. The form will also follow you through the process, affecting each interview, so it has to be strong.

Each question is asked for a reason. Try to work out what they are testing for, bearing in mind there won’t be any trick questions or duplicate questions. Answers need to provide evidence backing up any assertions you make – it is not good enough to claim to be a good communicator, for example, without providing examples of the ways in which you have used that skill.

When you are called to interview, you should be celebrating because you have beaten at least 80% of the other applicants to get this far. The call is proof that someone thinks you can do the job, otherwise they wouldn’t waste time on you.

Good interviews are all about preparation. The internet makes research easy so there is no excuse for being ill informed about the organisation or the job. You should pick up some key facts that you can use in the interview. Also highlight any challenges the organisation is facing.

Research also involves thinking about yourself. What are the key attributes and achievements that make you the best person for the job? List up to seven of them and consider how you will drop them into the answers you will give at the interview. You need to get all of these across before you leave the room.

You will of course arrive on time and appropriately dressed.

Most interviewees see the questions as hurdles to be scrambled over. You should be looking at them as platforms from which to proclaim your greatness.

The first question is usually something easy to get the ball rolling. What makes you think you are suited to this role? is a good example and it gives you an opportunity to unveil the best of the seven key attributes that you identified in your preparation.

In a public sector interview most of the questions will be competence based, seeking evidence of the important elements of the person specification.

“Tell us about a time when you had to convince people that your point of view was correct” is a typical question and you will need to talk about an occasion when you achieved this, giving a concrete example and the result of your effort.

“What are your weaknesses?” is a tougher question and you should be prepared to talk about something that did not go well, what you learned from the experience and how you will face it in the future.

Finally they usually ask if you have any questions for them. This is a good opportunity to convey any of the seven key points that you failed to get across earlier.  

You have done your best and the final decision is out of your hands. Write down all the questions you were asked and consider how you would answer them next time – because there probably will be a next time. This is a learning process with each interview being better than the last one.

It’s not rocket science and there are many great opportunities out there.


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