Civil Service Success Profiles: Comprehensive Guide to Success

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Josh Hancock Updated:

About Civil Service Success Profiles

The Civil Service use Success Profiles to hire candidates. This 5 element approach helps the Civil Service find people with the desired competencies needed for success in each role.

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The Civil Service use the following tests in their selection process:

  • Numerical reasoning test
  • Verbal reasoning test
  • Behavioural questionnaire
  • Situational judgement test

What are Success Profiles?

The Civil Service employs Success Profiles in its recruitment process. This means that for each role it advertises, it considers what candidates need to demonstrate in order to be successful in each role. This approach enhances the chances of finding the right person for the job, improves performance, and promotes diversity and inclusivity.

The Success Profile comprises five elements, which may vary based on the profession, level, and type of role. Candidates should carefully read the job description to determine the specific elements required for the job they are applying for.

The 5 elements of Success Profiles

The five elements used to assess candidates are: Ability, Behaviours, Experience, Strengths, and Technical. Not all elements are relevant to each role, and the importance of each element will vary depending on the role. Next, we will break down each of these elements.


In the Civil Service, ability refers to the aptitude or potential to perform to the required standard. The assessment of ability helps predict future performance and assesses suitability for the type of work the Civil Service engages in. Psychometric tests, such as the Civil Service Verbal Reasoning Test (VRT) and Civil Service Numerical Reasoning Test (NRT), are commonly used to evaluate ability. While ability tests are an important part of the recruitment process, they are not the sole criteria for selection. The job description specifies the required elements and selection methods.


Behaviours refer to the actions and activities that lead to effective job performance. The Civil Service has defined a set of behaviours associated with job success, tailored to different grade levels. It is important to note that recruiting managers select specific behaviours relevant to each job role, and candidates are not expected to demonstrate all behaviours for a single role. Examples of behaviours provide an overview of expectations at each level, but individuals are not required to exhibit every aspect of the examples for success.

Behaviours are assessed through various methods throughout the recruitment process, such as application forms, CVs, tests, interviews, presentations, simulations, and group exercises. Candidates may be asked to provide examples of past behaviour or describe how they would behave in given situations. The assessment of behaviours is often combined with other elements of the Success Profile to gain a comprehensive understanding of suitability for the role.

Here is a list of all the Behaviours and their definitions:

  • Seeing the Big Picture: Understand how your role fits with and supports organisational objectives. Recognise the wider Civil Service priorities and ensure work is in the national interest.
  • Changing and Improving: Seek out opportunities to create effective change and suggest innovative ideas for improvement. Review ways of working, including seeking and providing feedback.
  • Making Effective Decisions: Use evidence and knowledge to support accurate, expert decisions and advice. Carefully consider alternative options, implications and risks of decisions.
  • Leadership: Show pride and passion for public service. Create and engage others in delivering a shared vision. Value difference, diversity and inclusion, ensuring fairness and opportunity for all.
  • Communicating and Influencing: Communicate purpose and direction with clarity, integrity and enthusiasm. Respect the needs, responses and opinions of others.
  • Working Together: Form effective partnerships and relationships with people both internally and externally, from a range of diverse backgrounds, sharing information, resources and support.
  • Developing Self and Others: Focus on continuous learning and development for self, others and the organisation as a whole.
  • Managing a Quality Service: Deliver service objectives with professional excellence, expertise and efficiency, taking account of diverse customer needs.
  • Delivering at Pace: Take responsibility for delivering timely and quality results with focus and drive.


Experience, in the context of the Civil Service, refers to the knowledge and mastery gained through involvement or exposure to a particular activity or subject. While experience is often required for senior roles or professions within the Civil Service, it is not solely based on the duration of time served but rather on the performance and achievements. Transferable skills acquired through voluntary work or hobbies can also demonstrate relevant experience for a role. Assessment methods such as application forms, CVs, and interviews may be used to evaluate a candidate's experience. Experience is considered alongside other elements of the Success Profile to assess suitability for the role. The job description provides details about the elements required and the selection methods to be used.


Strengths refer to the activities or behaviours that individuals perform well, enjoy doing, and find motivating. The Civil Service Strengths Dictionary comprises defined strengths that are relevant to the culture and type of work performed. Civil Service Strengths are not defined by grade levels.

When assessing strengths, the focus is on determining the compatibility between candidates and the organisation or job role. The assessment involves identifying activities in which individuals demonstrate high capability or proficiency, feel motivated and empowered, and engage in regularly. Strengths can be assessed through various methods, including interviews, recorded video interviews, bespoke situational strengths tests, simulation assessments, and personality tests. In interviews, candidates may be asked questions to understand their relevant strengths. It is important to provide authentic as there are no right or wrong answers. The qualities required for the role will be outlined in the job description. To prepare effectively, candidates should reflect on their personal strengths and preferred ways of working. Strengths are evaluated alongside other elements of the Success Profile to gain a comprehensive understanding of suitability for the role. The job description will specify the required elements and the selection methods to be used.

