Interviewing to camera is a skill, but how can you learn to ace the process without loads of experience? Join a graduate recruiter and a recent student as they talk though their tops tips on performing your best.
Anna Buttenshaw: So, good morning. My name is Anna Buttenshaw and I work at the Local Government Association. My official job title is adviser in the leadership team. What that means in practice is that I work on the National Graduate Development Programme for local government, which we thankfully call the NGDP for short. And as part of that, I've done a whole variety of roles but working particularly with university students and graduates at the present time. So, it's my pleasure to speak to you this morning about video interviews, tips and tricks. And for this morning's session, I'm really delighted to be joined by Keziah. Keziah, if you'd like to come off mute and give us a hello and tell us a little bit about why you're joining us today.
Keziah: Yes, hello everyone. I'm Keziah, so I was a graduate on the NGDP scheme with the West Midlands Combined Authority. I've since finished the scheme and I am not working with the Midlands Engine as a policy officer. I'm here to, kind of, give a little bit of first hand experience. Admittedly, it's been one or two years since I've done some video interviews but not only did I do video interviews for the NGDP, but for a whole host of other graduate schemes I was applying to at the same time. So, I feel that I have a good enough overview of all the different intricacies of different ways of doing these to hopefully answer some questions.
Anna Buttenshaw: Fantastic. Thanks, Keziah. So, I will say at the start that the focus of today's session is based around the National Graduate Development Programme for Local Government as that's the programme that I can speak to specifically. But, as Keziah said, I will try to give you some general tips with the mindset that many of you will be doing multiple applications and if you've got other questions about other schemes then I'm sure that Keziah would also join me in looking to answer your questions as well. So, without any further ado, let's delve in. So, agenda. What are we going to cover? We'll look at what is a video interview? Some basic principles here. How-, oh, look, there's a typo on my slide. How are they marked? Which I think is a really important question to ask, so I'll be able to give you some insight into how ours is marked and give you some questions to ask if you're doing a video interview for another scheme, which I think are really important for you to understand before you begin any form of assessment. We'll then cover how you can prepare and I will include a sample question at this stage. I'm not going to ask anyone to come off mute and answer it, but I'll leave that up on the screen for a minute just for you to have a think about and to get an idea of the types of questions that might be asked of you. And then, we'll have lots of time for a bit of Q&A at the end. And, as I say, please do feel free to direct your questions to myself or to Keziah.
We can speak specifically to the NGDP process but we're happy to try and speak more broadly as well. So, what is a video interview? Well, this might not seem like the normal starting point, some of you may think this is quite obvious. But, actually, there are a couple of points that are really worth discussing before we delve too much further into how to prepare for a video interview. So, a video interview is by nature an assessment that's using some form of video software to give you a question of a series of questions and a chance to record your answer. So far, so good. This is where we come to a bit of a breakdown. There is a huge variety in the style of video interview and the substance of a video interview. So, I'm just raising at the start some questions that I think are really important for you to be asking before you sit an assessment. Really important variation, how many chances do you get to record your answer? So, for the NGDP, the answer to that question is two. Now, for the vast majority of graduate programmes, the answer to that question is only one. So, it's a really important question to ask and it changes the nature of a video interview before you have to now whether you're going to be expected to have just one chance to give your answer or whether there's going to be a little bit of leeway for you to listen back and reformat your response. It is possible within software providers to give you more than two chances and some employers might do that.
So, it's a question that's really worth asking. Can you listen to the question more than once? This is a really important question to ask as well and particularly also within this task, can you listen to the question more than once? Can you read the question more than once? So, different software programmes will give you the capacity to receive question as a video clip from the employer or as a piece of written work. Now, you should be getting both which is what our software provides. And particularly having that written question is really important so that you can see the question as you're answering, as you're forming your response. But some different software programmes will have a variety of modes and I just want to highlight here that if you do have any need for reasonable adjustments then this can be a factor that you really want to know about and seek clarification on in advance. For example, if it's really difficult for you to have an audio file only, you want to make sure that you'll be able to see that written version or conversely, if reading a written version is difficult for you or you require extra time then it might be helpful to know if there's also an audio version as well. So, those are really important questions to ask, as I've said there. So, my first tip about video interviews really, which is on the screen, understand what you're getting into before you press that start button.
Sometimes, especially when you're applying to multiple schemes, the temptation is just to hit start and plough straight in. But actually, taking the time to understand what the format of the assessment is going to be like is really important so that you're able to adequately prepare. It will also help to calm your nerves a bit, you know what's going to be coming at you as you press the start button instead of getting a bit of a nasty surprise when it turns out to be one and done in giving your response. So, those are my initial reflections on questions to ask around a video interview. Keziah, from your experience of sitting video interviews, does that resonate with you? Are there questions that you did ask in advance? Or things you wished you asked after you'd finished the process?
Keziah: This definitely resonates with me. Actually, the-, I think when I did it, the NGDP didn't allow you to rerecord your answers. I think that's something that's changed since when I did that. But actually, it is really important to know what you're getting into. It basically means you can prepare in the right way. So, I've got, kind of, slight auditory processing issues which basically means if I can only hear something, I don't necessarily understand it properly first time. So, actually, I had to make sure that everything was written down and actually in the preparation time I was, like, I kept looking back up at the question like, 'Yes, that's what they want me to answer.' So, that's definitely something to, to take into account. And actually, some-, most schemes that I applied for were pretty good in explaining beforehand, kind of, what it looked like, what, sort of, preparation times you might have. But if you don't get that information, that's definitely something you can ask for and, and should ask for because they should be providing that.
