Situational Judgement Tests: a workshop for BAME students and graduates, 19 October recording

This workshop was a collaboration between the NGDP recruitment team and the NGDP’s BAME network, a collective of current and recent trainees on the graduate programme. The first half of the session was recorded. This included background information on the NGDP’s situational judgement test, along with some tips on how to prepare. The second half of the session, which was not recorded, comprised of small group coaching sessions which reviewed the NGDP’s recommended practice questions for its SJT (which you can find on our website).


Transcript 

Moderator: Us today. Brilliant, thank you Punam. So, as-, for the benefit of the recording, my name is Anna Buttenshaw working at the Local Government Association, and we're really delighted to have members of the NGDP BAME Network who have volunteered to co-present this mornings workshop. They'll be leading the second half of the workshop in small groups. So, welcome everyone. The agenda for today, so we'll introduce today's presenters, and when I say we'll, I mean they will introduce themselves, give you an idea of where they're working. We'll give you a whistle-stop tour of local government and what the NGDP offers. And then I will give you a brief overview from the administrative perspective on, what is an SJT or a situational judgement test, and how can you prepare? We'll then go into breakout groups which will be randomly allocated and led by the NGDP BAME Network, and each of those groups will look through the same content which are sample questions for our situational judgement test, and they'll take you through some examples, take your questions, it'll be a really informal environment for you to take part in. And then we'll knit back together at the end to catch any questions that you've got. So, that's where we're going this morning. So, today's co-presenters, I'm going to go to Abdul first, you're first on my screen, do you want to give us a hello and tell us a little bit about your experience of the NGDP? 

M: Yeah, hi everyone. So, I did the NGDP from 2019 till July of this year so I was in cohort 21 at the London Borough of Redbridge councils. So, for those of you that know London, that will be east London, and I've just moved onto a new permanent role at the London Borough Barking and Dagenham council, so again, east London, as a strategy and partnerships officer. So, yeah, that's me. 

Moderator: Thanks Abdul. Shenell you're next on my screen. 

F: Hi everyone, I'm Shenell. I'm currently in cohort 22, so I started the year after Abdul did, and I'm working at Islington council. I've done three place-, two placements so far and I've just moved into my third placement which is in the learning and culture team. 

Moderator: Fab, thanks Shenell. And I should say, if anyone's got questions for our presenters about their own experiences, you can pop those into the chat as well and we'll try to get to those near the end too. Reisha, you're next on my screen. 

F: Hi everyone, I'm Reisha and I'm at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, been here a year pretty much exactly, and it truly stands up to its reputation as a very unique borough, you see it a lot on, all, sort of, like, 'RBKC is really unique,' but it really, really is. There's-, it's massively affluent in some areas but there's some real pockets of poverty in others, so, yeah, a very interesting place to work. 

Moderator: Fab, thanks so much Reisha. Now, I'm not sure if we have Aimee on the call, I don't think I've seen her pop up yet, but just a little pause Aimee if you've been able to join us, do hop off mute and say hello. I think maybe we've lost Aimee to some urgent work today. So-, 

F: Sorry Anna, I think she is trying to join. She should be with us shortly. 

Moderator: Oh, fab. Alright, well we'll let Aimee hop in and say hello when she's able to-, to come-, (audio cuts out 03.41) to come on. There we go, so I'll press on with a little bit about local government, and then we'll a little interval from that when Aimee joins us. So, what is local government? I must admit that before I started working for the Local Government Association, my knowledge of local government was pretty limited to the fact that I paid council tax, and that I lived on a council-ran estate so there was something about housing going on there, and my flatmate used to get parking tickets. And that was about the extent of my knowledge of really what local government did. But local government is an incredibly complex and rich system of governance which is led by elected officials across the whole of the UK. We will be focusing specifically on council in England and Wales, which is the focus of the NGDP programme. So, councils are led by elected officials, elected hopefully by you. They're supported by officers and that's, sort of, the main focus of our graduate programme. And-, and it's in the role of officers that our trainees, who are joining us today, are working. Or, I should say, graduates of the programme is that-, you're not currently under the training label Abdul. But there's about a million-, pardon me-, there's over a million working in local government across England, so it's an absolutely enormous employer, often the largest in a local area. And there are over 300-, in fact almost 350 councils alone in England. So, it's an absolutely expansive system of governance which is really linked to identities of place. 
 
