Objectives of this guide

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    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Objectives of this guide

    What you are about to read has been written by an external training consultant who delivers Job Application and Interview Skills training within the British Council. It has been provided

    to enable you to:

; take the values and culture of the British Council into account as you think about your


    ; do personal research that helps you to identify and review the knowledge, skill and

    experience you use to produce Key Results in the work you are doing now or have done.

; understand how to interpret the British Council‟s 13 Behavioural Competencies.

    ; make use of the research you have done above, to prepare examples that provide the

    strongest possible evidence of your ability to fulfil the competencies set out in a Person


; know how to create a well-researched, well-written Job Application for the British


    ; know what to expect of a Competency-based Interview and so be able to make thorough



    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Section One

The organisation you might join

To give you the full context for this section, please first read the document titled, „Working

    for the British Councilthat is in your Application Pack or on the Web site.

    As you will have seen, „Working for the British Councilsets out the purpose, way of working and scope of the organisation‟s activities. You will also have read there about terms and conditions of work. What follows now is more information, specifically about its Values

    and Culture, to help you to imagine how it would be for you to work in the British Council.

The values and culture of the British Council

The British Council has five values which govern our culture. These are described in terms

    of what they mean for how we treat each other and the people we deal with.

Valuing People

    ; We respect the people we work with: colleagues, customers and partners. ; We listen to and value the ideas and opinions of others. ; We give and listen to constructive feedback.

    ; We work together as a team.


    ; We build trust.

    ; Our procedures are open and transparent.

    ; We work for the greater good of the organisation.

    ; We confront and discuss difficult ideas openly.


    ; We value diversity and difference.

    ; We build relationships and partnerships built on mutual benefit. ; We are aware of our impact on others.

    ; We are ready to learn from others.


    ; We feel empowered to make decisions about the way we work. ; We take personal risks and learn from our experience. ; We respond flexibly to new challenges and opportunities. ; We are able to express our feelings.

    ; We share knowledge.


    ; We deliver on our promises to internal and external customers and clients. ; We comply with corporate and client requirements.

    ; We account for our actions.


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Matching values and culture

    If you know what really matters to you in life, then you are probably quite well aware of your personal values. With a good degree of self-awareness you will also be conscious of the variety of effects that your choices of behaviour have on others. You can use this sense of your own values and attitude towards others to think about the potential fit between you and the organisation you are considering as a future employer. If you feel you have an almost 100% match between you and the organisation, then in all probability you will feel very much „at home‟! If you feel there is at least a 60% match, you will be likely to have proportionately more good days than bad. In the case of a less than 50% match, you are likely to feel that you cannot identify with the organisation and its purpose unless you can genuinely embrace the degree of personal change that comes with adopting new values, or working in an unfamiliar culture. You would have to be ready to accept the challenges that you would almost certainly face.

    If you have any questions about Values and Culture is a good idea to speak to the person who has been identified as your point of contact in your Application Pack or on the Web site.


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Section Two

How the British Council communicates job information

From your Application Pack or the British Council Web site you will have either, a copy of

    the Job Description:Person Specification for the job in which you are interested, or, an

    „Information about the Job‟ document. Keep that documentation with you now and refer to it as you read this section.

Job Information is provided in two parts. The first part is the description of the job, i.e.

    the duties and standards and the second part is the Person Specification, i.e. the essential and desirable competencies required for the job. Understanding the

    fundamental importance of the relationship between them will help you when you work on your Application.

The first part of the Job Description, or the „Information about the Job‟ document, details the

    duties and standards of the job.

1. Duties

    These are written as a description of what you will be expected to do in the role. These activities usually begin with a verb, e.g. Write reports. Duties are given a percentage rating

    that indicates how much of the total job each represents.

2. Standards of performance

    These are written in terms that describe an observable, measurable output from the duty that confirms that it has been carried out as specified. For example:

    Duty: Write reports of meetings.

    Standard: Reports are written within 2 weeks of a meeting and a hard copy is given to the line manager for approval before being distributed and filed.

    The Person Specification part of the Job Description, or the „Information about the Job‟ document, details the essential and desirable competencies for the job.

