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Civil service career progression

  • 05-04-2021 9:19am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 172 ✭✭ Forthebuzz


    As someone who is in the CS a little while myself, I feel that I should already know this but a friend has got an offer off CO panel and needs to give an answer on Tuesday.

    They would be taking a significant pay cut and wanted to know if there is any data on average times to move up grade by grade up to say AP from CO.

    They are on a management track in private sector with a clear progression structure but her place of work is not very family friendly which is the current CS draw.


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭ SouthWesterly


    Someone I know went from Co to ap in 18 months through open Competition.

    A girl I worked with from Co to heo in 3 years internally.


  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    In the old days it might have taken some time to move up from the bottom ranks of the CS yet now (with decent private sector experience) this can be much faster.

    For example, you used to have to get promoted each time to the next step (SO etc) before been Eligable for the next promotion yet now a CO can apply and get promoted in a HEO competition. I think the probationary periods have also reduced in the last decade.

    However the CS is different than the private sector and to get promoted you need to “play the game” as regards the competency based Interview system...yet good private sector examples are a help here.
    Forthebuzz wrote: »
    As someone who is in the CS a little while myself, I feel that I should already know this but a friend has got an offer off CO panel and needs to give an answer on Tuesday.

    They would be taking a significant pay cut and wanted to know if there is any data on average times to move up grade by grade up to say AP from CO.

    They are on a management track in private sector with a clear progression structure but her place of work is not very family friendly which is the current CS draw.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,754 ✭✭✭ tea and coffee


    It's possible to jump grades, but you are constricted to waiting for a competition to come up, going through all the stages and being successful.
    I would be preparing for 2 years at CO anyway unless she gets through the external process faster - has she tried any of the other open competitions?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,633 ✭✭✭ ParkRunner


    It can be done and there should be plenty opportunities with lots of retirements happening and expected. At AP grade there isn’t flexi time at the moment at least so HEO is probably best grade for family friendly conditions. AP level can also regularly require additional hours depending on the position itself. Pay is good at that level but there’s a lot of public sector specific stuff to learn (PQs, FOI etc) so in my opinion it’s good to work up the grades and get hands on experience at as much as possible rather than being that boss who doesn’t have good experience


  • Registered Users Posts: 172 ✭✭ Forthebuzz


    It's possible to jump grades, but you are constricted to waiting for a competition to come up, going through all the stages and being successful.
    I would be preparing for 2 years at CO anyway unless she gets through the external process faster - has she tried any of the other open competitions?

    No, unfortunately she missed the EO last year. I did think that would have been a more appropriate entry level for her


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  • Registered Users Posts: 172 ✭✭ Forthebuzz


    Someone I know went from Co to ap in 18 months through open Competition.

    A girl I worked with from Co to heo in 3 years internally.

    Wow CO to AP in 18 months is a huge jump! I presume significant private sector experience before hand?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,754 ✭✭✭ tea and coffee


    Well, I in that case, there is likely to be another EO next year, so not too long to wait!
    I'm still a bit twitchy about the whole thing- I joined just before the moratorium, so there was no competitions for a long time.
    But now they roll over, so its a much quicker progression.
    I've seen people quite easily go from CO to AP within 5 to 6 years and that isn't these meteoric jumps either. A year at CO, and 2 years at both EO and HEO is quite realistic imo.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭ SouthWesterly


    Forthebuzz wrote: »
    Wow CO to AP in 18 months is a huge jump! I presume significant private sector experience before hand?

    On the contrary. He went from Co to heo to ap. Only in his 20's. He was just very good in the competitions
    Nice guy as well and he kept that as he progressed.


  • Registered Users Posts: 108 ✭✭ Chaos Black


    I would not be as upbeat on promotion prospects as some here, you can climb the ladder fast but it is a combination of luck, timing with competitions and individual ability to progress through each possible stage of the competitions (verbal+numerical+job simulation tests/video interview(s)/competency interview(s), presentation(s)).