Anna Buttenshaw: Yeah, definitely. And I would say, another question which I've not put as part of my list here but is very related is just checking if-, with the employer, what software provider they're using if that's not evident because you can find out information about what the software might look like and how the structure of it functions based on what software provider they're using. And another important question to ask is whether you've got the ability to practice before you start the assessment. Now, that is pretty standard across most video interviews suppliers and it's something that our own programme does allow for. So, you get a little bit of a preview which I'd strongly encourage you to take up, not just once but a couple of times. We'll come on to that. But also, if you know the name of the video interview software provider then they often will have a website with a practice function as well. It probably won't have a question that is directly relevant to the graduate scheme or other role that you're applying for, but it will give you a sense of what the layout looks like, what the timer looks like, where the text is going to appear, those kinds of things which again, and as Keziah was saying, can help you to feel more prepared that you know where you're looking and what you're doing as you start the assessment, rather than figuring that out while the clock is ticking.
So, video interviews, how are they marked? Again, there's huge variation across the public sector and other sectors so my comments here are very specific to the NGDP. But I will raise some points I think are really important for you to be asking of an employer if you're sitting a video interview. So, the first point that I'm saying is a really obvious one. You should know how you are being marked. Now, there will be levels of detail that employers are obliged or happy to release to you. But I'm gonna share with you a little bit about how we mark video interviews and it might raise some questions that you may wish to ask if you're sitting a different type of assessment as well. So, for the NGDP, what's an issue that's really, really important to us is the quality and diversity. This runs throughout our entire recruitment process, onboarding process and support that we're able to provide to graduates while they're on our scheme. So, one thing that we do very carefully through our assessment process is monitor the quality and diversity information which people fill in when they first apply. It's completely anonymous so it's not tied to anybody's names but we monitor that data as we go through each stage of our assessment process to ensure that the questions we're asking, the types of assessments that we're using aren't discriminating against any of those top eight protected characteristics under law. Now, not every graduate scheme will pay that close a level of attention and it's worth asking of an employer what they're doing to make sure that their assessments are fair and equal.
One of the ways that we're supporting that equality and diversity agenda is that even though, and this may sound a bit odd but I will explain why, even though you are recording a video interview, we are marking audio files only. Now, the reason that we use the video interview software is two fold. First of all, we found that while we started using it, it was giving candidates the chance to actually practice being in an interview format with a time limitation on responding to a question. When you do a telephone interview, it can be a little harder to replicate that environment and we were finding that when people got to the final stage of our assessment process, which is an in person interview with a council, then they were struggling a little bit with that face to face interview format. When we brought the video interview in, it was almost like giving people a bit of a practise of what it's like to be in that kind of environment. It's not a complete like for like but, especially in the world of virtual interviews that we've been in the last eighteen months of so, it does feel fairly similar. So, we brought that in partially as a, sort of, practise tool but we had concerns about that, sort of-, the bias of first impression that comes when you're watching a person out of context. So, for us, we are marking these video interview recordings as audio files only. And not many people do that so if you're concerned about equality and diversity or you have specific concerns about how do I look?
What's my environment like? Etc. it's worth asking the question, how are these being marked? So, for us, as I say, it's audio only. Now, we do keep the camera on and this is point number two, we do spot checks just to make sure that people are in the room alone and you've not got someone there with you and it's just one of those ways we have to spot check our assessment process. Also, in a different way, to make sure it's fair and equal. So, please-, I wouldn't recommend sitting there in your pjs or in anything inappropriate. I think it probably doesn't put you in the best head space. It's not going to count against you in any way but do be aware that someone may spot check the visual side of your video interview for us but not in a marking capacity, just to clear that up. I would say the second point to raise around this question of marking is around the set criteria that are being used to mark your video interview. Now again, as Keziah said, and she can speak to her experience of other schemes as well, an employer should make it evident to you how you are being marked. Just as at uni, you would get some form of evaluation rubric or list of criteria, it's the same for a graduate scheme. You shouldn't be sitting there feeling like someone is going to mark your video interview based on how you look, their first impression or my least favourite, someone's got feeling about your potential. That's not fair, that's not equal.
So, you should know how you are being marked and it should be through a set of key criteria which I would say generally that's what graduate recruiters are using these days. So, ask these questions of any employer if it's not evident from the start. To give you a bit of an idea of evaluation criteria that we are using, I'm gonna pull them up on screen. You don't need to read them all, they're all listed on our website. There are eight key skills and behaviours which the NGDP evaluates through it's entire assessment process. So, our situational judgement test at stage one which you can read about on our website and see some sample questions for are all measuring these key skills and behaviours. Our video interview questions are measuring these key skills and behaviours. Our assessment sensor exercises are measuring these key skills and behaviours. There is absolutely no other criteria that we measure, there is no, 'Oh, that person shows some interesting potential.' Or, 'I feel like I really relate to them.' There's no generic box, there's no grey area, it's just these key skills and behaviours. So, for us they are working with others, persuasive communication, planning and organising, drive for results, analysis and problem solving, motivation for learning and personal resilience, commitment to local government and the wider community and leadership potential.