Councils, aside from my original knowledge of local government, provide more than 800 different services. I don't think that anyone could even name all of them, but we'll take a quick look at some examples. Oh, and I've not put them on my next slide. But as you'll hear from some of our trainees when we're discussing things later on, then local councils are working in areas that range from everything from adult social care, children social care, public health, regeneration projects, working with businesses, working with marginalised communities. They work on topics like homelessness and areas like education. As large organisations they also work in media and communications, human resources and IT. Lots of our trainees gain work in policy areas and strategic planning, lots of them work in corporate services, so working with elected officials and senior managers. Many of our trainees will do some experience in democratic services, so working on the elected end of things as well. There's an absolutely enormous range, and what I'd really encourage you to do, in addition to asking a few pressing questions of the member who's going to be running your breakout group later, is to take a look on our website. There's a couple of short videos and there's a huge catalogue of case studies giving some real-life examples of, not just areas of work, but projects that people have worked on during their time on the scheme, and the impact and the real difference that they've been able to have in their community. 
 
So, what is the NGDP? The NGDP has been around for almost twenty years now, and it's really local government's answer to looking at its management structure and saying, 'Do you know what? We need some fresh talent, and we want that talent to be representative of the communities that we serve.' And so the NGDP's goal is to find future managers with a real passion for making a difference, who can represent the communities that they're going to serve. So, trainees who come onto our programme, are given a two year contract with a local council or a local authority. And when they're working in that one place, then they will rotate between a minimum of three different placements during their time on the scheme. So, you've heard-, Shenell mentioned earlier that she's already finished two placements so maybe you're gonna-, going for four there Shenell, during your time at Islington. All the councils are a little bit different, but there'll be a minimum of three different placements, giving you a really wide range of experiences across council services. There's no pre-knowledge that you need, no work experience that you need, so it is a generalist scheme that's aiming to give you that real breadth and depth of experience and skill-training on the job. We have a starting salary of £25,991. I know it seems like a random number but it's tied in with local government pay brackets. If you're working for an inner or outer-, outer London council, then there's an additional salary top-up to accommodate cost of living. Someone will have to give a current example but it's usually between £1,500 and £4,000 depending on where you are in London. 
 
Every year we work with 50 different local councils across England and Wales, I think last year we worked with over 70, so there's a really fantastic range of places to live and work. We operate a, sort of, matchmaking scheme, so for people who've passed our assessment process, we tell them who's hiring as part of the scheme this year and they're able to indicate their preference as to where they go for an interview, and successful placement is pending that final interview. And when people are on the programme-, last thing to mention-, is that we offer a fully-funded learning and development programme, and this ties back to my point about not needing to come with a huge range of work experiences or skills-, aside from the transferable skills that you've gathered during your degree. Obviously if you have workplace experience that's fantastic, but if you don't, please don't feel disadvantaged. Our learning and development programme includes both practical knowledge on things such as local government finance, working with elected officials, things that very few people actually coming to us will have any knowledge of at all. But the programme does also seek to offer more strategic skills and knowledge around leadership and management skills and theories, and giving you opportunities through work-based assignments to put those into practice. So, the goal of the qualification is really to give you the skills and experience that you need to finish the scheme and move into a management level position in the public sector. 
 
Now, I think I've just seen that Aimee's joined us. I'm sorry to pounce on your straight away Aimee but do you want to hop off of mute and just say a quick hello, tell us where you're based on the NGDP? 

F: Hi, yes, so I'm Aimee Lau, I'm-, I did the NGDP on cohort 21, so I actually just finished over the summer and secured a permanent job with Brent council, where I did the NGDP on as well. 

Moderator: Fab, thanks Aimee. I did promise everyone that would you come and say hello and interrupt my monologue along the way, so it's great to see you this morning. And great to see you in the office. So, application timeline. This is a bit that can get really boring, so I won't go into loads of detail here unless you have got any specific questions, please pop those into the chat. So, our applications are currently open, and they run until the 5th of January at twelve noon. What you'll find when you click on that link on our website, is a basic application form with lots of boring data entry. That's just about who you are, where you've studied, factors like that. That information is really just for the record and for us to keep track of. It's not evaluated in any way. I'd strongly encourage you to fill out our equality and diversity monitoring form. That's completely anonymous but we use that information as we're going through the assessment process to make sure that there isn't any bias coming into the process. So, we check anonymously, at every single stage, to make sure that the pass marks that we're setting and the people we're inviting to the next stage is representative of everyone as a whole. And we're most effective at being able to do that when everyone's filled in that equality and diversity information, so I'd strongly encourage you to do that. And then when you're ready, within the same initial application is the situational judgement questionnaire which we will be giving you some hints and tips on coming up shortly. And there's already lots of information about that on our website as well. 
 
