Local government provides an excellent stepping stone for a long and successful career providing significant opportunities for progression both upwards within departments and sideways into a range of opportunities. Your personal and professional development is taken seriously with high-quality training made available to you to aid your growth, including face-to-face courses and e-learning modules, learning pathways and competency frameworks, and coaching and mentoring programmes.
If you’re struggling to understand how to take that first step into local government, read on for some general advice on handling applications and interviews.
Application Advice – using STAR
When answering questions on your past experiences, remember the STAR technique:
- Situation: Provide context & Background - e.g. "our customers complained..."
- Task: Describe the problem and challenges faced - e.g. "we faced supply chain shortage..."
- Action: Explain what YOU did & how - e.g. "I solved...", "I calculated..."
- Results: State the benefits, savings, rewards, outcome achieved - e.g. "the impact of...results in..."
Remember that the ACTION is the most important part of your answer. The assessor wants to know the impact you had on the situation and the responsibility you took on. Avoid overusing the collective ‘we’ or getting tied down with details – talk about your own actions, not other people’s.
Application Advice – 5 common mistakes (and how to avoid them!)
These can make your application look unprofessional and careless, regardless of how much time you put into it. Ask a friend or family member you trust to proofread your application and give you a second opinion before submitting.
Fabricating events, taking credit for other people’s work, or exaggerating your role can seriously trip up an otherwise good application. The council follows up the references you give, so any lies can easily be discovered. Always use real experiences as your evidence. It doesn’t matter what these experiences are as long as you can prove they have some link to the skills advertised by the role.
Assessors do not always have time to pick their way through every application they receive, so you must ensure that you make yours as easy to follow as possible. Always double check your application to ensure it makes sense.
Failure to tailor application to role
It is all well and good to list every job and volunteering role you have ever held, but if they have no relevance to the role you are unlikely to be successful. Make sure you read the person profile attached to the vacancy and understand what the job requires. Ensure you explain how you meet the required skills, as well as the extra ones you can bring, and explain why they will be useful in the role.
Not explaining why experiences are relevant
Similarly, don’t just list all the positive things you have done in the workplace. It’s no good just saying what happened! Use the STAR approach to expand on your experiences and explain how they show you hold the desired skills, and how you will be able to transfer them to the workplace.
Ensure you re-read your application beforehand. Remember which examples you have used, and make sure you can discuss them confidently.
Research the department/directorate you are being interviewed for. Although interviews are not a test on the history of the Council, it is always beneficial to know at least the basics about your potential employer. It is always better to come across as keen rather than uninterested.
Don’t seize complete control of group tasks. Whilst it’s good to demonstrate your leadership skills, people want to work with team players, not dictators. Be conciliatory, friendly, and make sure everyone in your group has the chance to be heard. The person who makes sure everyone is involved is far more likely to be hired than the person who steamrollers their fellow applicants.
Remember to be yourself and have fun – by the time you reach your formal interview, the assessor already knows that you are qualified for the position. At this point, you need to show them who you are and why they should want to work with you. Be friendly and open, and don’t try to present yourself as somebody you are not.