How difficult is it to get on the Fast Stream?
Interest in the Fast Stream is intense and the entry process, as you’d expect, is meant to be challenging. There is online help throughout the process and many people actually enjoy it! The numbers applying are similar to those of large graduate recruitment schemes in the private sector.
Civil Service Resourcing (CSR) is occasionally able to offer mainstream jobs to candidates who narrowly miss securing a place in the Fast Stream. Details of such near-miss candidates are held on file for up to one year (until the December following their Fast Stream Assessment Centre). Subject to demand in departments, CSR will try to match you to a mainstream post if one becomes available for which you appear to have the right background. In this case, CSR will contact you. There is no guarantee of any such offer, and demand varies considerably: in some years, no such posts are available.
Is there a Civil Service type?
No. The Civil Service is interested in your skills and aptitudes. We have no preferences for particular backgrounds or universities. We want the Fast Stream to reflect the diversity of the country we serve.
Am I guaranteed a job offer if I'm successful at Fast Stream Assessment Centre?
Only if you are a Graduate Fast Stream candidate, in which case you will be offered a post in the Central Departments option unless you tell us you don’t want one. However, all the pre-appointment checks must be successfully completed before we can offer you a job.
Can I defer entry if I am successful?
In the GFS, we only allow deferral for compassionate reasons (such as illness or temporary incapacity, bereavement of an immediate family member, or the need to provide short term care for an immediate family member), or to work with Teach First or Entrepreneur First. Occasionally we will relax this rule at our discretion if insufficient vacancies are available immediately for all successful candidates. Deferral requests made by applicants to schemes other than GFS will be considered by the managers of those schemes. If you already know that commitments will prevent you starting work by the latest date available in the calendar year following your application, you should apply next year instead.
Can I choose the department I work for?
No. The Fast Stream is a corporate programme, designed to develop leaders for the whole Civil Service. The department you are assigned to will depend on where there are vacancies and on where the scheme managers believe you will fit in best. You might be surprised how many different departments can fulfil your interests and to learn just what each department is responsible for – it’s rarely just the area or policy for which they’re best known. All Central Departments and Science and Engineering Fast Streamers are employed during their first two years by Civil Service Resourcing and will gain experience in at least two departments.
Will I need to make my career in London?
No. Some departments will start Fast Stream recruits in London, but many civil servants, including some in senior positions, work outside the South East. In fact, only one in five of all civil servants works in London. The majority of Fast Streamers are currently based in London, but opportunities are constantly opening up in different parts of the UK and there are currently Fast Streamers in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Merseyside, Leeds, Newport, Newcastle and Sheffield, for example. Fast Streamers in the Central Departments or Science and Engineering options of the Graduate Fast Stream are very likely to undertake at least one posting away from their normal base. It is presumed that the Fast Streamers will be flexible and mobile.
Is impartiality a euphemism for no political views or activities?
No. But the public – and Ministers – must be confident in your ability to act and advise impartially irrespective of your personal beliefs. Our work requires a lively and informed interest in political and economic issues - it's likely that candidates possessing the qualities we look for will have clear political views of their own. The rules are there to help you maintain a balance and to uphold the Civil Service values. As a Fast Stream entrant you will not be able to take part in national political activities and you will need permission to take part in local political activities. Such permission is normally given unless you're employed in a particularly sensitive area. The obligation for political impartiality is laid out in the Civil Service Management Code, which you can find on the Civil Service website.
Are there special procedures available for candidates with disabilities?
The Civil Service is an equal opportunities employer and the Fast Stream has been awarded the disability ‘two ticks’ symbol employer status.
This means that applicants with a disability need only meet the minimum qualifying criteria for their chosen scheme(s) and may choose not to be assessed for the first stage of the assessment process, as follows:
• Analytical Fast Stream applicants will by-pass the online tests, but will be required to complete the application form, and will need to meet a minimum standard at the application form sift.
• Graduate Fast Stream, HR Fast Stream, Northern Ireland Fast Stream, Technology in Business Fast Stream and Summer Diversity Internship Programme applicants will by-pass the verbal and numerical online tests, but will be required to complete and pass the online Competency Questionnaire.
• European Fast Stream applicants will by-pass the verbal and numerical online tests, but will be required to complete and pass the online Competency Questionnaire. EFS candidates should note that they will have to undertake an alternative form of verbal and numerical reasoning tests with adjustments as part of the final sift for the scheme to ensure candidate suitability for the EFS and to test their potential for success in the EU selection process, known as the ‘Concours’.
• In-Service Fast Stream applicants will have access to the normal procedures operated by their department - applicants should speak to their department to clarify what provisions are available.
If you require reasonable adjustments to allow you to complete the assessment process, you will be given the opportunity to indicate and discuss this when you apply. We can make a range of provisions, including modified PCs, special chairs, trained readers and adjustment of time in the invigilated exercise (e-Tray). Adjustments can also be offered for the Fast Stream Assessment Centre.
• All Fast Stream applicants must meet the necessary nationality, immigration and academic criteria to apply. Please see the criteria for your preferred scheme(s) under The Fast Streams. Invoking the GIS allows you to by-pass the initial assessment stage only – all subsequent stages of assessment must be undertaken, with adjustments as appropriate.
• Please note that a health declaration forms part of the pre-appointment checks and medical references will be taken up at this stage. Any false declaration of disability to gain exemption from part of the assessment process will invalidate any subsequent offer of employment, and may preclude you from reapplying in a future year.
Does the order of my choice of options matter?