Those who pass the situation judgement questionnaire will progress to a video interview. I am doing a separate workshop on video interviews if that's of interest to you, I think on the 2nd of November. A couple of things just to highlight about our video interview, yes, you are videoed as it says in the title. But when we mark your video interview, we only mark it as an audio file as part of our commitment moving towards as blind a recruitment process as we can have. And we've found that that's been really helpful in helping to reduce bias, and again this is where we're able to keep track with that equality and diversity monitoring form. And so the video interview, it's three questions, you're given the chance to listen to your response back one time and re-record, and then what you submit will be marked as an audio file only. We spot-check the video files just to make sure that people are by themselves when they're completing it, but they're marked just as an audio file. If you pass the video interview, then you'll be invited to what-, the equivalent of a half-day assessment centre. This usually involves three different exercises, so a piece of written work, historically we've done a group discussion and an individual presentation. We're still deciding exactly what to do this year but I suspect it'll be along those lines. And once we have decided there'll be full briefing documents available on our website. Everyone who passes the assessment centre is given a chance to network with the councils who are taking part that year, to find out what they're like as places to live in and work in, what projects that you might get involved with if you were employed by them during your time on the programme. And then you let us know where you'd prefer to interview. 
 
We then undertake a huge matchmaking process of peoples interests and where they'd like to go and council's availability, and we aim to give you at least two interviews as part of that process, and then you'll receive one or more job offers from the councils that you interview with, and you're free to accept where you want to. Trainees, once they've accepted a job offer, which usually start in autumn 2022. So, that's my whistle-stop tour of the application timeline. Someone's asked, 'Is this programme only for postgrads?' So, that's a great question. Our two entry requirements are that you have finished your undergraduate degree by July 2022, and that you've achieved a 2:2 as a minimum criteria. So, you don't have to have graduated already to apply but you do have to have finished your degree as it is a programme-, a graduate programme, an employment programme for graduates. So, we want you to have finished your degree before you'd be starting work. And the second criteria is that you must already have the right to work in the UK, and that could be limited to the time of the programme, which is from autumn 2022 to the end of summer 20, so if you have a pre-exiting Visa for that time that's great, or any other form of right to work in the UK. Unfortunately we're unable to sponsor any Visas ourselves. So, if you've got any questions about those two criteria, there's an email address that we'll come to at the very end, ngdp.support@local.gov.uk which is on our website as well, and the team who answer that inbox will be able to deal with any, sort of, more specific or complicated, sort of, criteria around that. 
 
So, what is an SJT, jumping straight into the, sort of, meaty bit, and I won't talk for ages. We'll get to the really interesting bit in the breakout groups soon. So, what is an SJT? An SJT, a situation judgement test, is a psychometric test. So, what it's trying to do is evaluate how you think. And the benefit of using an SJT, from our perspective, is that it-, out of all the forms of assessment out there-, gives us a bit of an idea of how you would fit in in the workplace, without requiring you to have a lot of work experience. So, we don't need to see a huge list of, you know, unpaid internships that you've done or summer jobs that you've had. I know those can be really difficult to come by, and so we don't look at criteria such as, sort of, real-life experiences in that way to determine whether or not you qualify for our graduate scheme. But we use the SJT to, sort of, simulate your fit with our values-, our workplace values. So, it is work-based, it's about how you would behave in a particular job role. Our SJT, as I've said before, is tested and monitored to make sure that is does not discriminate based on applicants protected characteristics. So, we monitor all the top eight protected characteristics that are on the equality and diversity monitoring form. And we've found over the six-, I think it's about six years we've been using different versions-, obviously refreshed questions with our situation judgement questionnaire, that it has been the fairest form of assessment that we've ever used. We, of course, keep an eye on it still, every year, to make sure that it is. But I'd really encourage you that it is a fantastic, fair and equal opportunity to really show us your best fit. 
 
