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The Questions You Might Get Asked at EO/HEO Thread for the Civil Service

  • 11-01-2022 1:50am
    Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭

    In management myself in Civil Service

    Have had a few of the staff fly the nest so to speak so thought a useful thread of what questions are asked might prove useful but first a prelim of how to answer (which you might know already!)

    Questions are answered using the STAR Methord

    Situation - what was the circumstances you were faced with

    Task - what was the job you had to carry out

    Action - how did you carry out the job

    Result - what was the end result

    In my experience just give a one liner on the Situation and Task - Action and Result are more important as the interviewer wants to know the end result.

    What questions are asked?

    Well Publicjobs has a great background here -

    Some of the questions I remember from my own interview and from what others have mentioned.

    Dealing with conflict - how did you handle it and resolve the situation (refer to first informally addressing , then disciplinary procedures, dignity at work)

    Working to deadlines

    Implementing new ways of working (this is especially useful for in times of covid. Working From Home , how you adapted)

    Working as part of a team

    How you coached and trained staff

    How you might deal with a difficult client

    Can you cite examples of managing multiple projects at once

    Managing underperformance (Persoanl Improvement plans, coaching ,mentoring , further training)

    Time you managed a mistake or an error in work

    When did you have to work with a wide range of data and how you might use it(numerical, written, verbal)

    An example of a project you managed

    Understanding public sector values

    You should also make yourself familiar with the Civil Service Renewal plan -

    I'll add if I think of any more



  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    STAR is great preparation in advance but id also caution anyone to not fall in love with a pre prepared answer as Ive been interviewed and asked interview questions where there was a little detail or twist for a specific thing and its important to respond as best you can to what you were asked.

    Its brilliant to have a form that's very clear and gets you in front of a board, but i have always thought that at that stage they have decided the person on the form meets the standard and are much more interested in making sure that the experience given survives a few piercing questions and that the candidate can talk in and around their experience to date in a manner that reassures the board that they are a safe bet across the competencies.

    Theres no substitute for experience, know why each of your examples demonstrates your suitability and why your personal performance mattered in each.

    Its often difficult to gain excellent experience across each competency in the lower grade, so if light for the above then know what your manager does to demonstrate those competencies or times you have observed the required competencies demonstrated and be able to draw on this as a fallback, making sure if you have to do this that you can show you understand why the example mattered for your unit/team etc- essentially show that even if not given the strong opportunity thus far, that you know your stuff and would perform.

    So id say:

    1: prepare two examples for every competency if at all possible, taking the above into account

    2: use the subcompetencies as "angles" from which each of your answers could be approached and think about how youd use your answers to shine in the event of being asked specifically from any one subcompetency

    3: practice out loud- when alone in the car, doing your hair, doing the ironing, bore yourself silly answering the questions you might be asked and listen to yourself as you do it, youd be amazed the little improvements youll make.

    4: listen to the question and take a second before launching into the answer. Ask for clarification if you want to. Answer specifically. Answer factually if its a knowledge question, answer with experience if its a "ive done this" question. But by god please listen and answer the question you were asked, youd be amazed how often people dont.

    5: when you're done demonstrating the competency, stop talking. Practice this too, irish people arent great at it and its a stressful situation- when you have told the what, the how, the why and the result, finish neatly reminding them of the competency shown and let them ask you the next question, thats where the next points are after all

    6: Breathe, relax, communicate with the people the other end of the table. They dont want any disasters either, they are seeking reassurance that you are the person for the job. Its usually a panel, chill out and give them what they need to put you on it. Everybody wins.

    7: Theres no last chances in the public sector. Yes, this next interview is important. Yes, you want the gig. No, you won't be stuck forever if you don't get it. Therell be another competition along in a minute- dont catastrophise before, during or after the process (if it doesnt go well). Take the wins, but dont build it up as an all important judgement of your career or worth or anything, its quite a silly process and you'll always have another shot.

