Over 20 entries have been submitted for the 2023 Commissioners’ Mark of Excellence

The Mark of Excellence will be given to the department/s or organisation/s that have demonstrated consistent excellent practice in promoting a career in the Civil Service and widening opportunities to external candidates.

The judging panel is made up of First Civil Service Commissioner, Baroness Gisela Stuart, Civil Service Commissioner and entrepreneur, Atul Devani, and Civil Service Chief People Officer, Fiona Ryland. 

The entries will be shortlisted by the panel, with an overall winner and runners up announced by the end of the year.

Civil Service Commissioner and panel member, Atul Devani said:

‘As independent Commissioners, we get to see some excellent and innovative HR practice in departments. The Mark of Excellence is a way of sharing ideas and celebrating those hiring teams who go the extra mile, using the flexibility of the Recruitment Principles to attract and bring in talented people. 

This year we are focusing on the innovative ways departments are making external by default a reality; how they widen the pool of candidates available to work in the Civil Service at all levels and how they induct and retain those external recruits.

We’d like to thank all those who have submitted entries and wish them good luck. We’ll be alerting shortlisted departments next month and announcing the winners at the end of the year.’ 

Winners of the Commissioners’ Mark of Excellence can use the logo on all their recruitment activity for one year. 

The Commissioner’s mark of excellence aims to showcase innovation and commitment to recruit outstanding candidates across all grades into the Civil Service. 

The core function of the Commission is to ensure that recruitment is based on merit in a fair and open manner. 

This year the award will focus on rewarding innovative recruitment efforts by departments and organisations to bring in, induct and retain outstanding external candidates for public sector positions. This is in line with efforts to make all senior vacancies in the civil service, external by default, and broaden the skills and experiences available within the Civil Service.

The Commission - working with the Chief People Officer -  will also look to commend efforts to help civil servants get external experience in the private sector; move between local and national authorities; and move between the four nations of the civil service. 

How to Apply

If you are working in a department and organisations that are audited by the Civil Service Commission, you can apply using the form here

The award will be judged by a panel, led by Baroness (Gisela) Stuart , made up of  an independent Commissioner and the Chief People Officer of the Civil Service. 


This year, we will look to commend work that attempts to fulfil the Commission’s objective of competitions based on merit, advertising vacancies that are ‘External by Default’ to widen the pool of applicants, and finding outstanding candidates for recruitment competitions. 

The Mark of Excellence will be given to the department/s or organisation/s that have demonstrated consistent excellent practice in promoting a career in the Civil Service and widening opportunities to external candidates: 

External by default and accessibility : The department or organisation has started new initiatives/or additional effort to bring in exceptional talent from outside the current pool of the Civil Service, by:

  • Advertising vacancies externally by default and supporting candidates to make strong applications and prepare for Civil Service interviews
  • Tailoring induction processes for external candidates
  • Making efforts to retain excellent external candidates
  • Creating an advertising strategy to encourage external applications and other initiatives, improving wording of job descriptions, or new outreach programmes


Encourage porosity and upskilling members of the civil service by allowing and encouraging them to do external secondments and then return to the Civil Service, to reduce reliance on external consultants. Particular recognition will be given to efforts made to:

  • Transfer talent between national and local positions in the Civil Service
  • Transfer of talent between the four nations of the United Kingdom. 

Please note that you do not have to fulfil all criteria, but provide examples of where some of the criteria is met.

We are looking for new independent Commissioners to regulate appointments into Civil Service roles across the UK. We are particularly keen to hear from you if you have senior experience in local government or have interest and expertise in Wales.

Find out more and apply here: https://apply-for-public-appointment.service.gov.uk/roles/7653#about-the-role

Watch: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1A2ya69apHZ6htebCkEcQIZ1vlyGji3bE/view?usp=drive_link

Civil Service World article 

Independent Article

First Civil Service Commissioner, Baroness Gisela Stuart, gave evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee about the work of the Commission on 18th April 2023.

You can watch the First Commissioner’s evidence session here: https://committees.parliament.uk/event/17824/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/

“People wanting to come into government at a fairly senior level know they may have to take a considerable cut in salary. But they’ve reached a stage in their professional career where they relish the complex and complicated issues they can get involved in. Government is a challenge. But they regard that challenge as a privilege.”

First Civil Service Commissioner, Baroness Gisela Stuart, was interviewed by Civil Service World about her first year leading the Commission and her priorities as a regulator. 

Read the interview 

Download the Commission’s annual report

“External recruitment strengthens the skills and abilities available to serve the country. There should be continual interchange - people moving in, back out to other sectors and returning to the Civil Service. There needs to be more interchange with local government and with the devolved administrations. This shouldn’t just be a one way traffic. And if the Civil Service is successful in recruiting people from other sectors and backgrounds, they also need to be ready to utilise their skills and not reject them because they sometimes do things differently. The aim is to learn from each other. Central government will only be able to deliver if it understands and responds to the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom. Local government, devolved administrations and the private sector have a lot to offer. In turn, they benefit from having first hand experience of the business of government.

