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Applying to work at the IPO

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: IPO, Recruitment

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is an awesome place to work - no wonder you’re thinking of applying here.

Applying for any job can be a daunting and intimidating experience but applying for a role in a government department can take it to the next level.

Well fear not!  We’re here to help you through the recruitment process, pass on some hints and tips to make the most of your application and, hopefully, show you we’re not here to catch you out. So let’s start with the basics.

Read the whole advert

It’s easy to read the juicy bits like job description or main duties (and salary of course), but there’s important information all the way through the advert.

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Skills, competencies and capabilities for example, are what you’ll be assessed on when applying, so make sure you read and fully understand what’s required for the role.  Only then can you tailor your application to suit.

Information on eligibility, security and contact information is in there too somewhere, along with really important stuff like allowances and holiday entitlement.

When you’re done reading, read it again - it’s amazing how much you miss by reading just once.  If there’s anything you’re still unclear about, you’ll find contact information for both application and role related queries.

Your chance to shine

Most roles advertised across government these days are competency based.  You’ll be asked to show examples of your ability in each competency, and this is your chance to show us just how awesome you are.

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Unfortunately, there’s usually a limited number of words to blow your own trumpet.  This could be 250 words per competency or 1200 per personal statement. Either way, you need to structure your examples properly, or you’ll end up running out of words and leaving out important information.

One excellent way of structuring your examples is the STAR technique:

  • Situation - set the scene, give a brief description of what you were trying to address.  Rule of thumb, use around 10% of your word count for this bit
  • Task - what was your role in this example, describe challenges, risks, deadlines etc.  Around 15% of your word count
  • Action - what did you do to address the situation or resolve the issue.  Remember, this is all about you, so use ‘I’ not ‘we’, ‘my role’ or ‘my responsibility’ for example.  Be specific about your actions and provide evidence for the skills requested in the competency.  This should account for around 50% of your word count
  • Result - finally, your chance to show how your actions made a difference to the situation.  Remember to relate the results directly to the situation and task described at the start of your example.  Around 25% or the reminder of your word count

Time is not your friend

Most roles will have around two weeks from initial advert to closing date.  This may seem like a long time but you’ll be amazed at how quickly the closing date comes around.

Deciding on your examples, writing them in STAR format and getting them proof-read, may not leave much time for amendments, getting additional documentation or finding answers to queries.

The interview

You’ve taken all the advice, written some pretty impressive examples, got through the initial sift and now you’ve been offered an interview.  Gulp!

So how should you prepare for this dreaded interview?

Firstly, don’t panic.  The people interviewing you are normal people, they may be interested in the football scores or looking forward to holidays - certainly not looking to catch you out.

young businessman in waiting room for job interview looking anxious

You may be asked for more detail or further examples, so make sure you know what you wrote in your application and have some extra examples to fall back on.  It’s also worth having examples of things that didn’t go as well as you’d liked - along with an explanation of what you learnt and how you’d do things differently next time of course!

At the start of the interview, the panel will introduce themselves, explain the interview process and ask if you’re ready to start.

During the interview, try not to waffle or wander off topic.  “It’s good to talk” as Bob Hoskins once said, but only if it’s relevant to the question you’ve been asked.  If you’re not sure about what the panel wants - ask!  Take your time, think about your answer and sip some water.  Remember, the interview is your chance to expand on your examples without that pesky word limit.

At the end of the interview you’ll have chance to ask questions.  ‘Will I get a bonus?’ or ‘How much time can I have off?’ are probably not the best questions, but feel free to get clarification on any aspect of the role, or life at the IPO for example.

And that’s it - all that’s left is to wait for the email.  Good luck, and we look forward to welcoming you to the IPO family!

You can search for our current vacancies at the Civil Service Jobs website.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Matthew posted on

    All very well and good but it essentially depends on who sifts your applications and, after applying for several of your posts, it seems your sifting procedures are wholly inconsistent. I applied for a similar post in another department which responded quicker, invited me to interview within weeks and am now on a waiting list for a job.