    To expand on that:

    Luck - Where you end up in Departments is often a spin of the wheel. Not all Departments are equal in scope for opportunities due to size, importance or at least perception. For example, whether true or not a lot of people appear to believe that if you're in the Department of Taoiseach, Public Expenditure or Finance that it is easier to progress in interdepartmental/open competitions compared to a less prominent Department such as the Department of Rural and Community Development.

    Timing with competitions - You cannot apply for interdepartmental competitions for two years when you join. The open competitions have run regularly the past few years, CO/EO/AO is about every year, HEO is usually interdepartmental and less regular (every 2/3 years?). Honestly if new to the Civil Service, you are more likely to progress these days from CO, EO to AO then HEO. AO is effectively the new HEO grade in a lot of Departments, same job but cheaper at the outset as the AO grade starts much lower on the pay scale. Regardless, the timing of the competitions is a major factor in progressing.

    Individual ability - Speaks for itself, you have to be good at each stage of the competitions. What you work at on a daily basis is important of course, but no use if you can't score high enough on the tests to get in front of someone at an interview. At interviews, they are competency based and can take a bit of practice.

    I hope that is not overly negative, you can progress fast in the Civil Service, however I would suggest 2/3 above points are somewhat out of your hands.


  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    Some good points in this reply, one aspect not mentioned so far is third level qualifications. If you have a degree or masters in a relevant area it can also be a help.
    I would not be as upbeat on promotion prospects as some here, you can climb the ladder fast but it is a combination of luck, timing with competitions and individual ability to progress through each possible stage of the competitions (verbal+numerical+job simulation tests/video interview(s)/competency interview(s), presentation(s)).

    To expand on that:

    Luck - Where you end up in Departments is often a spin of the wheel. Not all Departments are equal in scope for opportunities due to size, importance or at least perception. For example, whether true or not a lot of people appear to believe that if you're in the Department of Taoiseach, Public Expenditure or Finance that it is easier to progress in interdepartmental/open competitions compared to a less prominent Department such as the Department of Rural and Community Development.

    Timing with competitions - You cannot apply for interdepartmental competitions for two years when you join. The open competitions have run regularly the past few years, CO/EO/AO is about every year, HEO is usually interdepartmental and less regular (every 2/3 years?). Honestly if new to the Civil Service, you are more likely to progress these days from CO, EO to AO then HEO. AO is effectively the new HEO grade in a lot of Departments, same job but cheaper at the outset as the AO grade starts much lower on the pay scale. Regardless, the timing of the competitions is a major factor in progressing.

    Individual ability - Speaks for itself, you have to be good at each stage of the competitions. What you work at on a daily basis is important of course, but no use if you can't score high enough on the tests to get in front of someone at an interview. At interviews, they are competency based and can take a bit of practice.

    I hope that is not overly negative, you can progress fast in the Civil Service, however I would suggest 2/3 above points are somewhat out of your hands.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,934 ✭✭✭ Augme


    A huge amount will depend on how good they are at interviews(selling themselves) and their ability in tests.

    Tell them not to factor in their ability to do the job as that is irrelevant in the civil service when it comes to promotion.

    Plenty of excellent people in the civil service who struggle at interviews and don't progress. Similar plenty of not very good people who excel at interviews and do.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,810 ✭✭✭ Addle


    All promotion opportunities are very competitive.
    You could quickly end up very disappointed and bitter if you take a job as a CO and expect to be easily promoted. It happens, but there are no guarantees.
    I don’t know if I’d risk it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 172 ✭✭ Forthebuzz


    Addle wrote: »
    All promotion opportunities are very competitive.
    You could quickly end up very disappointed and bitter if you take a job as a CO and expect to be easily promoted. It happens, but there are no guarantees.
    I don’t know if I’d risk it.

