How to write Civil Service Behaviours (with definition)

Updated 23 July 2023

Like many organisations, the Civil Service sets its own standards for what it considers to be ideal characteristics in people who work there. These characteristics are called the Civil Service Behaviours. If you're interested in working for the Civil Service, knowing what these behaviours are and how to incorporate them into your job application materials can help you secure the job you want. In this article, we explain what Civil Service Behaviours are, describe how to write Civil Service Behaviours into your application and provide you with some additional tips.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

What are the Civil Service Behaviours?

The Civil Service Behaviours are a set of nine actions or activities that the Civil Service prioritises when hiring, as they enable civil servants to do their job well. The behaviours are part of the broader Civil Service Success Profiles, which consist of five key elements: behaviours, strengths, experience, ability and technical. The Civil Service assesses candidates at various points to check for these behaviours, including on application documents, at interview, during verbal briefings, at assessment centres and during the Civil Service Judgement Test (CSJT).

The level at which the Civil Service expects candidates to demonstrate these behaviours correlates to the seniority of the position for which they're applying. For example, at administrative officer (AO) level, the behaviour of making effective decisions would entail knowing how to analyse available information and then consult colleagues for support or clarification. At deputy director level, making effective decisions would mean making high-level strategic decisions within broader political contexts to meet the goals of the organisation. Below is an overview of the nine behaviours and what they mean:

  • Seeing the big picture: This behaviour means knowing your role within the context of the broader organisation. A key element of this is understanding what the Civil Service's priorities are and how its work contributes to the national interest.

  • Changing and improving: Change and improvement refers to how the Civil Service and its staff operate. It's beneficial for civil servants to identify ways of improving how they work, bring about positive change and seek feedback.

  • Making effective decisions: Decision-making exists at every level of Civil Service work, with the consequences of these decisions impacting others. Good decision-making requires reliable information, sound analysis, consideration of alternatives, assessment of risks and the input of subject-matter experts.

  • Leadership: Leadership begins with setting a good example and extends to managing entire departments. For the Civil Service, leadership entails delivering a common vision, valuing diversity and ensuring fairness for everyone.

  • Communicating and influencing: Effective communication is key for workplace effectiveness, in addition to understanding and respecting the needs of others. The Civil Service wants its staff to communicate their purpose with integrity while considering the responses of others.

  • Working together: Working together refers to collaboration and teamwork, both with colleagues within the Civil Service and others outside of it. This enables civil servants to share information and resources effectively.

  • Developing self and others: Continuous learning and development makes staff more effective over time. This means both an individual's own development and how they support and encourage the development of others.

  • Managing a quality service: The Civil Service exists to deliver professional services to a range of people. Maintaining a high standard of service is key, entailing key elements such as professionalism, efficiency and expertise.

  • Delivering at pace: The final behaviour is delivering at pace, which refers to the timeliness of civil servants' work. Key aspects of this are maintaining the high quality of their work and taking responsibility for results.

Related: The most effective workplace behaviours to adopt

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How to write Civil Service Behaviours

If you want to know how to write Civil Service Behaviours in your application documents, follow the steps below:

1. Review the guidance

You can find a comprehensive guide to the Civil Service Behaviours online as part of its publications regarding Civil Service Success Profiles. This contains details of all nine behaviours and further information regarding the level at which to demonstrate them based on the job in question. It covers various grades within the Civil Service, from entry-level to deputy director. Check the grade of the job for which you're applying, and then look up the corresponding section in the guide. It will inform you of the ways the Civil Service expects you to demonstrate the various behaviours.

Related: What is a behavioural assessment? (With benefits and types)

2. Develop a list

Once you're familiar with the behaviours and the extent to which the job in question requires you to demonstrate them, develop a list of examples of how you've demonstrated each of the behaviours from your work experience. If possible, consider multiple examples for each to avoid unnecessary repetition throughout the various stages and documents of the application process. Prioritise examples that are recent, resulted in something positive (such as an achievement) and that strongly relate to the duties of the job you're applying to. Also prioritise examples confirmed by evidence, such as a letter of recommendation.

Related: How to list projects on your CV (plus tips and examples)

3. Tailor your application documents

Use your list to provide evidence of Civil Service Behaviours in your application form for the job, your CV and cover letter. Consider also including evidence in any written tests you take during the application process. A good place to start is your CV, as it's the most comprehensive of the documents. Within it, find opportunities to include or otherwise demonstrate the nine behaviours based on the list you made. You can demonstrate a behaviour such as communication by having a well-written resume.

Your CV's work experience section is a good place to incorporate your Civil Service Behaviours. In your description of previous experiences, include evidence of the various behaviours and their positive results. Skills and qualifications sections can also show behaviours such as developing self and others. In your cover letter, focus on fewer examples but in more detail. Consider examples that enable you to demonstrate multiple behaviours, as it may not be possible for your cover letter to be as comprehensive as your CV.

Related: CV vs cover letter: what's the difference between the two?

4. Assess and proofread

Before sending your application, take some time to assess the documents and proofread them. This is often more effective if you wait a few hours or a day after finishing them before reviewing them, as this enables you to approach the task with a fresh perspective. Start by re-reading the behaviours, and then read your application documents to evaluate how well you've communicated them. Then proofread your documents to correct any errors and make improvements. This can show your diligence and dedication to quality.

Related: How to write the perfect cover letter (with examples)

Tips for writing behaviours

Below are some additional tips to consider when you're trying to highlight Civil Service Behaviours on your application documents:

  • Use the STAR method. The STAR method is useful for describing previous situations comprehensively to show how you exhibit a certain Civil Service Behaviour. The acronym stands for situation, task, action and result.

  • Check a higher level. Civil Service jobs have a grade system, and you can check the required behaviours for the position for which you're applying. Reading the section for the next level up and demonstrating behaviours at a higher level can help you distinguish yourself from other candidates.

  • Review interview questions. Checking Civil Service interview questions can help you learn about what the Civil Service prioritises, which can further enable you to tailor your application documents and select suitable examples. This can also be useful for demonstrating the behaviours verbally during an interview.

Related: 9 civil service behaviours interview questions with answers

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