And the last thing I wanna say on this point, which I do think is really important, is if you get given a list of these, sort of, key skills and behaviours, some people call them competencies or values, then go beyond the initial labels. So, as you'll see for each of these, we've got a little description of what this means to us. And it is really important because working with others is, for example, a really generic key skill and behaviour which most employers will measure. But people will be looking for quite different things within that criteria based on their organisational culture and the type of the role. Or, for example, another one which gets a lot of variety in what people are actually looking for is leadership potential. So, just to highlight that actually underneath that label, that wider description of what does leadership potential mean to us at the NGDP, to us within local government could be very different actually to what, for example, a private sector organisation, one of the big four or law firm might be looking for under leadership potential. So, its worth going beneath the initial label and reading the descriptions and having a bit of a think about how that resonates with you. Are there examples from your own life where you could give a description of how that criteria works for you? I'm beginning to verge into my preparation tips.
So, I'm just going to pause there and come to Keziah and say, Keziah, listening to me ramble on about the structure of video interviews and how they're marked, do you have any reflections on how employers prepared you to sit a video interview and the difference that it made to understand how you were being marked in advance?
Keziah: Yeah. So, some of the video interviews I did, they gave-, they, kind of, basically said, you know, 'We will be watching your video as well as listening to the audio.' Like, okay. Well, let's just make sure that, you know-, I was living in a student house at that point so I've got quite a small room and I can't have, like, a nice clean wall behind me because there isn't enough space. But at least make sure that it looks vaguely tidy. And I personally feel more confident doing any sort of interview or important work meeting if I'm wearing slightly nicer, slightly smarter clothes. So, even if they're not marking the, kind of, the video aspect of it, I personally would still be wearing-, it would be something with a collar, just to make sure I feel confident so I can actually do my best. So, even if they're not, kind of, marking the video, that doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't, kind of, dress in something that makes you feel most comfortable. And it is definitely worth making sure that, you know, you are trying to match the, kind of, criteria in your answers but don't try-, worry about getting all of them into your answers because there might just be-, the questions that you get don't quite allow you to answer one or two of the criteria. That's fine, if you're showing that you've got abilities against the other criteria, they're still gonna be interested in you as a candidate and they're still gonna take you forward.
I think there was a question about what happens if I, kind of, have got, kind of, one, one, kind of, aspect missing. Still go for it, like, the whole point is they want to see how you can grow, like, not everybody has got an area where they struggle a bit more. So, like, if you-, as long as you can show that you understand, 'Oh, I've got some ability in this area,' or, 'I think this is what I would do.' That's not a situation you've come across, they're still gonna be interested in taking you forward because they realise that no, not everyone's been in a position where they can show, you know, analysis or leadership.
Anna Buttenshaw: Yeah. And I think that's such a fantastic answer to that point raised in the chatbo x, Keziah. Thank you for taking that on. Which is this is really important things to remember. So, for us, we are a generalist graduate scheme, that means, we are not expecting any prior knowledge to come in directly from your degree background. It does not matter to us which university you have studied at, and we do not measure or mark your work experience at all either. So, bearing that in mind, when we assess you, we are not looking for you to come to us like someone with ten years of work experience and a relevant-, or what you might feel is a really relevant and important example from every single one of our key skills and behaviours, because that would be completely unrealistic and it would be very unfair for us to then try and measure candidates who are coming to us from a wide range of life experiences against each other. The whole idea of the key skills and behaviours, and the set questions, is less about your specific life experiences, and more about your critical thinking. So, it's about showing your understanding of the question and think-, your thought-through response. This will make a little bit more sense when we come to one of our sample questions, hopefully, in the second bit of this presentation.
There have been a couple of questions in the chatbox which are, kind of, related to this point. So, I'll take those at this stage. So, someone has said, you know, 'There's a lot of competition for these places, how do you make yourself stand out?' Well, having watched and assessed video interviews myself in previous years, I would say that the most important thing that you can do, actually, is to practise. And we'll come on to that in a minute. The best video interviews that I've seen have not been the best because someone has got a really interesting piece of experience that they're sharing, a really stunning example of leadership where they've led this incredible project and changed the world. No, we're not expecting that of you at this stage. It's where they've been able to respond thoughtfully and concisely to a question. So, they've obviously understood the question and they've been able to give us a response within the time frame which makes sense and is on topic. Don't underestimate that as a basic measure. It's actually really difficult to do, which brings us to the necessity of practising. So, don't worry so much about what experiences you do or don't have, which ones of these criteria you feel most confident in or weakest in. A lot of the skill of video interviews comes down much, much more to your ability to see, understand and process a response to the question which is actually on topic and relevant.
And so, it does help to think through personal examples from your life of the key skills and behaviours, and how they fit within local government, which we'll come onto in a minute. But, yes. Please don't sit there feeling like, 'I've never been able to lead a project. I can't sit this assessment,' because I-, that is completely untrue and, and I wouldn't want you to feel hard done by, by whatever experiences you have or have not been able to have. Someone's asked, 'Is each question marking one behaviour each time?' So, that-, there is some variation on that. My colleague who's writing the questions for this year's video interview has not finished yet. So, we've done a variation in the past, we find if you try to mark more than about two criteria per question it can be very challenging to do that accurately. I think the most we've ever done is three per question. So, we usually tend to stick to only marking one or two of the criteria per question. But it does vary based on different graduate schemes and, as I say, our guidance when it comes out will hopefully be able to point you in the right direction. But my colleague is still writing them, the video interviews will be taking place in February for us so he's still got a little bit of time. And someone's asked a few questions about, sort of, what to wear.