    Every Job Description is accompanied by a Person Specification that is comprised of a set of competencies that may be a mix of Technical, Generic and Behavioural. I will tell you

    more about each of these 3 types later.

    It is of great importance to note here that in the British Council, Recruitment and Selection is done on the basis of evidence, provided by the candidate, that proves their ability to fulfil each of the specified competencies at the level expected. Simply stating that you have experience of doing the duties in the Job Description is not evidence of the competencies that the recruiting manager is seeking.

    A Person Specification describes the competencies that the recruiting manager has chosen and the Duty, or Duties, that each one supports is identified. Looking at how many Duties a competency supports can give an indication of its relative importance in the set. Furthermore, each competency is placed within one of two categories: Essential (E) or

    Desirable (D).


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Essential is used to indicate a competency that a candidate absolutely „must have‟. After

    the closing date for applications has passed, a Shortlisting Panel reads and assesses each one. First they look at each of the Essential competencies. If you fail to provide evidence against any one Essential competency you will not be shortlisted for interview. So it is absolutely vital to provide strong evidence of your ability to fulfil each one of these. In Section Three I will define evidence and how you can present it both in an Application Form and at Interview.

    Desirable competencies are not quite as important as Essential but, even so, they are significant. Give thought and time to producing good evidence of how you satisfy each one of them. If there are a lot of candidates who satisfy the Essential criteria, the Shortlisting panel will use the published Desirable competencies as their second level of screening to select applicants. This is so as to produce a manageable number of good candidates to interview.


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Section Three

Identifying what you have to offer

    In your work you use knowledge, skills and experience to produce results. To be able to present evidence of them in your application and at interview you need to know

; what they are.

    ; when you use them.

    ; in what ways you use them.

    ; the results of your actions.

    We can find it difficult to identify these aspects of our work. This is because when we think about our jobs we tend to focus on the job content, rather than paying attention to the personal and organisational processes we use to produce results. When we come home from work our family or friends tend to ask “what did you do today” rather than “what competencies did you use today; what skills, knowledge and experience did you draw on”?

    To help you communicate what „you bring to the table‟ let‟s start by thinking about you at work and ask some fundamental questions. You will find it helpful to have some blank sheets of paper to hand to make notes on as we go along.

    „Do you have knowledge?‟ You can probably identify several different bodies of knowledge that you use. You add to at least one of those bodies of knowledge every time you take part in training, or are coached, or observe a colleague as they show you how to do something, or read up on a subject, or talk to someone about a work-related topic. Your knowledge is rarely static for long unless you are doing very routine tasks all of the time.

If knowledge is important, and it is, then so is know-how: the ability to apply knowledge. So

    my next question is, „Do you have know-how?‟ because knowledge plus know-how equals

    skill. As a working definition, let‟s say the sign that a person has a skill is that they can

    produce a predicted result, to a consistent standard, time after time. A practised skill becomes expertise. So, the next question is, „Do you have an expertise?‟ You may have more than one and so take time to identify them here.

Now rate each expertise by placing a cross on this continuum.


    Since employers tend to pay more for expertise that is Rare from their point of view rather than Common, it is worth thinking about each of your expertises in this way. The next step is to see how your experience measures up.

    A person‟s experience has to count because it is through experience that a person learns to recognise the differences between one situation and another. Being able to make these distinctions enables you to choose more effective ways of responding across a wider variety of situations than would a less experienced person. In order to assess the depth and breadth of your experience, you will need to ask yourself about the length of time you have used each expertise and the variety of situations in which you have worked.


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Rate your experience using these two scales.



Experience that is Shallow and also Narrow might be what a „Beginner‟ offers.

    Experience that is Shallow and Broad could describe a „Jack of all Trades but a master of none (yet!)‟.

Experience that is Deep and Narrow usually indicates a „Specialist‟.

Experience that is Deep and also Broad is what a well-rounded „Generalist‟ has.

    Qualifications and training are essential for some jobs, like teaching. They are often used as an indicator of general competence in a particular work area. Rate your qualifications and training on the scale below.


