By Civil Service World

13 Jun 2023

CSW asked a cross-section of officials to play around with ChatGPT and establish how good it is at some of the everyday tasks they perform in their jobs. Here, Gemma from the Department for Work and Pensions gives it a shot at answering a parliamentary written question... and applying for a grade 7 job


I asked ChatGPT to do two things. The first was to apply for a civil service job (or, at least, write part of the application); the second was to provide an answer to a tricky parliamentary question on behalf of a minister, where the answer required some classic obfuscation (see what it came up with below).

When I was inputting my requests (or “prompts”) I felt like I was talking to a member of staff, but the moment I hit return and the text appeared almost instantaneously, it was very obvious it wasn’t a real person.  

My thoughts on the job application are as follows: it is pretty impressive even in its current state, and if you were to train ChatGPT with successful examples from sifts, you could almost guarantee an interview. I don’t think it will be possible to gatekeep this in the future. Instead we need to continue to improve our recruitment practice so we’re less reliant on people providing these kinds of example-based responses (something that already disadvantages those who are statistically less likely to be offered stretch opportunities).

The PQ response read as more frank and open than we might be happy to clear in the current political context. It will have drawn this from the totality of historic political discourse in Hansard – which was a humbling reminder of how politically motivated narratives have become the norm for the civil service in recent decades.

ChatGPT is in its infancy. It’s already capable of creating basic comms products that need very little human refinement. It won’t be long – particularly if it’s fed appropriate training material – before it can generate more basic “policy by numbers” products across the whole policy lifecycle. We can already predict the lines different stakeholders are likely to take on issues before consultation begins and it’s an easy next step to train AI to do this for them. Cue: a vision of a world where ChatGPT negotiates with itself, lobbies itself and runs stakeholder roundtables comprising… itself. In our financial markets, AIs have been conducting high-frequency trades with one another for years.  

Increased reliance on something that can only extrapolate from what we’ve always done means we must work harder at genuine innovation. We need to occasionally lift our heads up from the pragmatic world of getting things done to make sure we aren’t setting too circular a course over the long term – whether that’s relying on AI or on the faces or behaviours that “fit”. 

💬 Can you imagine you are a UK civil servant with about 15 years’ experience working in a number of different government departments. You are currently at SEO grade and you are applying for a grade 7 job. Could you write me a 250 word example of a time you – in your role as a civil service SEO – demonstrated the “communicating and influencing” behaviour to the grade 7 standard

💬 In my current role as an SEO in the Department for Education, I was tasked with developing and implementing a new policy on school funding for disadvantaged pupils. I recognised the importance of engaging with stakeholders in the education sector to ensure that the policy was well understood and supported.

To achieve this, I organised a series of consultation events with headteachers, governors, and other education professionals across the country. I worked closely with the communications team to develop a clear and accessible message about the policy, and I used a variety of media channels to reach a broad audience.

During the consultation events, I listened carefully to feedback and concerns from participants, and I worked collaboratively with them to address these issues. I made sure that all feedback was recorded and analysed, and I used this information to refine and improve the policy.

In addition to this, I recognised the importance of building relationships with key influencers in the education sector. I engaged with national education organisations, including trade unions and professional associations, to ensure that they were informed about the policy and had the opportunity to contribute to the consultation process.

As a result of my efforts, the policy was widely understood and supported by stakeholders in the education sector. The final policy was praised for its clarity and accessibility, and it has been successfully implemented in schools across the country.

I believe that this example demonstrates my ability to communicate complex policies to a range of audiences, and to build effective relationships with stakeholders. I am confident that I can apply these skills in a grade 7 role, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to develop and refine them in a new context.


💬 Your minister has been asked a parliamentary question about why an important initiative that should have launched three months ago is still not ready. The real reason is that the outsourced company being paid to do the work has stolen a lot of taxpayers’ money and provided substandard products. Your minister is desperate to keep this quiet and to get for more time to try and fix this. She does not, however, want to lie in her answer. Can you write a response to this question?

💬 As the honourable member for [constituency] will appreciate, the successful delivery of government policy is of paramount importance to our department, and we remain fully committed to launching the policy as soon as possible.

I must be frank with the House and acknowledge that the policy’s launch has been delayed due to unforeseen issues with our contracted partner, including significant financial improprieties and substandard work. We share the concerns of the public and parliament about the actions of the contractor and are taking all necessary steps to address the situation.

Our priority now is to ensure that the taxpayer is protected and that we can deliver a high-quality policy that meets the needs of the people we serve. We have already taken steps to recover funds from the contractor, and we are exploring all options available to us to recover losses and ensure accountability.

We are also working diligently to address the issues with the policy’s development and implementation, and we have brought in additional expertise and resources to help us do so. While we understand that the delay is frustrating, we hope that the honourable member and the House will appreciate our commitment to delivering a policy that meets the highest standards of quality and value for money.

We will continue to keep parliament informed of our progress in this matter, and we remain committed to being transparent and accountable for the public funds entrusted to us.”



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