I think, kind of-, I think Keziah made a really great point there which was it's as much about feeling confident and ready in yourself and putting your best self forwards as it is saying it needs to be a suit jacket, or a tie, or a specific piece of clothing or a specific blank wall. As you see, I've got some cupboard doors behind me today because that's the best I can do working from home are cupboard doors. And so, for me that's what we're working with today, you know, I don't have many blank white walls. You know, I would say generically if you're comfortable, if you feel your clothing is appropriate for you and if you feel like there's a decent amount of light in the room. If someone is marking the video side then darkness is probably the biggest complaint that people have had in the past just because it's a distraction. So, it doesn't, sort of, play against you in one way but even using professional markers, people are distracted. They feel like they're straining to see you properly or you're wearing something that might be very distracting, or there's something extremely distracting behind you, then those might make it a bit more difficult for a marker to focus on your answer. They shouldn't sway the marker, but if you want to just give yourself a bit of confidence around that then, kind of, neutralising those distractions is one factor and being comfortable in yourself and your own environment is I think the other really important thing.
Someone's asked, are we told which behaviours are being marked when you're told the question? Typically, no. So, there is a little bit of mystery there but, as Keziah said, I would worry less about making that direct connection between what the question is and the specific answer. Many of these key skills and behaviours for us at least overlap substantially because it's a set of values that represent how you behave in the work place. And a lot of that goes hand in hand together. So, for example, those two I drew out at the start, working with others and leadership potential are not conflicting criteria. Now, if we're measuring leadership potential then in the question there would probably be something that hints at that like, 'You are leading a project,' or, 'Your-, if you are in charge of this,' or etc. So, there will be something that highlights this is about leadership. If it's something around, you know, just that mentions a group of people or you working under a manager, it's probably more likely to be working with others. But to be honest, your response would probably be the same if it's your response to a scenario. So, I wouldn't worry so much about that. If you read them all, you understand them all and you think them through in advance then that will give you the confidence and the understanding of the values that you need and will be most beneficial to you when you're sitting the interview themselves.
Now, there are a couple of questions about specifics of the recruitment process and council's taking part etc. which I can come to on the end. I will say at this point, if you do have to hop off at any point and you have a lingering question firstname.lastname@example.org, that email address is all over our website. Drop your question there and someone will get back to you, just in case we miss anything this morning. So, let me come onto my next slide, Keziah and I have both been verging on this material for a little while and it's what you're really here for. How can you prepare? So, my third tip from today's webinar is to put the assessment framework into context. So, yes. Big tip, know what you're being marked on, ruminate on it, you know, read those little descriptions, think about how they apply to you. If you are coming to our video interview, you've already sat our situational judgement questionnaire which is a fantastic way to prepare actually for the video interview because it's already giving you examples of scenarios of what it's like to work in local government. If you're wanting to do some advanced prep for the video interview, you can see some of those situational judgement questionnaire sample questions on our website. So, they, in themselves, are also a really great measure of preparation. And they're one way that you're beginning to put that, sort of, list of key skills and behaviours into a real life context and understand what does working with others mean in local government?
What does leadership potential mean in local government? What are they expecting from me? Or what am I supposed to be showing as I'm answering these questions? So, I've just labelled on the slide a few different things that might help you in that process. This isn't a strict to do list, they're all just ideas. It will come into play, say for example, how much knowledge you have of local government and your awareness of local issues, things that are important to you all come into play here. So, this is a really broad list. But things like organisational values which touches on the key skills and behaviours but, kind of, goes beyond those. Click on your local council website, have a little look. Do they have a value statement? Do they have something which gives you a bit of an idea of what it's like to be in local government? What's important to people who work there? Again, we've mentioned the competency or key skills and behaviours already. Things like a five year plan, if you're feeling really uncertain about local government or understanding what this context is, have a little look at your local council's five or ten year plan or their vision statement for the community. That will start to build your knowledge, just that wider context around the world in which these key skills and behaviours sit. If you're applying to a different scheme or, as I said, if you've got a question for us, there should be an email address or a named person on a job description.
Get in touch with them, don't feel like that's a strange person or label that, you know, you would only go to if there was something really, really important or pressing. Have a conversation with someone, especially if you're feeling like you're coming from-, to this from a bit of an unknown. Get in touch. For us, we've got some fantastic videos across our website that give you an idea of what it's like to work in local government, what types of placements our graduates do, why equality and diversity is really important to us etc. They're only, you know, three or four minutes each, it's not a huge investment of time but it can really help to give you a bit of an understanding and a bit of confidence about, 'Yes, is this somewhere that I want to work and how do these values come to life on the job?' We've also got a fantastic archive of case studies of employees, of people who have been on the NGDP and many graduate schemes should be providing you with this type of material as well. All of this helped make it a little bit less of a shot in the dark. You shouldn't be left feeling really uncertain. Just five minutes here and there, I know you're all busy especially when you're coming in to, you know, if you're a final year student, if you're working, if you've got caring responsibilities. You've got a social life, you've got a lot going on. So, we're not coming to you with really unrealistic preparation expectations.
But these are the kinds of things that I would recommend doing if I was feeling a little bit uncertain about what I might be asked or how those values actually turn out in real life. We'll come into my next tip in a second. But, Keziah, just to come to you briefly, when you were preparing for our video interview, I know you were also sitting other video interviews and you were a final year student at the same time.
Keziah: I was doing my masters degree so I was trying to research a dissertation as well.
Anna Buttenshaw: Yeah. So, I mean, this is-, we're talking real life here. What are some of the things that you did, even just in small ways, to put that, kind of, list of key skills and behaviours into a bit of a context to prepare and to give you a bit of confidence?
