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The following questions and answers provide some information on the general principles which apply to recruitment competitions. Detailed information on the policies which apply can be found in the NICS Policy & Procedures Manual.


Q1. Who can apply for this Recruitment Competition?

A. All applicants must ensure that they satisfy the Nationality and Right to Work/Immigration requirements for entry into the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) as detailed in the Candidate Information Booklet.

Q2. I am an existing Civil Servant – can I apply?

A. Anyone who meets the eligibility criteria may apply. However civil servants who are in the same grade and discipline as the competition is seeking to recruit are not eligible to apply.

Q3. Where are opportunities advertised?

A. All recruitment competitions are advertised on the NICS Recruitment website, the three main local newspapers (Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and Newsletter) and across social media channels.

Q4. Are these permanent posts?

A. Yes.

Q5. Are there posts available throughout NI?

A. Yes, this competition is to fill a range of posts across the NICS. Whilst there are potentially vacancies in all areas the majority of current vacancies are in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and Ballymena. On the application form candidates may select up to three areas where they are prepared to work.

  • Area 1: Belfast (including Stormont), Newtownabbey, Lisburn, Larne and Carrickfergus
  • Area 2: Bangor, Newtownards and Ballynahinch
  • Area 3: Fermanagh
  • Area 4: Armagh, Portadown, Lurgan and Banbridge
  • Area 5: Downpatrick, Newcastle, Kilkeel and Newry
  • Area 6: Omagh, Dungannon and Cookstown
  • Area 7: Strabane, Londonderry/Derry and Limavady
  • Area 8: Coleraine, Ballymoney, Antrim, Ballymena and Magherafelt

The Candidate Information Booklet provides a map to illustrate the location areas.

Q6. Can I choose which department and/or location I want to work in?

A. You can indicate your preference for up to three geographic locations in the application form. Candidates will be allocated to posts in merit order as vacancies arise. There can, however, be no guarantee that vacancies will arise in your preference choices.

Q7. Are the roles suitable for part-time working?

A. All requests for alternative working patterns will be considered subject to business needs.

Q8. How many positions are available?

A. This competition is being planned to fill current and future vacancies that may arise at this grade across all NICS Departments. We have around 300 vacancies at present.

Q.9 Are qualifications needed for these posts? If not, why not?

A. No specific qualifications are required to apply to this NICS entry grade competition. It has been designed with Diversity and Inclusion in mind to attract and allow people farthest from the labour market to apply. Bespoke selection tests have been designed by occupational psychologists using analyses of NICS job roles and competencies. This decision taken by the NICS senior management board allows us to attract the widest possible pool of candidates and to reach out to particular groups that are under-represented in the NICS. This includes young people (under 35), people from minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people, Protestants and men.

Q.10 Can I submit a hard copy application?

A. Applicants are encouraged to submit online applications wherever possible. However, hard copy application packs are available on request. All applications will be treated equally regardless of whether they are hard copy or online.

Q11. Why does the application form ask candidates about previous NICS warnings?

A. The questions in the application form have been included to identify those who, following an internal investigation, have been debarred from applying for internal promotion and external recruitment in the NICS or previously dismissed from the NICS.

Reasonable Adjustments

Q12. Will reasonable adjustments be accommodated in the workplace?

A. Your line manager will support you if you require an adjustment in the workplace and will follow our ‘Guidance for identifying and implementing reasonable adjustments’ procedure.

Q13. I have a disability – what adjustments can be put in place during the recruitment process?

A. We wish to ensure all applicants have the opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. If you require any form of reasonable adjustment please note this in the box provided on your application form. You should include details of your disability and the specific adjustment you need. We will consider all requests for reasonable adjustments for any stage of this recruitment process.

Recruitment Methods

Q14. What recruitment and selection methods are used?

A. The assessment tools used for this competition are an application form, followed by online and invigilated ability and decision making tests, and a panel interview. The Candidate Information Booklet provides full details relating to this post and details the selection methods to be used for this competition.

Q15. How can you ensure that the assessment process identifies the best candidates?

A. The assessment process outlined above has been designed to ensure that only those candidates who have demonstrated sufficient capability for this role are considered for appointment. We are committed to appointments on merit, in fair and open competition.

Q16. Will I have to attend another test under supervised conditions?

A. If you score highly enough you will be required to complete a test under supervised conditions at a later date.

Q17. Will I receive feedback on my performance on the online tests?

A. Yes, feedback will issue automatically to you at the same time as you receive your online test results.


Q18. If I pass the tests will I be invited for interview?

A. You will be required to achieve a minimum score on each online test. The top performing candidates will then progress to an invigilated test. The next stage will be to invite top performing candidates to interview. If you pass the tests but do not score highly enough to proceed, you will remain on a list by test score and may proceed to invigilated test and interview at a later date if required within the lifetime of the competition.

Understanding your scores

The score awarded for each individual test is calculated by computer and the final score for each is presented using the same scale, so you can compare how you have done on each of your tests. The average score on each test is 100, and to help understand how your performance compares to other applicants, the following broad bands apply:

135+ - Well above average
120-135 - Above average
80–120 - Average
65–80 - Below average
Less than 65 - Well below average

Note that these numbers aren’t the number or percentage of questions you got right.

