Stuart, why did you apply to the NAO?
My first interaction with the NAO was at a final year careers fair at my university. I came away with a clear impression of the NAO’s purpose and vision and interested to find out more. Whilst at university and post graduation, my employment background was in publicly funded bodies and I found that a recurring issue under discussion was how to make the most effective use of our funding. Realising the importance of this issue within public funded bodies, I found myself drawn to applying to the NAO because I felt a career with the NAO would allow me to contribute to having a larger impact in this matter.
How did you find the NAO’s recruitment process (compared to others)?
From my experience of graduate application processes, the initial stages were fairly similar to other roles I had applied for. One massive difference was the turnaround period of my application: with the NAO the entire process took me from October to January, while with other applications I had filled in at the same time I was still waiting for them to reply to my initial application.
Going to assessment centre was also different from other organisations. Firstly, the staff you met were people you would be interacting and working with if successful, so to me if felt much more like there was a community within the NAO. Secondly, the assessment centre had a really friendly atmosphere so it made aspects of the day, such as the interview, feel more enjoyable and less nerve-wracking. I felt like I was having a conversation rather than an interview.
What do you wish you knew about us before you applied?
As I mentioned earlier, it was a really nice surprise discovering the community vibe of the NAO at the assessment centre. Having seen other organisations at assessment centres, the NAO was the only organisation (for me) that had a personable atmosphere the second you walked through the door. This was further reinforced by meeting members of staff and current graduates, as well as the explanation of the cluster hierarchy and their scope of work.
At the assessment centre, the current graduates also discussed the opportunity to express a preference of cluster allocation during your time at the NAO. Again, this was a pleasant discovery as it reiterated to me the supportive nature of the NAO.
Any tips for next year’s applicants?
Know your competencies. Many of my interview questions were centred around them and how I demonstrated them in my life so having a good understanding of them with real examples is key. During my interview I was also asked several questions relating to public services. I felt more confident with these answers when I gave my honest answer (there was probably no single ‘right answer’) while still looking objectively at the question.
Finally, I’d advise you to get to know your fellow applicants on the day of the assessment centre. You’re all in the same boat so it can be quite reassuring to have company. Moreover, it makes group elements of the day easier if you already have a rapport, hopefully allowing an overall better group performance.
What are you looking forward to when joining us in September?
Since getting my offer I’ve been working in a school and have had plenty of time to prepare for this position. With September nearly here, I really can’t wait to meet my new colleagues, join my cluster and really get stuck into the role!