Keziah: I think the most important thing for me was, kind of, each time I got to the next stage in an assessment process was I went back to the graduate scheme page for that company, that organisation, like, kind of, back through the website. I was like, 'Oh, yes. It's this company, this is, kind of, what they're doing. This is their values, this is, kind of, what it feels like.' Particularly when you're, kind of, doing, you know, three, four, five graduate schemes, they, kind of, all blur a bit. That's normal. So, actually reminding yourself of, 'Oh, yeah. I'm gonna do the video interview for, you know, the NGDP, for, you know, this law firm.' You know, whatever it is, actually, kind of, spending five, ten minutes just going back into that website, watching a couple of those videos and going, 'Oh, yeah. That's who they are, that's what they're wanting from me.' So, you're not-, yeah. It's not a shot in the dark, you've, kind of, reminded yourself of, 'This is why I've applied. These are the values, this is how I can try and, you know, show that actually I have the same values and interests as well.
Anna Buttenshaw: Yeah, really fantastic tips there. Which brings us straight into my last tip before I bring you into a sample question, if my memory serves of my slides. Which is practise. Now, this is awkward and it is tedious and I completely get that. It's, kind of, the equivalent to when you've finished working on a big piece of academic work and, you know, maybe 24 hours in advance you've got enough time to have someone else look at it and give you some feedback. And all the temptation is not to do that because you're fried and you're done and you just want to see the back of it. But you know that if you do that extra bit of work and you send it off and you get someone to look at it with the red pen all over it then you're probably actually going to do better in the assessment. And it's the same old thing here, it's one of these awkward truths of life that, especially for something like this, even if you've done a lot of face to face interviewing then I would say the really big defining criteria of doing a video interview is having to be within really strict time pressure. And this raises another point that I will just briefly come onto and I'm happy to take questions there and I know that Keziah is happy to take questions on this as well.
Which is just to highlight that if for any reason you require extra time or a different format to the video interview software, please, please, please get in touch with the employer, with ourselves if it's us, well in advance, definitely before you begin the assessment to make sure that A, it's gonna work for you, B, if you have any reasonable adjustments that you need that we're able to make those to give you a fair and equal chance of completing the assessment. Because, it isn't fair and equal for you if you require extra time or, as Keziah was saying, for her, you know, reading, reading the questions or having an audio file only, those are really big factors that are gonna influence her ability to respond. It's not at all about her capacity, her intelligence, her ability to do the job well at all. It's on our end, we've presented a format which actually in it's original format doesn't work for who she is, it doesn't enable her to give her best. So, if that's you and you require any adjustments to be made, please get in touch. All employers should be asking this from the outset. I know as Keziah will mention, I've put my hand up here, Keziah did declare a reasonable adjustment when she sat our process and do you know what? We made a mistake and she didn't have the extra time. We clarified the situation and she was given another chance.
I'm, sort of, paraphrasing from the last workshop that we did on this, Keziah. But just to say, please, if that's you then please do ask for those adjustments to be made because sitting there under, under what's a really limited amount of time to read a question, to think through your response and to give your verbal response is a skill. It takes practise and you might still, given those factors, if there are other things at play for you then you need those adjustments to be made to have extra time. Or, for example, we do work with a number of people who will run the video interview questions over the telephone instead because that's just much more appropriate way of assessing their potential. So, I just want to flag that up while I think of it and I'm sure if you've got questions about reasonable adjustments then Keziah can probably take those at the end. But just to enforce how important it is to practise, it's awkward. What I'm asking you to do is basically to record yourself, even just, you know, with your phone in front of you, with a programme that you could find online. I don't have a specific one to recommend, I think someone's asked. I'd do a bit of Google, come out with something. There are loads and loads of software programmes available online. What you're looking for is something that simply going to ask you a question and give you a limited amount of time to respond to that question. And just even the practise of listening back to yourself and thinking, 'Oh my goodness.
How long did I take to answer that question? Was my response very clear? Was I talking so quickly that actually I can't even tell what I was saying? Is there a lot of filler noise?' Things like this, people reading the transcription and captions for this video interview, I apologise in advance for the filler noises. Do you give a clear example in the response to the question? When you're actually put in that time constraint, under the pressure it is a very different thing to actually just reading through sample questions in a relaxed environment. And if you are able to practise a question where they've given you a key criteria or where you have a list of key criteria that are made available to you, have you actually drawn in any of those key criteria in your response? When you listen to it back, we've all got really good intentions but actually the practise of recording yourself and listening to it back, as horrific and awkward as that is, is probably the best and biggest way that you can refine your skill in this area. I can see that the chatbox has come up with quite a few different criteria here. There's some questions about reasonable adjustments that I will take at the end. And there's a question about situational judgement tests which I'll come onto as well. Sorry, I'm just having a little bit of a skim here. And then, someone has asked about using things like the star process. So, yeah.
There are loads of examples online about different techniques that you can follow through to give a specific, relevant example to a question that you're asked. So, some are called star, some are called smart, there are loads of things out there. I'd have a little look if you feel like using a specific system to prepare is helpful for you. Have a little look around and practise implementing them. I would say the practise side is the most important to make sure that you're giving a concise and relevant answer. And someone has asked, and I will come to this just briefly, if you rerecord your answer, for the software programme that we're using, then you don't get to choose between the two answers. It is the second answer that will count. So, if you rerecord, your first response is just deleted, it's not saved on the system. So, if that's you, if you feel that when you're sitting a video interview and you've given a-, if you feel you've answered the question really well then just press submit on that one and off it goes. I wouldn't always rerecord yourself by default but I would do it if you feel like you really mumbled your way through a question or you struggled with it. Then take that opportunity to use the, the second chance when you're sitting our video interview because it is the second one that will count. Let's hop into a sample question here.