    You may be highly qualified/trained in some areas and have an entry-level (Low) qualification/training in another. In the eyes of an employer, qualifications awarded by a recognised body are a guarantee that you have attained a certified standard.

    In identifying and rating your expertise, experience and qualifications you have completed the first part of your research. We will further develop it into a source of strong evidence of your capabilities. You will be able to draw from this store of evidence so as to be able to build a credible and attractive bridge between the job you have now and the job that you want. A way of doing this is offered on the following pages.

Making rich pictures

    In this second stage of helping you to assemble the strong evidence you need, we will begin by focusing on the important outcomes of your work (Key Results) and then back-track to analyse the various combinations of Expertise and Experience you use in order to produce them. We will use a process called Rich Picturing as a very good way to visually represent the complexities of the things you do to get results. As they say, „A picture is worth a

    thousand words.‟

    A Rich Picture is a way of representing a human situation in terms of the relationships, issues, flows of inputs and outputs, decision-taking authority, communication structures and processes that are involved. To write a description of that situation with the same degree of detail and conveying the same sense of simultaneity (several things happening at the same time) would take considerably longer and be less useful in this situation.


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

Making a ‘Rich Picture’ of how you achieve a key result

    1. Take another blank piece of A4 paper and start by identifying some of the

    key results of your work

A Key Result is an output of your work that is of importance to someone else it makes a

    difference in the wider organisation, or it is of benefit to a client or external organisation.

2. Choose one key result

    Ask yourself, „Who makes use of this Key Result? What importance does it have to them? How do they benefit from it?‟ To think about how it is of benefit, ask yourself three questions.

    Does it enable them to do something they would otherwise not be able to do. Does it enable them to stop doing something they do not want to do? Does it allow them to do something that is significant to them in a different way e.g. faster, cheaper, more easily.

    Make notes against the Key Result. This is a way of recognising the significance of your contribution to the wider organisation.

    3. Identify and list the total set of activities that you carry out so as to achieve

    the key result

    Beginning with a verb, give a brief description of each activity. e.g. Gather information. Brief the team. Allocate work. Agree deadlines. Monitor work in progress.

    4. On a fresh sheet of paper make a drawing, like the one below, of the set of

    activities that you have listed in 3 above.

    Represent each activity as a cloud. Beginning with a verb, write the brief description of the activity (from 3. above) in the cloud.

    Use a „stick person‟ to represent you and any other people involved in the activities. This is

    to remind you that you are an active agent in each of these. Sometimes you act alone and sometimes with others. Sometimes you initiate action and at other times you respond. Number the activities and link them using arrows to show the order in which they are carried out.


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

    Label each arrow with the output from the activity e.g. If the activity is „Write report‟, then the output arrow from the activity will be labelled „Written report‟.

     Activity 1

    Begin with a verb.

    Activity 2

     Written report

     Activity 3

    Activity 4 Activity 5

     Who uses it? What do they do with it? What is the benefit to the Key Result organisation?

    5. Identify all of the other factors that make up the whole picture of how you

    achieve the key result.

    ; What are the important interactions in the process? Who is involved?

    ; What issues do you resolve? e.g. Priority? Quality? Performance? Progress?


    ; What information do you use?

    o Do you create information by defining the specification for future information


    o Do you develop information through research, say?

    o Do you maintain information by weeding files or keeping databases up to date

    for instance?

    ; What resources do you use in the process?

    o Money? Time? People? Equipment?

    ; What decision-taking authority do you have over those resources?


    Writing a Job Application & Preparing

     for Interview

    A Guide for External Applicants

    o Do you decide or do you refer to someone else to make the decision?

    ; Accountability to whom are you accountable, and who is accountable to you in the


Step 6 is where you en-Rich the Picture

    6. Add the new information (from 5 above) to the relevant locations in your


    7. All that the Rich Picture needs now are the Behavioural Competencies that

    you use in getting the result

    A suggested process for identifying your current set of Behavioural Competencies begins on the next page. It will enable you to find them all and once you have done that, we will return to the Rich Picture so as to add the relevant detail.


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