A minimum score is required on each test – in order to pass overall you need to get at least the minimum score on all four tests. Your scores on the four tests are then combined to provide a Total score.

In calculating the Total score, the following weightings are used

  • Verbal Comprehension x 3
  • Checking and Accuracy x 3
  • Following Procedures and Basic Calculations x 2
  • Situational Judgement x 8

The tests are weighted in this way to provide a score that measures a balance of skills. An example setting out how the Total score is calculated is provided below.

If you pass all four tests, your Total Score will be used to determine your position on the Merit List. Note that your merit position is calculated based on your total score including all decimal places. The person who scores highest will be number 1 on the list, the second highest scorer will be number 2 and so on. There are just over 10,700 people who passed all tests and are currently on the Merit List.

Note that whilst your test scores will be the same each time you return to this site, your Merit List position may have changed. Some candidates will occasionally be added to the list and if they score higher than you, you may move slightly further down the list.


The following example shows how the Total score is calculated –

If you scored 90 on Verbal Comprehension, 100 on Checking and Accuracy, 110 on Following Procedures and Basic Calculations and 100 on Situational Judgement, the calculation would be;

Total Score = (90 x3) + (100 x 3) + (110 x 2) + (100 x 8) = 1,590

To convert this back to the same scale as the individual tests (with an average of 100) we use the formula

(Total Score – 1,610)/217.5552. We then multiply it by 20 and add 100.


(((1,590 – 1,610)/217.5552) x 20) +100 = 98.1613862.

We round this to two decimal places when providing your results to make it easier to read, so the total score would appear as ’98.16’.

Q19. Where will I attend the interview?

A. It is likely that interviews will be held in Central Belfast and in the North West. The location will be confirmed in your invitation to attend the interview.

Q20. Will there be flexibility regarding the date of the interview that I can go to?

A. You will be assigned to a particular date. Dates of interviews have been outlined in the Candidate Information Booklet. Requests to reschedule will only be made in very exceptional circumstances and where there are other slots available. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that we will be able to offer you an alternative date.

Q21. Are travel expenses paid to attend the interview?

A. Not generally, however consideration will be given where necessary to refund travel expenses for those candidates with a disability recognised under Disability Discrimination legislation. If you are supported by an employment scheme there may be help available to you from that provider. If currently in receipt of benefit you may be able to receive assistance from your local Jobs & Benefits Office.

Q22. How do I prepare for the interview?

A. Useful information on how to prepare for the interview has been included in the Candidate Information Booklet.

Q23. How are NICS interviews structured?

A. All interviews are criteria based, which means that candidates are required to demonstrate their competence in a structured interview. Interview questions are based on the competencies for the grade being assessed. These competencies are explained more fully in the NICS Competency Framework. At the end of the interview, each panel member assesses the evidence presented by the candidate against each criterion and evaluates the extent to which the selection criterion has been satisfied. Each panel member then allocates a score against each criterion, the panel discuss their findings and agree a final score.

Q24. Will I receive feedback after the interview?

A. Yes, feedback will issue to all candidates who have attended the interview, once all Interviews are complete.


Q25. Will there be flexibility regarding the date of the invigilated test that I can attend?

A. You will be assigned to a particular date for this test. Dates for the online tests, invigilated tests and interviews have been outlined in the Candidate Information Booklet. Requests to reschedule will only be made in very exceptional circumstances and where there are other slots available. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that we will be able to offer you an alternative date.

Q26. What if I have a problem during my application, accessing the online test or at any time during the assessment process?

A. Please refer to the invitation you received to initiate the test which gives details of the test helpline. You should contact HRConnect immediately on 0800 1 300 330 or by email to

Feedback and Results

Q27. How long before I know if I’ve been successful in the competition?

A. You will be informed once all interviews are complete. You will be placed on a merit list according to your location and work pattern preferences and as vacancies arise offers of appointment will be made.

Q28. If successful, when will I start?

A. Appointments will be made in merit order as vacancies arise.

Q29. If I pass the selection process will I be offered a post?

A. On completion of the selection process, candidates will be appointed in order of merit to the vacancies available. In some competitions more candidates may be on the merit list than there are actual vacancies to be filled, therefore some candidates who pass may not score highly enough to be offered a post within the lifetime of the competition.

Q30. What happens if I think the post offered to me is unsuitable?

A. It is NICS policy that, except in very exceptional circumstances, candidates will only receive one offer of appointment from a competition which, if not accepted, will result in the candidate being withdrawn from the competition. This includes refusal of an offer due to location. If you believe that you have exceptional personal circumstances which you feel render you unable to accept your offer you may submit these in writing to HRConnect for consideration.

Further Information

Q31. Where can I find further information on applying to the NICS?

A. Further information on the application process, the selection process, appointments, FAQs and other useful information is available at How do I Apply? available on the NICS recruitment website.

Q32. Can I complain about my experience of NICS recruitment?

A. The full complaints process for NICS competitions is also available on the NICS recruitment website through the link below at How Do I Complain?