From adaptable to visionary: recruitment success profiles set out 36 civil service strengths

Written by Richard Johnstone on 19 June 2018 in News
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Further details of shift away from competency-based framework for recruitment revealed as government lays out elements of success profiles across five areas – ability, experience, strengths, technical and behaviours

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Details of the new success profiles that will be used across recruitment in the civil service have been published by government, including a ‘strengths dictionary’ that defines 36 skills used by civil servants.

The Cabinet Office yesterday set out more details of the move to success profiles for recruitment, which will set out what successful candidates for government jobs will need to be able to do across five areas – experiences, abilities, strengths, behaviours and technical/professional skills.

This new approach, which was first revealed by civil service chief executive John Manzoni last month, will replace the existing civil service competency framework by early 2019. It comes after piloting alternatives to competency-based recruitment was one of the actions set out in the 2016 Civil Service Workforce Plan, which committed government to “moving away from the competency framework, to a more meaningful and business focused framework of assessment”.


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An overview document for the introduction of success profiles stated the shift will help “attract and retain people of talent and experience from a range of sectors”.

“The success profile framework moves recruitment away from using a purely competency-based system of assessment,” according to the Cabinet Office document. “It introduces a more flexible framework which assesses candidates against a range of elements using a variety of selection methods. This will give the best possible chance of finding the right person for the job, driving up performance and improving diversity and inclusivity.”

A separate document for candidates says this means all civil service jobs advertised will set out “what you will need to demonstrate in order to be successful”.

This document describes the five elements of the success profile. Ability is described as the aptitude or potential to perform to the required standard, experience as the knowledge or mastery of an activity or subject gained through involvement in or exposure to it, strengths are the things done regularly and that provide motivation, technical is the demonstration of specific professional skills, knowledge or qualifications, and behaviours are the actions and activities that people do which result in effective performance in a job.

These elements will be in assessed in a number of different ways, depending on the type of roles being applied for, ranging from application forms and CVs to interviews and presentations, online tests and assessment centres. The Cabinet Office also stated not all elements are relevant to every role, so the success profile should be different for different types of jobs.

Among the details set out in the documents produced for each of the five criteria is a ‘strengths dictionary’, which sets out definitions for key qualities that are “relevant to the culture and type of work that we do”. These are a total of 36 strengths defined in the document, ranging from adaptable to visionary.

These are also matched to nine civil service behaviours, which cover seeing the big picture, changing and improving, making effective decisions, leadership, communicating and influencing, working together, developing self and others, managing a quality service and delivering at pace.

The guidance documents also reveal that experience can include transferable skills gained in a non-work context, such as voluntary work or a hobby, while technical skills will be assessed in line with government professions. One example highlighted is a specialised government finance role, which may require candidates to have accountancy qualifications and knowledge of the way finance is managed within government.

Ability will be measured using a set of psychometric tests which are used to help predict future performance, including a verbal reasoning test and a numerical reasoning test.

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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