Now, this is a, a real life question that we used many moons ago, before Keziah's time. And it's quite a complex question, we have experimented with formats over time and it's very likely that the question will be a little bit shorter than this this year and the amount of time you're given to read and respond will reflect the length of the question. So, with those provisos given, the question that our candidates sat a few years ago, I think it would be about four or five years ago. Councils today are constantly evaluating the huge range of services they provide to communities as budgets are decreasing while demand is often rising. And if you've read a little bit about local government you'll know this situation hasn't really changed. This is a really typical statement about what it's like to be in local government. And this is what I mean about doing that prep work, if you've read a bit of local news or you've read a bit of the values, you've had a look on a council website, even just those quick skim thing, you've watched a few of the videos on our website, then you will get this right away. Councils provide between them over 800 different services in England and Wales. That's absolutely enormous. And the pressure that councils are under to provide those services is always increasing, it's the same old issues that we look at, you know, across anything. We've got an ageing population, councils provide social care, for example. That's just one hot topic issue you'll see coming up very often in the press these days.
So, if you've done that little bit of preparatory work, you're reading this thinking, like, 'Yeah. There's huge needs for council services, council budgets are often being cut. And their ability to raise funds can be quite difficult.' You know, you read a few headlines about council tax or you look at your own council tax bill and there's rise in demand. So, this isn't coming to you as a shock. Second half of the question, please choose one council service and tell us why the council's role in delivering this service is so important to their community. Now, I've given you a little bit of a hint here and the two criteria that this question was measuring were commitment local government and the wider community and leadership potential. So, the reason those two are being measure is, the commitment to local government is one of the criteria that we're almost always going to measure because it's the thing that sets out scheme apart. Kind of, like Keziah was saying, when you're sitting so many of these, it can be really difficult to keep track of what's different between one and the other, and this is something that makes us different. We're looking for people with a real passion to make a difference to local communities and to care about the issues that affect real people. So, we're looking for a bit of that interest and that passion here. And leadership potential, we've asked you to choose one council service and to define why it's important to deliver this service.
And so, that is putting you in a role of really transformational leadership as you can read in the description of leadership potential for us and looking about how local government responds to times of change. So, those are the two criteria that we're measuring with this question. I'm not gonna ask anyone to come off mute and give us a direct answer but what I've just pulled up here is actually the evaluation criteria that we used when we were marking this, just to give you a bit of an idea. So, I didn't have room on my slide to show you the score for it but there as one out of five, two out of five, three out of five, four out of five and five out of five. Just to give you a bit of a contrast, I've kept one and five, it fits on a slide. So, you'll see here as you're skimming through this that what is defining a one out of five response is, you know, and you would be surprised, it comes down to have you practised? Some people when they responded to this question actually made no reference to local services, to local councils or to community engagement. They were really flustered, caught off guard, they maybe hadn't done any reading or thinking about local government before they sat the interview. So, they weren't able to actually define a council service. Maybe they didn't understand what a council service was, which, for example, would be something like adult social care would be a really easy one here. They might go the opposite direction and just talk about every single service.
So, we have asked specifically about one service and it comes back to taking the time to make sure you've read the question properly and, as Keziah was saying, you know, to be looking back up as you're answering and making sure that you're staying on track. And at the end of answering that question, if you think, 'Do you know what? Actually, I spoke about four or five different issues,' pressing that rerecord button and focusing just on one. Candidates who scored really well here showed a really excellent understanding of local issues, the role that local councils had relating to their community and leading services. There was a real interest in engaging with the local community in the answer to the question. And they included themes like community engagement, it's really important to work with citizens, with the people who are receiving these services. You know, we've got a sense of responsibility to deliver the service to do a really good job. Maybe they're mentioning fresh ideas or the idea, just the need for fresh ideas, the need to work across, you know, the public and the private sectors to work with people. All these different things, there wasn't, kind of, one right answer but it's just showing you that what we're looking for is quite a well thought through, accurate response to the question, essentially. And you'll see the same in leadership potential.
Someone who makes no reference to the role that councils have in leading services and in changing lives in their community was never gonna perform very well in this question. But people who made a really compelling case for the importance of the council in their community driving change did really well. So, that just gives you a bit of an idea of a question that you might be asked and what the best and worst case scenarios are really in answering that question. Now, I know there's been quite a lot in the chat. And so, I'm just going to take a quick look at it now. Someone has said to what extent can answers be delivered in a regional conversational style? Or would you advise people to adopt a formal tone and complex language? So, I would say we're really flexible about this, I wouldn't worry about this. Be genuinely you. So, you are you and we're not expecting you to be anyone else. We're not expecting someone to come with a specific accent, wearing specific clothes, from a specific university, we're all really different. And that's okay. Communities and councils who take part in our scheme are looking for a really wide range of people to come onto the programme because, guess what? The communities they serve are incredibly diverse so there is no one right way to speak or to be. I think as long as you are answering the question and you're being clear in verbal tone, you're not using language that someone might not understand.