    I'm similarly torn on advice since she asked, I myself have moved up a couple of grades reasonably quickly but I feel like a lot of that has been luck and good timing. I don't want to tell her it will work out the same for her


  • Registered Users Posts: 28,043 ✭✭✭✭ gmisk


    I think maybe take into account there could be a moratorium on all but essential recruitment in place pretty soon.
    I joined as a CO about 15 years ago got extremely comfortable for too long (at that grade), but am now an AP, but it can take time and you need to interview well, skill up as much as you can. Definitely if in correct department you can progress really quickly if bright and driven.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,474 ✭✭✭ floorpie


    Is it wise to attempt to progress very quickly? Is there a risk of failing probation at AP because you're too new to understand, e.g., the culture of the civil service?

    As far as I can see on boards.ie, you can be put semi-randomly into a serious deep end even at EO, so I imagine AP after 18 months could be a nightmare regardless of previous experience.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,900 ✭✭✭✭ snoopsheep


    A lot depends on your placement, yes

    In general, id advise the person that many good ppl stay at CO a long time and many good ppl progress quickly (especially these days)

    So much is context in what the job you are in and previous experience provides you with, so much is ability at the application process, so much is personal capability besides

    A moratorium may be likely in the next few years- dont rely at all on flying up any ranks, but if you back yourself based on the above then its possible


  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    I don't know of many people who fail a probation in the civil service! unless you really do the dog on it....not turning up to work etc


  • Registered Users Posts: 395 ✭✭ whampiri


    I don't know of many people who fail a probation in the civil service! unless you really do the dog on it....not turning up to work etc

    Failing probation is absolutely a thing and is possible.
    I'd always recommend the cs from the point of view of work life balance however this becomes harder to maintain as you go up the grades and you become more responsible for people, projects, processes and units. Certainly at AP there's no flexi and you'll find yourself putting in more time than "normal" but the salary is good imo. You'll never be rich in the CS but you will have a secure job.

    In relation to promotion, it very much depends on the individual. I know people who went from CO to AP in less than 6 months through open competition and then there's people who take years to make moves through the grades. Skipping grades is possible but not easy without prior experience as the interviews are competency based. I wouldn't take a role in the CS purely based on the assumption that progress if a certainty but instead take it based on the work life balance, security of the role and the varied and interesting work that you can do across multiple depts during a career.


  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    Do you personally know of anyone who failed a probation? In over 20 years with the CS, I haven't....that includes entry grades and promotion probation's

    Of course it is "possible" yet in practice...I would be surprised if more than 1% of probation failed!

    I have however heard of a case of someone who was promoted yet preferred their previous (lower grade) and returned to it.

    I would agree that promotions in the Cs can't be taken for granted, as you see new entrants with higher & higher levels of qualifications all the time...and lots of people are keen to get ahead.


  • Registered Users Posts: 395 ✭✭ whampiri


    Do you personally know of anyone who failed a probation? In over 20 years with the CS, I haven't....that includes entry grades and promotion probation's

    Of course it is "possible" yet in practice...I would be surprised if more than 1% of probation failed!

    I have however heard of a case of someone who was promoted yet preferred their previous (lower grade) and returned to it.

    I would agree that promotions in the Cs can't be taken for granted, as you see new entrants with higher & higher levels of qualifications all the time...and lots of people are keen to get ahead.

    Yes, I know a number and in one case I determined that a probationer should have their employment terminated. It's not a pleasant thing to do but the person continuously underperformed despite being provided with supports. So to say it doesn't happen is incorrect. People just don't hear about them. I mean who goes around saying that they were let go for being "crap"?

    It's rarer for a person on a promotion to fail probation as they're normally capable and aware of cultures etc., but again, I'm aware of people failing it or as you mention, reverting to a previous grade.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    Interesting to hear of such cases, yet to be fair they are the exception to the rule.

    generally the civil service recruitment process is pretty competitive, so should weed out weak applicants.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,650 ✭✭✭ Nigel Fairservice


    Augme wrote: »
    Plenty of excellent people in the civil service who struggle at interviews and don't progress. Similar plenty of not very good people who excel at interviews and do.

    There were plenty of people in my last department who I would put in this category. Very able and very knowledgeable people but just not good at testing and interviews. People get worn down by the process after a while and eventually just stop trying. I've met others who were complete bluffers but were good at interviews and testing and got promoted. It was annoying at times because you knew there were much better and capable people about the place.