    8. That said, the process does make you work and sweat over your career to date (which is why its good to do at least one a year, its far superior to a pmds in terms of being honest with yourself). If you feel youre coming up dry in a competency while filling out your form, or you have an answer in the interview that let you down, be honest with yourself about where you need to improve and take steps to bolster that/those areas in time for the next one (after licking your wounds for a week of course, we're all only human)

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

    ^^Fab advice

    Love the part about practicing loudly

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Ironically i launched straight into answering as if youd asked about interview advice and not "the questions you might be asked"

    Youd fail me on my own number 4 😬

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

  • Registered Users Posts: 29 vanderpump

    In relation to the order of merit from the online test, what is a realistic score to hope to get an interview/job from? How many people do they hire in a year?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 6 Anii

    Great interview tips👍🏻 Hopefully I'll get to that stage🤞🏻

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

    Let us know if you do, throw out any questions you might have :)

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,357 ✭✭✭✭Rikand

    You've basically asked how long is a piece of string. There is no hard and set answer to this. Everything is different when comparing locations, grades, etc and you're probably better off rephrasing your question in a more relevant thread like the current competitions threads on this forum

  • Registered Users Posts: 29 vanderpump

    Thank you for your very unhelpful and sarcastic reply.

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,357 ✭✭✭✭Rikand

    My reply was neither unhelpful nor sarcastic.

    I told you it is impossible to judge how many people get placed off the panels. Depending on the grade you are applying for (CO, EO, HEO, AP, etc....) all would place different amount of people and location (Dublin, Westmeath, Leitrim) Dublin would place thousands of CO's. Westmeath might place up to 200 CO's, Leitrim might place bugger all.

    I also suggested that you ask your relevant question in the many many threads that cover all of these grades and competition types. There are several active CO threads amongst other competition types, all on the very first page of this forum. Your specific question would not be relevant to the current topic being discussed here which is interview tips, not numbers of placements

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  • Registered Users Posts: 20,357 ✭✭✭✭Rikand

    just bumping this for myself as it'll be helpful for interviews coming up lol

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

    If anyone can add please do!

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,338 ✭✭✭Gusser09

    I sat as an interviewer on an EO competition.

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

    What questions did you ask (if I can be nosey!)

  • Registered Users Posts: 288 ✭✭cvb03

    I am also interested to hear what questions you asked. I am hoping to have upcoming EO interviews soon and would love to hear what questions you asked. Thank you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14 EllieKelly123

    Do the interviewers stick to the competencies or do they delve into previous education/employment that was included on the application form? What sort of time do they allocate to each competency and how long is the EO interview? Thanks

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    they can do either but would maybe tend to stick to the examples offered more often than not

    interview should be about 35-40 mins max five mins odd per competency is normal.

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,357 ✭✭✭✭Rikand

    They won't really delve into it. They'll ask you to delve into your own work history for examples that match their questions. Or at least that's how my EO one was.

    HEO was much more of a hypothetical situations type of thing. How you would respond if this happened, or that happened.

  • Registered Users Posts: 518 ✭✭✭divillybit

    Thanks for you opening post @Liberty_Bear , and @[Deleted User] ; really good info as I'm prepping for an EO interview next week

  • Registered Users Posts: 518 ✭✭✭divillybit

    Did an EO interview today, though it would be tougher. I've done tough interviews where you were asked 4 specific question and expected to use the STAR format rigidly, and were given time to write the question out to be able to refer back to it to help keep the answer on point. Didn't get a chance to write the questions here but it helped the interview flow nicely. The examined each of the competencys, and asked maybe 10 small questions for each competency, you wouldn't really get a chance to do a full on in depth STAR answer as once you hit the main points they asked the next question. What qualities could you bring to a particular government department? How would you gain the confidence of people reporting to you if you were placed in a department.. Handy enough interview. Dont know if I did any good or not. Was given the option to make a closing statement as to why you'd make a good addition to the public service

    Post edited by divillybit on

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  • Registered Users Posts: 156 ✭✭mtb_sends

    @divillybit thanks for updating us. How long was the interview?

  • Registered Users Posts: 518 ✭✭✭divillybit

    About 45mins. They do send info before the interview about that and members of the interview panel

  • Registered Users Posts: 156 ✭✭mtb_sends

    @divillybit Thanks. Sounds like they try get through it fairly quickly.

  • Registered Users Posts: 469 ✭✭Dave 101

    Team Leadership

    ·      Tell me about a time when you had to lead a group to achieve a specific outcome

    ·      Tell me about a time in your career to date where your coaching or mentoring helped a staff member improve their performance

    ·      In your experience, what is the most successful way to lead and motivate staff? Can you give an example where you have applied this?

    ·      What experience have you had of managing people? Talk me through a specific example of when you have helped a member of your team improve their skills / performance. What techniques did you use to manage them? What techniques did you find most effective and why?

    ·      Describe the most important action that you took to establish yourself as the manager of your current team

    ·      What is the difference between leadership and management?