“As its regulator, the Commission’s principles apply to recruitment into the Civil Service. Within that, we want departments to be innovative and try new approaches to attract a wider range of candidates. Last year we launched the Commissioner’s Mark of Excellence to celebrate recruitment campaigns that tried new ways to hire diverse talent and share innovative practice across departments.“

Gisela was speaking at an event at the Institute for Government on ‘Opening Up the Civil Service: how to improve external recruitment’ on 8 March. She was joined on the panel by Katherine Braddick, a former civil servant now Group Head of Strategic Policy at Barclays, Jonathan Simons, Partner at Public First and former civil servant, and Alex Thomas and Jordan Urban from the Institute for Government.

Watch the livestream of this event 

Find out more about the Commissioners’ Mark of Excellence

Recruitment Principles

“If we are serious about external recruitment by default, those coming in from outside the Civil Service at a senior level, need to be properly supported and inducted. There is no point in looking for talent and professional experience to complement the work of the Civil Service, only to see people leave after a short period because they feel their skills aren’t utilised. The Civil Service has to show that it is open to ideas and challenges from outside. At the same time, we should celebrate civil servants’ skills and experience and encourage them to spend some time in the private sector or local government before returning. Arms Lengths Bodies, some of them represented here today, can play an important role in opening entry routes”

“The Commission chaired 246 open recruitment campaigns for some of the most senior leaders in the country last year. There are incredible roles available in the Civil Service including some of the most complex, fascinating challenges facing our country; we don’t do enough to celebrate the opportunities available, nor to we acknowledge how rewarding public service at the highest level can be.”

The First Civil Service Commissioner, Baroness Gisela Stuart, spoke at the Association of Chief Executives and Public Chairs’ Forum Annual Conference on the subject of ‘Change and the public body leader’ on Wednesday 1st February. She joined a panel discussion with Sir Jon Thompson (Chief Executive of the Financial Reporting Council and deputy chair of HS2) and Oliver Griffiths (Chief Executive of the Trade Remedies Authority).

Cabinet Office Minister, Rt Hon Jeremy Quin MP, gave the opening keynote speech on the need for public bodies to focus on efficiency and effectiveness, recruitment and reducing the footprint in London and accountability.

Lord Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, gave the closing speech about ethical leadership in the public sector and the importance of organisational values.

From January 2023, the Civil Service Commission is delivering regular training open to all Civil Servants, but specifically aimed at those working in HR and recruitment.

The slides used during these sessions are below followed by an accessible plain text version:

Exceptions Refresher 

This lunchtime refresher course is being run from January 2023. It is open to all Civil Servants, but specifically aimed at those working in HR and recruitment.

The First Civil Service Commissioner Baroness Stuart (Gisela) gave a speech to directors interested in Non-Executive Director (NED) roles at the Institute of Directors in London on 8 December.

Gisela talked about her experience as the Lead NED on the Cabinet Office Departmental board and her role as the First Civil Service Commissioner to which she was appointed in April this year.

Commissioners, like NEDs bring effective external challenge and support to the Civil Service and Gisela talked about both the Commission’s role and the privilege of being involved in the recruitment of senior leaders that support Ministers to run the country. She trailed that a campaign would shortly be launched to recruit additional Commissioners.  

On the role of NEDs and departmental boards, Gisela emphasised the importance  of the role of NEDs in ensuring good governance and challenge in relation to policy matters but also external recruitment, values and leadership of the Civil Service.

Gisela encourages Departments to make greater use of the external expertise and challenge that a NED can bring to a recruitment panel, particularly following the Ministerial emphasis on ensuring that all Senior Civil Service roles must be advertised externally by default. NEDs are also instrumental in both challenging and supporting the Government’s Reform Agenda.

Gisela went on to take questions from the audience and signposted to the Government Public Appointments website for current Government NED vacancies: https://publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/all/ and the Civil Service Commission’s website where the next recruitment for Civil Service Commissioners  will be advertised: https://civilservicecommission.independent.gov.uk

The Commission has today published its annual report and accounts for the financial year 2021-22. The report contains a range of statistics and information about the Commission’s work in regulating appointments into the Civil Service and hearing appeals under the Civil Service Code.

2021/22 Annual Report & Accounts

Press Release

The First Civil Service Commissioner, Baroness Gisela Stuart, has also written to all departmental Lead Non-Executive Directors and Permanent Secretaries regarding forthcoming changes to the Commission’s regulatory model in response to the government’s new External by Default policy, which will mean a significant increase in open recruitment competitions across the Civil Service.

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