    Geographical location is also an important consideration when it comes to career progression. I think if you're in a regional location it is going to be harder to get promoted unless you're prepared to travel or relocate. I'm in a regional location and as far as I'm aware there are two POs in the county and less than 10 AP posts. I'm not sure of the number of HEO/EO posts across the county but there wouldn't be a great deal of them either. I imagine competition for these roles is intense.


  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    While I understand the frustration on some with the current CG promotion interview process, its difficult to imagine a better one. Three comments on this:

    1. I know of colleagues who paid for some professional training/mock interviews and their scores improved considerably over previous competitions.

    2. Reflect well on competencies for competitions, if you are weak on some for specific headings (communication etc), reflect on how you could work on having better examples next time around.

    3. Consider doing additional courses to strengthen up your case for future promotions.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,474 ✭✭✭ floorpie


    I think the configuration of panels and examination of competences are very fair. The aptitude tests are arbitrary gauges of ability and should be done away with somehow, imo. In the same few weeks through several open competitions, I've come 1-3 multiple times, and then ~2000, with the same cut-e tests. I feel they mostly assess silly things like your stamina in the moment, and I imagine that they're difficult and demoralising for certain people who are otherwise capable.


  • Registered Users Posts: 94 ✭✭ Awkwardstroke


    I think there is a distinction here between....entry competitions to the Civil service and internal CS promotion interviews (which is what I was replying to above).

    I also have some reservations on the computer test aspect of open CS competitions (ie. situational judgement...I have done poorly despite working in the CS for years)...but the other aspects I think are fair.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,810 ✭✭✭ Addle


    I just don’t think anyone should feel entitled to a job/promotion.

    I’ve had the misfortune of working with some very bitter people who had unrealistic expectations that failed to materialise, and instead they made their colleagues working lives very difficult.
    Expectation is the root of all heartache!


  • Registered Users Posts: 60 ✭✭ u2fanatic


    hi folk's. I'm in the CS a few year's. I'm a CO and at the minute I have no interest in applying for a promotion but I'm wondering would it be worth going back to college part time and getting a degree?
    Basically I'm asking would having a degree enchance my chances of getting a HEO or even an AP position down the line.
    EO wouldn't be an option for me. (financially I would lose money due to allowances I get in my current role)


  • Registered Users Posts: 395 ✭✭ whampiri


    If you don't have a degree, it's absolutely worthwhile going back to college even if it's just for your own expansion of knowledge.

    Trying to get from CO to HEO is EXTREMELY difficult as you will find it hard to meet the competency requirement for staff management along with others.

    Going from CO to AP is even rarer. I've a lot of years done in the CS, in HR, and only know of 1 person who made that jump and even then it was through an external competition. I don't mean to slight your drive but I'd concentrate on EO first, and while I know you say that you can't afford it because of allowances, it certainly will provide you with an opportunity to gain the competencies.


  • Registered Users Posts: 60 ✭✭ u2fanatic


    whampiri wrote: »
    If you don't have a degree, it's absolutely worthwhile going back to college even if it's just for your own expansion of knowledge.

    Trying to get from CO to HEO is EXTREMELY difficult as you will find it hard to meet the competency requirement for staff management along with others.

    Going from CO to AP is even rarer. I've a lot of years done in the CS, in HR, and only know of 1 person who made that jump and even then it was through an external competition. I don't mean to slight your drive but I'd concentrate on EO first, and while I know you say that you can't afford it because of allowances, it certainly will provide you with an opportunity to gain the competencies.
    Thanks for the advice. I'll certainly be going back for a degree but i can't see myself going for EO anytime soon though.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 19,572 ✭✭✭✭ Rikand


    I had an open EO interview recently. They referred back to my masters from 8 years ago quite a bit and I passed the interview fairly comfortably in the end. I'd like to think it was my winning personality that got me over the line, but having the degree and the masters definitely helped


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