If you wish to be considered for the Diplomatic Service or the Houses of Parliament you must select it as your first preference. In all cases you will be considered for your second and subsequent options after the outcome of your first preference has been determined. This may cause some delay if you’ve chosen up to three options but it will in no way affect your chances of success.
Can I still apply to the Fast Stream if I am an EU national?
Yes. A small number of posts are open only to UK nationals, but most are open to Commonwealth Citizens or European Economic Area nationals with unrestricted right to reside in the UK. If you wish to join the Diplomatic Service, you must be a British Citizen and have lived in the UK for two of the previous ten years. Get full details about nationality requirements.
Can I apply to the externally-advertised competition if I am already a civil servant?
Yes, if you meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme concerned. If you apply externally you do so as a member of the public, not as a civil servant. You will therefore be subject to the same processes and assessments as other external applicants. If successful, you might not remain in your current department. We advise you to check with your current department or agency whether there are implications for your pay and conditions of service. Please note that you may not apply both to the external and the In-Service Fast Stream competitions in the same year.
Can I apply if I graduated a couple of years ago?
Yes. It does not matter when you graduated.
Addressing my concerns
We aim to provide the best possible service for applicants to the Fast Stream. If you are not satisfied with any aspect of the service you receive at any point during the application and selection process, please tell us and we will respond as quickly as possible. Find out more about our complaints procedure.
If I’m successful, when will I start work?
When you start work will depend on which Fast Stream scheme you’ve applied to. Generally, you can expect to start work by the end of the calendar year in which you attend FSAC. Sometimes we can’t offer everyone a post immediately, and in such cases you will be first to be offered a post the following year. Central Departments and Science and Engineering Fast Streamers have standardised start dates, which will be notified to successful candidates.
If I completed my degree outside the UK, am I still eligible?
We accept applications from candidates with overseas degrees, provided that they can supply evidence that their degree is at a comparable level to that required by the Fast Stream scheme(s) applied for. The onus (including any costs) of providing appropriate documentation is on the candidate. The National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) provides information about the comparability of different international qualifications. We would not normally ask for such evidence until you had been declared successful: it would then be required for our pre-appointment checks.
What can I do to prepare for the online tests?
Guidance to help you prepare for the verbal and numerical reasoning tests can be found here. We do not endorse any commercial test preparation organisations or publications.
In preparation for the competency questionnaire, you may find it useful to consider the qualities we’re looking for in Fast Streamers and to think about the kind of work civil servants do.
I’m going to be out of the country for some time during the next few months. Can I still apply?
The Fast Stream selection process takes some months. It is not essential for you to be in the UK during the entire process. The online tests can be taken on any computer with an internet connection. You will need regular internet access to keep track of your application and you must be physically present in the UK to attend the e-Tray, any specialist assessment centres and the Fast Stream Assessment Centre.
Whilst we are as flexible as possible, we cannot guarantee to accommodate periods of candidate unavailability and can only offer alternative dates if the relevant assessment takes place at other times and there are places available on a different date. If you know that you will not be available between certain dates, please inform us through your candidate messaging system. The earlier we know, the more likely it is that we will be able to offer you an alternative date.
What information do assessors have about me?
If you are applying to the Graduate Fast Stream, European Fast Stream, HR Fast Stream, Northern Ireland Fast Stream or Technology in Business Fast Stream, at no point in the assessment process up to and including the Fast Stream Assessment Centre will the assessors have any information about you (such as that on your application form). For example, the assessors will not know how old you are, or which university you attended. They will have any disability information you provide which is relevant to your assessment (for example, extra time to complete a particular exercise). If you attend a Final Selection Board for a GFS option or Technology in Business, or if you have applied to the European Fast Stream or the Science and Engineering option of the GFS, information about you will be available to scheme managers to allow them to assess your eligibility and suitability.
If you are applying for any of the Analytical Fast Stream schemes assessors will have access to your application form when you attend the half day analytical event.
What are the changes to the Graduate Fast Stream in 2013?
The biggest difference is more consistency in GFS learning and development. In the past, Graduate Fast Streamers have been employed from day one by different departments. By managing the initial phase of their careers centrally, we will ensure that all Graduate Fast Streamers have access to the same opportunities and leave the programme with broadly the same knowledge, skills and experience.
The main changes are that:
• Graduate Fast Streamers will all be employed by Civil Service Resourcing during their first two years in the programme (for years three and four they will be assigned to a department).
• postings will be structured (with the help of dedicated Talent Managers) to ensure exposure to a prescribed menu of experience and knowledge
• the first two years will provide breadth of experience; the second two will provide depth
• we are introducing assessments after two years and four years in the programme; these will not be unduly rigorous, but we do want to be sure that the learning and development has had the desired effect.
The above applies only to the Central Departments and Science and Engineering options of the Graduate Fast Stream. Diplomatic Service and Houses of Parliament Fast Streamers follow different career paths.
The Fast Stream selection process itself is unchanged.
If I've applied before, can I apply again?
Yes, you can apply as often as you like. Many people apply several times, and it's not unusual to succeed after two or three attempts. But you can only apply once a year. So, for example, if you apply unsuccessfully this year in the first round of the Analytical Fast Stream, you can't apply again in the second round a few months later: you'll have to await the opening of the 2014 competition before you can have another go.
Am I guaranteed a job at the end of the programme?
Yes. When you're offered a place in the Fast Stream, you're appointed permanently to the Civil Service. So subject, of course, to satisfactory performance and conduct, you'll be guaranteed a permanent job. Having invested in you, we obviously hope for a return on our investment.