Civil Service Commission

Monday 21 November 2016

Good morning everybody and welcome to Open Week.  Our very first question of the week comes from Tracey who works for the Welsh Government:

I’d like to ask a question about the recruitment process.

Has the Civil Service considered a name-blind system (anonymising candidates’ details)?

I work in the Welsh Government, where recruitment (both internally and externally), currently allows the panel to see the applicants’ names and titles at the first sift stage. I am not sure if this is the case in other parts of the Civil Service.

Names can give away quite a lot – often gender, sometimes an indicator of race, religion, even age can be assumed from a name.

From the title the candidate’s gender is known (unless doctor is the title given) and martial status can be assumed for women. Also if the person is known to a member of the panel, they could be biased.

I wonder if the recruitment process would be fairer if these details were removed and encourage more a diverse set of people to apply?


Tracey, thank you for your interesting question.

The Civil Service Commission has a statutory duty to uphold the legal requirement that selection for appointment to the Civil Service must be on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. We don’t dictate recruitment policies to Civil Service departments, but we do encourage them to do everything they can to attract strong and diverse fields for their vacancies.

When it was announced last year that the Civil Service was moving to name blind recruitment as the default option we were very supportive of this move

It may be that the Welsh Government is starting to adopt name blind recruitment, and a conversation with your HR Director will help to clarify this. Name blind recruitment has been adopted by many departments and the feedback we get is very positive.

Best regards.

Kathryn Bishop
Civil Service Commissioner


And our second question comes from Sean who works at The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency:

I have seen the notification from Ian Watmore with regards to the Civil Service Commission open week. I have a question with regards to the application process for recruitment in to or advancement within the Civil Service.

The Civil Service has a framework of core competencies that all Civil Servants must abide by. This is a commendable set of rules to help with performance and development within the organisation. My question is based around how this is applied to job applications.

The current process for applying for any role within the Civil Service requires candidates to complete a competency-based application form outlining how they meet specific competencies as highlighted by the recruiting organisation. Ideally the answers must be completed within 250 words, which is not always enough to cover the main areas that have been achieved. Why does the Civil Service still use this antiquated process to narrow the field of candidates?

As a recruiting manager and someone who has worked in the public sector for only 3 years (previously from the private sector) I find reading an application form and assessing against specific job requirements is much easier to shortlist possible candidates for interview. Those that have been successful to be invited for interview will then face a panel who will ask relevant questions on experience and how these would align with the competencies of the role applied for. This allows for clarification if required and provides a much better indication of candidate fit for a role.

Why is the Civil Service still using competency-based applications and are there any plans to review and amend the application process?


Your question goes right to the heart of an issue we feel quite strongly about in the Commission: that Civil Service departments should really think through the best methods of attracting the talent they need and not apply the same processes each time routinely.

The Civil Service Commission has the responsibility for ensuring that selection for recruitment to the Civil Service is on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. We do not mandate the use of competencies, or indeed any other approach. We are clear that it is for departments to decide what best meets their business needs. As we say in our Recruitment Principles: Departments are responsible for designing and delivering selection processes which meet this requirement. There is no single “right” process for all appointments; processes can and should vary and be proportionate to the nature of the appointment.

In fact competency-based recruitment is not used for all Civil Service Recruitment. It is very rarely used for the most senior jobs and increasingly recruitment for specialist roles is not competency-based. We see more competitions where candidates are asked to submit CVs and short statements addressing the essential criteria for the role.

Competency-based recruitment may work for some departments. If it is not working for you locally then perhaps you could make a case to senior management to try alternative approaches.

Thanks for your question.

Best regards.

Kathryn Bishop
Civil Service Commissioner


The following Tweet comes from Mark:

What action are you taking over the bullying threat in the CS Compensation Scheme consultation response doc? @pcs_union

Dear Mark

Thank you for your Tweet on bullying.

Whilst the Commission does not have a general role in investigating allegations of bullying, it does in relation to appeals under the Civil Service Code.

The Commission has a statutory role to hear appeals under the Civil Service Code. Departments and agencies have a duty under the Code to consider a concern and not to penalise a complainant for raising it. If our panel of Commissioners found that a complainant had been bullied or penalised as a result of raising a complaint we would find a breach of the Code.

Best regards,

Kathryn Bishop
Civil Service Commissioner


We have just received another Tweet from Bill:


One Dept states it has non-employees on its payroll paid as employees and Civil Servants, but are not “real” Civil Servants.


Many thanks for your tweet to the Civil Service Commission. The Commission has the remit to regulate external recruitment into the Civil Service. All Departments are required, by statute, to conduct open and fair competition for permanent appointments to the Civil Service. Appointments are made on merit and those appointed are obliged to abide by the Civil Service Code.

There are of course some exceptions to this legal requirement; these are included in the Recruitment Principles. These are designed to allow Departments some flexibility to meet the business needs of the Civil Service.

Best wishes,

Wanda Goldwag
Civil Service Commissioner