CompetenciesThe NAO has eight core competencies that are designed to test your suitability for life in the organisation (you will come across them throughout the application process with us). Having been here for over two months now, I can honestly say that every one of these is genuinely relevant to day to day life here. So as well as helping you to get to the next stage of the process, looking through the competencies will hopefully give you a real idea of what it is like to work at the NAO!

Before I go through each competency individually, I have a word of advice that can be applied to all competencies. My personal belief is that the skills gained and lessons learnt from your experiences are much more important than the level or type of experience you have. Essentially, it is not the level of experience that matters, but the lessons learnt from whatever background you have. The competencies should serve as a tool for helping you apply your experiences to the qualities that are essential to working effectively here.

Now for the meaty bit – the competencies themselves. I thought the most useful thing would be to describe some of my personal experiences of when these qualities have come into play during my time so far.

Analyses data to draw sound conclusions – I have been working mainly on our value for money stream so far; as such I have been tasked with a lot of background research, where I have read previous reports, articles and other sources before summarising and expressing an opinion on them for my manager.

Demonstrates sound judgement – Some of the reports I have read have come from more subjective sources than others. Our job at the NAO is to be an independent body that holds the government to account. Therefore, I have become accustomed to extracting the facts out of such sources without letting the authors’ opinion cloud my judgement.

Communicates effectively with others – As part of my work on a government-wide study, I recently met with a representative from each NAO department (17 meetings, a tall order!), asking for help and advice on the project. At these meetings, I was required to concisely and coherently explain the project I was working on, before asking the right questions and, most importantly, listening to the answers.

Demonstrates enthusiasm, initiative and drive – The most obvious example is definitely college; it is undoubtedly important to have the self discipline and motivation to put the commitment in for your ACA. However, office work also requires these skills; on various pieces of work, my manager has given me free reign of my work and it has been up to me to try to do the most productive tasks, in the most efficient possible way.

Builds and maintains effective team relationships – Team working is a fundamental part of NAO work; you will very rarely been working entirely on your own. Only yesterday, my current team met to thrash out ideas for possible diagrams and graphics that we could use in a forthcoming report. My manager emphasised that this was a purely creative session with no wrong answers, so this turned out to be a really fun experience!

Builds and maintains effective client relationships – Your exposure to clients will really vary, depending on the type of work you do, so I am not due to meet any clients until January. However, my friend and fellow trainee Sophie has been on a good number of client visits and said that she has found them to be a refreshing change from the office, with the opportunity to get an unrivalled insight into government. However, she also said she had to quickly learn how to be sensitive in getting the right information and dealing with challenging situations!

Plans and organises workload to deliver high quality work to deadlines – As a trainee, you will often receive different tasks from various colleagues. As such it is important not to bite off more than you can chew and manage your time well. As aforementioned, I recently had a meeting with someone from each NAO department; coordinating around 17 meetings wasn’t easy, but I was always careful to space them apart to give myself time to prepare beforehand and debrief afterwards.

Understands the bigger picture – The NAO is in the unique position of being constantly affected by government affairs; I have often been in the position where I will read or hear something in the news, before taking it up as part of my work! The NAO also lays on many talks and seminars on pretty much anything government, finance or accountancy related. These are really great opportunities to broaden one’s perspectives on different issues and learn about whole new topics.

Apply now!

Our 2015 graduate training scheme is now open to applications (deadline 31 December 2014). Head over to our graduate recruitment site for further information on how to apply.

If you’ve got any questions around the application process, please leave a comment below. You can also contact our recruitment team by email, via our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

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