    ·      What qualities make a good leader?

    ·      What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a leader?

    Ø How would you assess the challenge?

    Ø How did you assess your response?

    Ø What actually happened?

    Ø Would you approach the situation the same way again?

    Management and delivery of results

    ·      Give me an example of a time when you had to set up a new process for people to follow. Why was this process needed? How did you implement it? How was the process received by its users? What happened?

    ·      Tell me how you schedule your time and prioritise tasks

    ·      Give me an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment or project; for instance, how you delegated the assignment and what you did to monitor it

    ·      Give me an example of a time when you had a number of competing priorities? What challenges did this present?

    ·      How do you ensure that objectives are achieved / assignments are completed?

    ·      How would you deal with an employee who does not appear to measure up to increasing demands of the job?

    ·      What is the work achievement of which you are most proud and why?

    ·      What are the significant improvements of changes you have initiated in your current role?

    ·      Tell us about a project that was hard to deliver due to resistance, resource constraints or other blockages?

    ·      When have you had to make changed to your plans and adjusted project plans?

    ·      Can you give and example of when you worked under heavy stress and the sacrifices you made to achieve a goal?

    Analysis and decision making

    ·      Give an example of a time when you had to carefully analyse a situation in order to make an effective decision

    ·      At which point do you find it necessary to bring others into your decision making process? Why?

    ·      Describe you approach to making decisions and solving problems. Why do you do it this way?

    ·      When you recommend / propose something, what approach do you usually use? Please give an example

    ·      How do you assemble relevant data to make your decisions? How do you know when you have enough data?

    ·      How do you ensure accuracy in your work?

    Interpersonal and communication skills

    ·      Describe a project where you needed to involve input from key stakeholders. How did you manage those relationships?

    ·      Give me an example where you had to act as a conduit or link in the communication chain between your staff and your manager?

    ·      Have you ever had to convince your co-workers to accept an idea? How did you do it? What was the result?

    ·      Describe a situation in which you needed to use different communication styles to influence stakeholders with differing perspectives

    ·      Tell me about a time when you had to pay close attention to what someone was saying, actively seeking to understand their message

    ·      Tell me about a time your communication skills were put to the test

    ·      Tell me a bout a significant written document when you had to complete

    ·      Give me an example of a time recently when you needed to influence someone. What were you trying to achieve? What did you do? What was the result?

    ·      Describe a difficult one-to-one discussion you had with a client / colleague / employer / team member. Why was it difficult? How did you resolve the situation?

    Specialist knowledge, expertise and self-development

    ·      Tell me about your personal development in the last three years, how have you changed?

    ·      If you were successful in this interview, what skills do you need to develop to undertake the role?

    ·      What is your personal learning and development plan?

    ·      Describe your own strengths and areas for improvement

    ·      What are you doing to develop yourself and your staff?

    ·      Describe how you have supported and / or trained others?

    ·      Describe a situation / task where you had to get up to speed very quickly

    Ø What did you have to learn?

    Ø How did you go about it?

    ·      What measures did you take to ensure that your knowledge and skills are up to date?

    ·      How do you share your knowledge and expertise with your team?


    Drive and commitment to the Public Service Values

    ·      If you were appointed to this position, how would you approach this role? What are the key things you would seek to achieve in the first year?

    ·      What motivates you about this position? What motivates you in your current role?

    ·      What do you see as the key personal challenges to ensuring a service is delivered to your colleagues and the public?

    ·      What do you see as the core values as the Civil Service?

    ·      What does “public service” mean to you n the context of the role of this post?

    ·      Where do you believe the challenges lie in terms of upholding these values / principles?

    ·      How do you personally ensure public sector values are maintained / fostered in others?

  • Registered Users Posts: 156 ✭✭mtb_sends

    Thank you @Dave 101 this is a huge help.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,206 ✭✭✭I am me123

    I acted as an Interview Scriber for HEO interviews.

    Similar to questions above.

    Also asked

    What are your plans for your first week as HEO?

  • Registered Users Posts: 680 ✭✭✭redmgar

    Does anyone know if civil service interviews are back in person or still virtual

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,843 ✭✭✭billyhead

  • Registered Users Posts: 823 ✭✭✭Liberty_Bear

    Even that would stump me - what do people answer?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 9,843 ✭✭✭billyhead

    You could just say get to know your colleagues and read up or familiarise yourself with the job (policy's, procedures etc etc).