How strengths are linked to behaviours

Each behaviour in the Success Profiles is supported or influenced by a candidate's strengths. The strengths possessed by a candidate play a role in their ability to demonstrate and perform the desired behaviours. Here are the behaviours and the strengths which support them:

  • Seeing the Big Picture: Challenger, Strategic, Mission, Visionary
  • Changing and Improving: Adaptable, Courageous, Change Agent, Improver, Problem Solver, Resilient
  • Making Effective Decisions: Analytical, Decisive, Preventer, Problem Solver
  • Leadership: Confident, Change Agent, Inclusive, Motivator, Team Leader, Visionary
  • Communicating and Influencing: Authentic, Emotionally Intelligent, Explainer, Inclusive, Influencer
  • Working Together: Challenger, Emotionally Intelligent, Inclusive, Negotiator, Networker, Relationship Builder, Team Player, Mediator
  • Developing Self and Others: Enabler, Explainer, Inclusive, Learner
  • Managing a Quality Service: Disciplined, Efficient, Focussed, Organiser, Precise, Preventer, Service Focused
  • Delivering at Pace: Adaptable, Disciplined, Catalyst, Focussed, Organiser, Resilient, Responsible


Technical skills refer to the demonstration of specific professional skills, knowledge, or qualifications. In the Civil Service, there are over 20 professions offering a wide range of roles, some of which are specialised. The skills, knowledge, or qualifications required for these roles are determined by the respective Heads of Profession.

Specialised roles, such as those in Government Finance, may require candidates to possess specific qualifications and knowledge related to finance management in a governmental context. Many professions have established professional frameworks designed to assess the technical requirements for roles within those professions. The job description for a role within a profession will provide additional information about the specific technical requirements. Various assessment methods may be used to evaluate technical skills, including application forms, CVs, interviews, technical presentations, exercises, tests, work samples, simulations, and assessment centers. If a particular qualification or membership in a professional body is required, candidates may be asked to provide evidence of their qualifications or membership.

Civil Service Application Process Stages

Stage 1

Online Application

As part of the assessment process, you will typically be required to complete an application form. Along with providing personal information, you may also be asked to provide examples of situations where you have demonstrated specific behaviours. The Civil Service has identified a set of behaviours that are associated with job success. These behaviours are tailored to the grade level of the job role, and you will not be expected to demonstrate all of them for a single role.

To respond to the behaviour-related questions, you can refer to the provided examples in the Civil Service Behaviours. Reflect on instances from your work experience, volunteering, or even hobbies where you have displayed the described behaviour. It is important to clearly explain how the example aligns with the behaviour being assessed since the recruiting manager may not be familiar with the situation you faced.

Stage 2

Online Tests

As part of the recruitment process, you may be required to complete one or multiple online tests. Typically, you will receive a link to a website where these tests are accessible. The purpose of these tests is to assess whether you possess the necessary skills required for the role and to evaluate your suitability for the type of work typically undertaken in the Civil Service. The number and specific types of tests you will need to complete depend on the role you are applying for. You are usually given a specific timeframe, outlined in the email sent to you, within which you can take the tests. Prior to the actual test, there will be practice questions provided for you to familiarize yourself with the format and requirements.

It is important to note that some tests may be timed, so it is advisable to allocate uninterrupted time and ensure you can fully focus during the assessment.

This is a free practise test provided by the Civil Service - try it out for yourself... As you will see, it is a challenging test and so practise is highly advised.

Stage 3


As part of the assessment process, interviews are typically conducted to evaluate your suitability for the role. While face-to-face interviews are common, telephone or recorded interviews may also be used. The duration of interviews usually ranges from 30 to 60 minutes.

During the interview, you may be asked to provide examples of specific occasions where you have demonstrated particular skills or behaviors. It is important to carefully review the job description beforehand and consider relevant examples that align with the outlined behaviors. Additionally, reflecting on how you would handle similar situations in the future can be beneficial.

Interviewers may also inquire about your interests and preferences, aiming to assess your strengths and preferred working style. The Civil Service Strengths Dictionary can provide insights into the strengths valued in the Civil Service; however, you are not expected to demonstrate all of these strengths for a single job role. Prior to the interview, it is helpful to reflect on your personal strengths and preferred ways of working.

Stage 4

Assessment Centre

If an assessment centre is part of your Civil Service application, then you can expect to face several different selection methods during this. Typically it will involve interviews, group exercises, tests or presentations. If presentations are part of your assessment centre then you should know the topic can be provided in advance or given on the day, and you may receive supplementary materials. The invitation letter will specify the presentation format, allotted time, and whether handouts or slides are expected. Assessors may ask questions related to the subject matter and how you prepared for the assessment.

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How to pass Civil Service online test?

To increase your chances of success in the Civil Service online tests, there are several key strategies to consider. Firstly, familiarise yourself with the test format and content by practicing with online resources and sample questions, like ours. Develop effective time management skills to ensure you can complete all sections within the allocated time. Pay attention to instructions and read each question carefully before answering. Use logical reasoning and critical thinking to approach problem-solving tasks. Maintain focus and avoid rushing through questions. Review and revise your answers if time permits. Lastly, maintain a positive mindset and confidence in your abilities. Preparation, practice, and a calm approach will contribute to your success in the Civil Service online tests.

What is the pass rate for Civl Service?

The pass rate for Civil Service assessments varies depending on the specific test, role, and level of competition. The Civil Service aims to select candidates who demonstrate the necessary skills, knowledge, and behaviours for the role. Consequently, the pass rate can fluctuate and is not set at a fixed percentage. It is essential for candidates to prepare thoroughly, understand the assessment criteria, and perform to the best of their abilities. By focusing on their strengths, practicing relevant skills, and aligning with the desired behaviors, candidates can maximize their chances of meeting or exceeding the pass rate expectations.

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