The UK Civil Service

Facts, Analysis and Comment.


To begin at the beginning, management is clearly much easier if you can recruit the right people and then guide them successfully.  But it is very hard to get it right, partly because we are often reluctant to spell out exactly what attributes we don't want, as well as what we do want.  There is, for instance, plenty of room for shy, retiring, academic individuals in some parts of the civil service, but many Whitehall and other jobs require staff to be friendly, self-starting, clear communicators and so on.  These attributes need if necessary to be spelt out and appraised, or else you will end up appointing an unemployable genius - great at completing crosswords but quite incapable of making decisions or managing fellow humans with all their faults and frailties. 

It must be recognised, too, that recruitment, whether from inside or outside the civil service, is particularly risky because you don't have a lot of time to get to know the candidate before appointment.  You must therefore be ready to accept that some appointments will not work, through no fault on the part of you or the appointee.  But here are some thoughts that might help you cut the error rate.

Don't forget that civil servants must be appointed on merit through fair and open competition. Further detail is here.

Remember, too, that recruitment needs to be followed by effective, targeted induction.  This is too often neglected, especially in the case of senior appointments; this is one of the reasons why I created this website. It is particularly important that new entrants to the profession are introduced to the Civil Service Code, and come to understand its importance and implications.  There should be no question of local mission statements or departmental core values overriding the provisions of the code.


Martin Stanley