So, if you're using on one side a lot of-, a lot of slang, for example, or you're using-, trying purposefully to use really complicated words then actually that might impair someone's ability to mark you accurately. It might not. If you have a complex vocabulary and that's how you talk then use it. You know, if you've got a regional accent and there are some words that are specific to your local area, don't worry about avoiding them. I wouldn't put yourself fully one way or the other, I would just be you and practise and if you're worried, when you're practising, you can ask someone to watch a clip back and say, 'Does that make sense to you even if you're not from my area or you're different to me?' Then-, but I would say that the much more predominant issues that we see are people just not answering the question at all. It's a lot more basic actually when it comes to marking these than worrying about really, really fine points. So, do focus on the broad brush strokes I would say. And someone's asked, should our answers be tailored to issues all councils face or one particular local area, for example? Now, if the question-, the question should give you a hint there. So, in that question, it was quite broad, you could bring in your local example if that's relevant to you and you want to speak to that. If the question asks you to address a topic from a national perspective, I would do that. If it asks you to address something from a local perspective, I would do that.
If it doesn't do either of those then I would opt for whichever one of those you feel most comfortable doing. I think you can show a knowledge of local government in both ways. So, it's really about feeling confident in what you know and how you're answering the question, giving the best example that you can. Someone's asked how long do we have to answer a question? Now, that's a really good question. I can't actually remember off the top of my head, I did ask my colleague what the exact amount of time was. So, I would say if you're concerned about that and it's not covered in the guidance that we send you then just drop an email to ngdp.support in advance to find that out. It's usually about one and a half minutes, around that ball park is my memory. But, as I say, don't quote me on it, I would drop a message to the support team to find out. It may be that we haven't even exactly determined it for this year yet because we haven't written the questions yet and they, kind of, go hand in hand. Keziah, do you have any comments on was there a lot of variation between different employers and how long you were given to respond to questions?
Keziah: I think it, kind of, differed slightly in terms of some people would, kind of, give you, kind of, different amounts of time to prepare. I think the shortest one I came across was 30 seconds. I was like, 'That is absolutely not enough time.' And then, others would, kind of, give you, 'Okay. Well, you've got, kind of, five minutes to both prepare and record your answer.' So, you can split this however you see fit basically. It does definitely, kind of, vary depending on the scheme, so absolutely, kind of, check that out. There was a comment by Louise about, 'Oh, that seems like a lot of detail to, kind of, come up with on the spot,' and this is where preparation comes in really helpful. So, you know, I probably would have answered something about, kind of, leisure centres or museums. So, I'm, I'm a history graduate, I have a real interest in, kind of, culture and heritage. So, to me, it's like, 'Oh, gosh. We need to support, you know, this leisure centre. It can be used for, like, after school kids' clubs and holiday clubs to make sure, kind of, kids are getting, you know, support during holidays.' You can link it in with, kind of, food parcels and stuff. This is all things that have been in the news and actually the local government has such a role in making these things actually happen on the ground.
So, it's partly, kind of, using your own experiences and the things that you want, you know, the things that you actually wanted to do in local government. People might think, 'Oh, I need to talk about health or homelessness.' Sure, if that's the thing you want to work in or are interested in, but equally, like, culture is a little bit, kind of, under the radar when it comes to a lot of councils because they don't have the money to do it. But I will always fight culture's corner. And actually, it's drawing in the things that you really want to do but also your, kind of, knowledge of what's going on in the world already. You know, Marcus Rashford being in the news about, 'Oh, we need to support, kind of, kids with meals during the holidays more.' 'Well, we have this leisure centre, they can, kind of-, we can get more kids free lunches that way during the holidays.' It's that, sort of, thing. And, it-, yeah. So, I guess it's, it's very much about bringing yourself, it really is. They just want to see you and what your interests are in. I think I said some slightly, kind of, wacky things during my interview because I, you know-, the, the fiscal side of it. I know we need to be careful about money but, yeah. Culture all the way. And that's a little bit unusual in local government.
Anna Buttenshaw: I love it. And I think that's just the perfect example, Keziah, because, you know, if you're really uncertain and you have a general interest in making a difference, then, you know, some of those big topic issues might be the best place for you to start. It's things like free school meals, the role of councils in child poverty, in homelessness, in adult social care, in Covid recovery, things like that you'll see all over the news. So, if you're feeling really uncertain and you're looking for a place to start, I'd say go to the headlines, see what really sparks in you, but equally, you are you. And if you're Keziah and you just love museums, I am right there with you. You know, and you see the role of leisure centres or you've got a real passion for, you know, the environment. And I was doing a webinar yesterday and our trainee is doing-, is working, currently her placement is within the climate change division of a council. She's got a biology degree and she's really excited to be using some of her scientific knowledge in her local council placement. You know, those are all fantastic as well and it's less about the really specific-, you know, we're not looking for you, unless we ask you, to identify, you know, one particular issue within a, a topical area, which we're very unlikely to do. It's about seeing what, what interests you, what examples can you draw and how well can you answer the question?
So, don't be afraid to choose something that you feel really passionate about or you feel confident talking on. Someone has asked, there have been a couple of questions about reasonable adjustments so I'll just come to that next because I think it's really important. So, for our graduate scheme, if you require a reasonable adjustment then in our first stage, which is a situational judgement test, that test is untimed and so for that reason we find that we get a very low request rate for reasonable adjustments at that stage because the most common request that we have is for extra time. If you have a need which is not around extra time then the email address to get in touch with, with-, the email address to get in touch with us via which is highlighted in the job description for the role, is email@example.com. Now, for the video interviews, which is stage two, at every stage we will ask again just to make sure because we know every stage is different. You might have a need which wasn't relevant in stage one which is relevant in stage two. So, again, you will be sent an email which invites you to video interview and it should also highlight that if you require reasonable adjustment, please get in touch via this email address. You don't have to wait for that email, if you need an adjustment or you'd like to talk about what we offer, you can get in touch any time using the same email address.
