We’re about to start recruiting for several developer jobs, and we thought it would be worth explaining how we’ve updated our application process since the last time we blogged about it.
GDS wants to attract the best candidates to join us in our exciting work to make the best digital government services in the world. We’re also dedicated to ensuring that the process is fair and objective, using consistent criteria to assess each candidate. So as well as listing the specialist and technical skills required for each job, we also assess against the civil service competency framework.
Until recently, we asked all candidates to include with their application a “statement of suitability” describing exactly how they meet each of the competencies. Unfortunately, that often meant we had to immediately reject candidates who hadn’t provided the statement, or even those who hadn’t provided sufficient evidence for one or two of the competencies. So we frequently missed out on potentially great candidates who had all the technical skills we needed, and who might have been able to demonstrate the competencies too if given a chance.
We've realised it’s quite unfair to expect candidates to understand the details of the civil service recruitment process from the outside. So recently we’ve redesigned the process to make it simpler for applicants, while ensuring we keep it fair and transparent for everyone.
The biggest change is that we’re now asking candidates to apply with a CV and a covering letter with a short description of how they meet the essential job requirements. We’re no longer asking for a competency-based statement of suitability. Instead, we'll be assessing candidates against the competencies during the interview process itself.
The roles we're recruiting for will mainly be using Ruby, Python and Java. However, we’re not that concerned about what languages you know; if you're a competent programmer, you'll be able to pick up the relevant ones fairly quickly. What we are far more concerned about is your experience writing web applications. All of our jobs involve writing code for the web, and you’ll need to be able to demonstrate some knowledge of that environment.
In your covering letter, talk about your web experience, and the technologies and methodologies you’ve used – we’re particularly interested in things like experience working in an agile environment and with test-driven development.
Once we've received the applications, we do an initial screen to see which ones we want to interview. The screening panel is composed of three people, who are usually the same ones who will be on the interview panel later on.
For those candidates who make it through the screening, a short telephone interview will be scheduled. This will consist of one panel member phoning the candidate and asking some simple technical questions, to attempt to gauge their suitability. A second panel member will listen in to ensure balance, but won’t normally participate.
If you’re successful at this stage, you’ll be asked to come into the GDS offices in central London for an interview. The interview is in two parts, both taking about an hour. First, there will be a programming test. In this part, you’ll sit with a GDS developer and a laptop to solve a simple task, in the language of your choice. The second part will be a more traditional interview, where the three panel members will ask questions focused on both the civil service competencies, and more in-depth technical problems.
We are still dedicated to ensuring that we assess all applications fairly. Each step of the process is fully documented, and witnessed by more than one person so that we can minimise personal bias.
We'll be making more improvements to the process in the future – like everything at GDS, we will iterate as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t.