Stuart, why did you apply to the NAO?
For me, the main attraction of this role was the unique balance of developing strong technical skills and then using them to serve the public. The NAO is highly-respected and it has real influence over crucial aspects of all of our lives. On a more personal note, the NAO’s reputation as a top-quality learning institution that really looks after its trainees very much appealed to me.
How did you find the NAO’s recruitment process (compared to others)?
The application process was similar to other schemes – initial application, online tests, interview and assessment centre. A particular strength of the NAO process was the good communication – staff responded promptly to the questions I had and were very helpful when clarifications were needed on either side. One thing that stood out was the face-to-face first-round interview (where other schemes had telephone or video-call interviews). As well as providing a more personal touch, it gave me a chance to come down to the NAO office and get to know the location. Knowing a little about the place was a great help when it came to thinking about the assessment centre.
What do you wish you knew about us before you applied?
Before I applied to the NAO graduate scheme, I don’t think I fully appreciated just how relevant my studies and experiences as a history graduate would be to the role. Over the application process, I came to understand the multi-faceted nature of the NAO’s work more fully and saw the great potential in my skills. Both the process and the NAO itself are very good at making you think more about what you can bring to the table with the skills and experiences you have.
Any tips for next year’s applicants?
I would highly recommend paying a visit to an NAO stall at one of the many graduate careers fairs around the country. It was invaluable to have a chat with staff and trainees before applying – definitely better than relying solely on the literature. Show your interest with some thoughtful and specific questions – the whole application process is one you can really engage with, so take the opportunity. Be confident without being arrogant. And make sure you put the core competencies at the centre of the way you think about yourself professionally. They are a great structure around which to build an effective picture of yourself.
What are you looking forward to when joining us in September?
Two things stand out as I look forward to starting in September. First is getting to meet the rest of the intake for this year. I’m looking forward to the collegiate atmosphere among the trainees that I have heard so much about – joining as a group, studying and taking exams together, and enjoying a drink or two along the way. Second, I’m looking forward to the working environment at the NAO. The building looks like a great place to work in, and with Westminster and Whitehall just around the corner, it promises to be an inspiring and engaging location.