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Application Advice

We want to make sure that you can make the best first impression possible at every stage of your application process. This page is designed to help you understand what we’re looking for and how to prepare for each step.

Virtual assessment centre

The virtual assessment centre is the final stage of the recruitment process for our Graduate Development Programme, where we’ll ask you to take part in three different exercises.

Structured Policy Conversation

Before the assessment centre, you’ll need to prepare for a conversation on a certain area of policy. We’ll ask you to do some research around a general topic area and give you some articles to start with. Make sure you spend some time looking at additional – the latest – articles to get a sense of what’s going on in relation to the topic and what the government’s stance is. You may find looking at the House of Commons briefing papers  useful, along with any relevant reports from think tanks. These will provide impartial context on your policy conversation subject and help you to demonstrate a range of views on the policy to the assessors.

Big picture thinking. Think about how what you’re saying fits in with the bigger political picture. What have the government done before in this area and why? Think about how your ideas will be received by politicians, the public, the press and people within that industry. How will they be funded and what are the other options available to achieve the same outcome?

Structure. We’ll give you a specific question within the topic area to answer in your policy conversation on the day, and you’ll have 30 minutes to prepare once you have the question. Spend this time structuring what you’re going to say. Make sure that you answer the question, and that there’s a logical flow to your conversation. Try not to spend too much time talking about background.

Be yourself. Don’t try to fulfil some sort of Treasury stereotype that you have in your head – it doesn’t exist. We’re looking for a balance of different people with different skills, talents and experiences to make the best policy makers.

The most important fact to bear in mind is that there’s no wrong opinion when it comes to policy, as long as you have evidence to back up your opinion and you can show that you understand different views on policy.

Written exercise

Here, we’ll give you a booklet of information on a topic, and ask you to write a summary giving thoughts on your recommendation based on the options in the text. Please keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to recommendations. We’re looking to see that the piece is well written, covering the points asked, and that you’ve given thought to why you’re making a certain recommendation with any supporting evidence provided.

Time management is key for this exercise. Plan how you’ll split your time at the start between reading and writing. Some find it useful to make a quick plan.

Think about how best to structure your response and how the key information can be picked up easily by the reader. Try to be clear and concise, using plain English to get your message across


Your interview is designed to help us get to know you better, to see if you’d be happy with us and if HM Treasury is the right place for you. The best way for us to find that out is to see how you already demonstrate our values and the Civil Service Success Profile Behaviours. Quite simply, these skills are what you’ll need from day one as a Policy Adviser – and what you’ll be honing throughout your Civil Service career.

Try to think about what the values or behaviours might actually look like in real life. How would you put them into practice?

You don’t need a particular type of experience to demonstrate these behaviours. You can draw examples from any type of work, from volunteering, or from your studies. When you have a few examples that you can share, make some notes about the key points you want to cover when using the examples in the interview.

In competency-based interviews, it’s useful to use the STAR technique. This means that when you answer a question, you describe:

  • The situation – a brief description of the situation that you were in
  • The task – a description of what you had to do in that situation
  • The action that you took – an explanation of exactly what you did (avoid using terms like ‘we’ and remember to use ‘I’, as interviewers want to know what you personally did)
  • The results – a brief summary of the outcome of the situation

Roughly 70% of your answer should focus on the Action element, and 10% on each of the other elements.