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4 tips when applying for a job at GOV.UK

Come because of the work, stay because of the people

 A poster by Stephen McCarthy can be downloaded at GovDesign

GOV.UK is the digital home for the UK government. It’s essential for anyone wanting to live or work in the UK. Millions of people visit daily to support complex and potentially life changing interactions. They could be applying for a driving licence, making a lasting power of attorney or finding guidance on coming out of lockdown. GOV.UK is also there for tasks like planning to travel on holiday, reporting buried treasure or registering a micro pig.

It’s our job on the GOV.UK team to make sure that GOV.UK is always accurate, reliable and available for whoever needs it, when they need it. We can only achieve this work with diverse, dedicated and talented people.

We’re looking to recruit lots of talented people into the GOV.UK team over the next year.

We’ll be looking for developers, technical architects, data specialists, performance analysts and more to join our 200-strong team for the next chapter for GOV.UK. As well as a wide range of disciplines, the roles will also cover both junior and senior positions, and be based in Bristol and Manchester as well as London.

We want to make sure that people have the best chance of showing their talent and expertise in the job application process, so we’ve created this list of 4 tips to consider when writing your application.

1. Show us what makes your skill set and experience the best fit for the role

We want to know what about you makes you the strongest candidate for the role. GDS is committed to making sure the organisation is as diverse as the society that it serves, so we want to hear about your unique skill set and experience.

For example, here is an excerpt from our covering letters to our current jobs as to why we put ourselves forward for the roles:

"I would relish the opportunity to take responsibility for maintaining operational momentum as GOV.UK’s strategy is implemented across government, ensuring that GOV.UK is set up correctly, retaining the trust and confidence of users." Rachel Tsang

"Having been among the first product managers on the first GOV.UK teams, and then working alongside GOV.UK in community roles - as well as being a regular user - it would be a great honour to serve in the senior leadership team with responsibility for the next iteration of the service." Ross Ferguson

Please make sure you read the job description carefully as often different roles will request additional evidence to include in your application. For example, on design roles we’ll always expect you to include a link to your portfolio.

Chucks Iwuagwu, former Head of Delivery on GOV.UK, wrote a blog post which gives an insight to working on GOV.UK, if you want to find out more. Just remember - we want to know why you and your experience make a good fit for the role.

2. Make your CV and covering letter distinct

Think of your CV and covering letter as your ‘sales pitch’. We will use these documents to assess your suitability for the role. Your CV will detail your qualifications, skills and experience but your covering letter is your opportunity to bring these to life, highlight any transferable skills and show your personality and why you’re a good fit for the organisation.

Covering letters are your chance to show how your skills and expertise address the specifics of the job advert and highlight the most relevant sections of your CV. The job advert will have competencies, and we want to understand how you meet them. They give you the chance to expand on your career experience and development goals.

A good tip when thinking about how to structure your covering letter is aligning it with the job advert requirements. Directly addressing how your experience relates to the job description makes for a much stronger application. Give examples rather than just say you have experience, and, where possible, make them relevant to our work and the role.

As a rough rule of thumb, covering letters should be at most 2 pages long. Make it tailored for the job role you’re applying for and keep it relevant and succinct.

For CVs, similar advice applies. Avoid jargon and acronyms and think about the person reading it. Good spacing, a clear font and headers make it easy for the person to read and find the information they want.

Both CVs and covering letters always benefit from a proof read from someone you trust.

3. Research the role, GOV.UK and GDS

GDS does a lot of work in the open - a way of working that’s enshrined in the government design principles. We’re proud of the work that we do and we like to share! This work can be found on blogs, like this one, or the GDS Blog. There are also blogs for specific disciplines like Design in Government or Technology in Government.

We also talk about our work on our corporate social media channels - Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. We often do deep dives into our work on the GDS Podcast too.

We’ve also published our GOV.UK roadmap. Read it, alongside the accompanying blog post, to understand more about how our work fits together. This is also a good way to help you decide if the role is right for you too.

All this means there’s lots of ways to find out more about our work, so show us your research in your covering letter. If there’s something out there that made you apply - tell us! We want to hear from applicants that really want to work on GOV.UK and have researched the organisation they’re applying to.

If you want to know more we welcome candidates contacting us to have a chat about the role before applying; on each job advert there will be a point of contact who you can speak to in the first instance.

4. Tell us what excites you about our strategy

GOV.UK announced its ambitious future strategy in September 2019 at GDS’s flagship event, Sprint. Since then, Jen Allum, Head of GOV.UK, has regularly blogged about creating a GOV.UK that offers trusted, joined-up and personalised interactions for users:

Everyone who works on GOV.UK is part of implementing this strategy. Make sure you let us know what excites you most about our plans. Perhaps it’s using data to better meet user needs, or proving the value of personalised services, or maybe it’s helping recruit the best talent into the team.

Let us know how you think your experience, expertise and talent would help us continue to turn vision into reality.

Don’t hesitate: apply now!

If you think you could be a reasonable match for the role, and are super passionate about GOV.UK, then apply! Please don’t count yourself out of the running.

Visit our GDS careers page or go directly to our open job opportunities page. We are keen to grow our GOV.UK presence in Bristol and Manchester, and both of us are based outside of London ourselves.

We’re excited to hear from you!

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