I think that the other benefit of the SJT is that it helps to prepare you for the next steps of the assessment process. I mean, don't get me wrong, no-one really wants to sit these tests for fun, do they really? I don't think that anyone on our panel today is really looking back being like, 'Gosh, I really wish I could sit that again.' But the goal of it is really to give you a full idea of what it would be like to work as part of our graduate scheme. And once you've got that slightly fuller idea of the types of situations you might encounter, and perhaps some of the issues that we're highlighting in local government, that will really enable you to perform at a higher level in things like the video interview and the assessment centre. And we found that we started to see pass marks in those later stages rising when we brought the SJT in. So, it is really effective tool in helping to equip you for the next stages of the process, and really as a self-selection tool as well. If you sit the SJT and you feel like none of it appeals to you, we're probably not the right graduate scheme for you. But if you sit through it and think, 'Gosh, there's some really interesting projects here, really interesting issues, I'd love to learn more about some of those management skills or practices,' or, 'It really resonates with my values,' then that's a great motivation for you to push on through the rest of our assessment process and get to the end job and the rest of your career, which hopefully will be very rewarding. 
 
I've just seen a couple of things in the chat box which I think Punam's addressed, so we will move quickly onto what do SJTs measure? So, situation judgement tests will be marking something. If you're looking at an SJT for a different graduate scheme and it's not obvious what they're marking you on, I would raise a big red flag and start asking questions about how you're being marked and monitored. Our situation judgement questionnaire, along with the rest of our assessment process, marks our keys skills and behaviours which are listed in full on our websites, and which I've pasted on the slide here. You don't have to read it all in detail, it's all online, it's very transparent. So, for our test, each question that you're asked is measuring one of these eight key skills and behaviours. And when you progress into the video interview, the questions there are measuring the key skills and behaviours, and when you get into our assessment centre, the exercises there are measuring the exact same key skills and behaviours. It's all that we mark you on. So, they're really worth spending some time looking through and thinking through, on our website. And when we get into the practice session shortly, then with each practice question that we've given you, I've also linked to the key skill and behaviour that it measures, just so you can start to identify that as you go along. When you're sitting the test proper, it won't make that direct link for you in the test, but if you've spent some time looking at them, there's a lot of overlap and the values are really synonymous with one another. 
 
So, don't worry too much about being able to put your finger on exactly what you're being measured on, but it is one of these eight key things. And the goal is really, again, to show you what it's like to work in a local council, not just in terms of the content of your day-to-day job, but in terms of the values, the office culture, the goals that people are working towards together no matter which project they're working on or area they're working in. So, those are the last four just on your screen now, but they are available on our website, and we'll be looking at them in greater detail when we come into the practice questions. So, how can you prepare? I'm sure you'll go into this a little bit in your breakout groups as well, but a few hints from my perspective, just over a couple of minutes and then we'll pop ourselves into breakout groups. I would say, start to build an awareness of local government and the values that shape councils as workplaces. There's no really specific or niche knowledge that you need to have coming to your scheme, but as I've said, building an idea of the key issues that are influencing local government at the time, the key skills and behaviours that are listed on our website, will help you to understand a little bit about the sector, what it involves, what it's like to work in, and some of the issues that you might encounter on the job. 
 
There's some fantastic videos on our website which are a great starting point. We've got some trainees sharing examples of placements that they've done, or reasons that they really enjoy working in local government. Having a five minute watch of some of that footage will really help to build your knowledge of the sector and give you a bit of confidence going into the assessment process, that you'll be comfortable with the material you're going to see on your screen. And as I've mentioned already, dipping into the case studies archive on our website to get an idea of some of those real-life situations people have faced and projects they've worked on can just help to build your awareness and your confidence about what the sector is like. And then of course my other biggest tip is really just to practice. Our website contains the same practice questions that you're going to go through in small groups today, so it's not a, kind of one and done offer, they're right up there on the website. The only difference is that on the website they don't link you directly to the key skill and behaviour. But you'll see the question and then you'll see the answer, so you can test yourself as you go along, and just familiarise yourself with how the questions are structured, how the answers are structured, and how you might prioritise your answer. Please do, if you have any questions about this, reach out and get in touch, and we would really love to have a chat with you if there's anything that you are worried about or that seems unfamiliar to you. 
 
So, yes, question in the chat box, 'Are we gonna do some practice questions?' That's exactly what's coming your way next. And I think it's exactly that time. So, what my colleague Punam is gonna do, is she is going to just split everyone into breakout groups that will be led by the members of the NGDP BAME network. Punam and I will hop around just to make sure that everything's alright, but please see this as an open space to go through some sample questions, ask any questions that you might have. We'll stop the recording of the event here, but we will come together again in about twenty, 25 minutes, just to take any other questions that might remain.