What our approach to reasonable adjustments is that every person is different any every person's needs are different. So, we don't have a specific system of, 'You require an adjustment, this is what you get.' We have a conversation with you about what your needs are, what each stage of the process involves, how that might impact you and what adjustments we can take on to make it fair and equal for you. As part of that discussion, we do ask for some form of paperwork. So, especially if you're a current university student and you're receiving reasonable adjustments, most people would have had some form of assessment done. We are also aware that there are big waiting lists especially in Covid for these types of assessments. So, we're not gonna deny someone an assessment because they're missing an exact X, Y, Z piece of paperwork. But we would say, you know, it's something that we'll ask to see and part of that is around accountability just so that we can say to those who aren't requiring reasonable adjustments that we are only giving them where they are needed to be fair and equal. But we're not hesitant to give them out where they are necessary, so it's a balancing act. So, what we do is we ask you to get in touch with us, we'll have a conversation with you, we will ask you if you have an paperwork or any form of assessment. That helps us to understand your needs most accurately and helps us to determine what is fair and equal for you.
If you don't have that assessment, we will have a broader conversation with you about your needs and how they're demonstrated and adjustments that we could possible make. So, sometimes that conversation can taken a little while. Please don't get in touch one hour before the deadline for an assessment to say that you've got a reasonable adjustment request. Okay? It's when you get the initial invitation to a stage that you get in touch and it leave us with enough time to have that conversation with you, and it gives you enough time to know what you're working with in terms of preparation. As I say, there are the odd moment where something goes wrong or something is missed. If you've had that conversation with us already then we can fix it afterwards. If you finish an assessment, you've never been in touch with us, you sit the video interview, as you're sitting it you think, 'Gosh, I should have really asked for extra time.' I'm really afraid that if afterwards you then come to us for the first time saying, 'Oh, actually, it would have been helpful for me to have an adjustment.' It is too late at that point because you've seen the questions and you've been through it all already. So, if you do have a need, please, please, please get in touch as far in advance as possible to have that conversation. And hopefully that answers that question. Someone had asked how do people who declare a disability perform in your assessment process?
We monitor this data every year and the answer to that is on par or above the remainder of our candidates. So, we're very cautious, it's one of those eight criteria that we measure along the way and we have found consistently over the last, at least the last seven years that I've been working on the graduate scheme, that candidates who declare a disability and receive a reasonable adjustment perform on par or better than the general sway of candidates. So, if that's you, that's my final plea. Please get in touch. Someone's asked about stages of the application process. You'll find those all on our website, we start with a situational judgement questionnaire, we go to a video interview. So, you pass stage one, you're invited to stage two. If you pass the video interview stage two then we come to a half day assessment centre which will almost certainly be virtual this year, made up of a couple of different assignments. It's still in progress so when we've pinned all the suppliers down on that more information will be on our website. And then, the last stage is to go to an in person interview with councils who are taking part in this scheme and they're the ones who offer you and end job. So, we work with between 50 and 70 different local councils, local authorities every year. You do have a voice in saying who you're interested in interviewing with and any concerns you have about where you'd be based geographically are taken into account in that process.
There's a lot more information on our website so I won't bore you too much on that. But if you've got any concerns that aren't answered by our website on that one, just drop us an email and we can definitely come back to you on, on that time. I think Keziah has given a great response to a question about if you were given a unitary amount of time, so say, five minutes to read a question and respond, how do you do it? So, if that was your question, have a look in the chat the answer. For us, it is time allocated so you're given a certain amount of time to read the question and a certain amount of time to respond. But, as I say, if you're worried with other schemes about that approach, I think Keziah has given a great response in the chat. Let's see, have I missed anything? If you have a question and I've missed it in the chat, it's been a bit busy, please do paste it again down in the chat or feel free to send us an email. And otherwise, I'll just highlight to you application support, the email address is on the website. You can follow us on Twitter, it's just generic hints and tips and hellos and information about councils joining the scheme and things like that, if you're on Twitter. And there's loads and loads and loads of information, videos, case studies, sample questions, all sorts of things like that on our website along with recordings of other virtual workshops that we've done this autumn which include a workshop on our situational judgement questionnaire which I'd really highlight to you.
On our website, you'll also find sample questions for the situational judgement questionnaire which are really, really, really important to do before you sit the test. We have got a workshop that we ran with our BAME network. Keziah and myself, you'll see some familiar faces if you watch the workshop that we did around do I tick the box? What it's like to declare a reasonable adjustment. So, if that's you, please have a look at that workshop. And we've got one around management careers and local government. So, if you think, 'Gosh, what are some of those issues that I might be passionate about?' That's a fantastic workshop to have a little listen to and hear some people talk about what their job is actually like on a day to day basis. I don't think I've seen anything else popping up in the chat and I'm aware that we are ten minutes over for today's workshop. So, I will say a huge thank you to all of you for coming out and listening to us chat about this really important topic. If you've got any questions or concerns, don't be a stranger. Get in touch. Our applications are open until the 5th of January 2022.