Writing a CV for the Civil Service

As one of the UK’s leading recruiters - accounting for nearly half a million employees - a career as a Civil Servant can be a rewarding one. In fact, in 2020, the Civil Service was named number 1 in the ‘The Times Top-100 Graduate Employers’ listing. The diversity of roles available provides an opportunity not found in the public sector – from working within one of 24 ministerial units to defining critical policies; and most with above-average salaries and pensions.

In this article, we advise on how to tailor your CV to increase your chances of securing a role within the Civil Service.

How do I apply for a role in the Civil Service?

There are multiple pathways into the Civil Service, including apprenticeships, and internships targeting undergraduates from diverse backgrounds, with starting salaries of around £27,000 (rising to £55,000 upon promotion).

Behaviours matter!

When applying for a role within the Civil Service, a set of “behaviours” are used to determine your fit for a specific role. These behaviours include leadership, delivering at pace and making effective decisions. Spend time articulating how you can demonstrate experience in these areas when preparing your CV.

Behaviour-related questions are used to provide recruiting managers with the data needed to identify your fit and predict your performance for a specific role. This is beneficial to both parties, as a candidate who fits well within a role, is more likely to be happy, and therefore perform better.

Backup your claims with examples

You’re no doubt aware of the need to blow your own trumpet within a CV, and the importance of achievements. However, with Civil Service applications, the ability to quantify your claims with specific examples of “how” you achieved something is even more important.

Use the STAR Format

Consider adopting the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach to structure your CV (and personal statement – more on this below). We speak more about the STAR CV here, but essentially, this format can help you in accurately showcasing your skills and achievements in line with the Civil Service’s behaviours.

In addition, spend some time reading up on Success Profiles. These frameworks are used within the Civil Service to assess experiences, abilities, strengths, behaviours and technical skills required – not just from your CV, but also your application form, interview, role-play exercises and personality tests.

Civil Service success profile framework

Include hobbies

Yes, you read that right! Usually, we advise against including hobbies in a CV. However, for Civil Service CVs, it’s a good idea to include them.

Common questions:

I've heard the Civil Service often prefers using anonymised CVs. Is this true?
Yes. These are often called blind CVs.

How long should a Civil Service CV be?
As with any other CV, no more than three pages (depending on experience level) is fine.

Should I include my full career history?
As you can see below, the guidelines state to not go back more than a decade:

Civil Service CV instruction quote

Does a CV for the Civil Service need to be formatted differently?
No, the “normal” rules for writing a good CV apply.

What’s a Statement of Suitability, and should this go in my CV?
This document should be used alongside your CV, rather than within it. This is a document of up to 1,250 words to expand upon the content of your CV in more detail.


This article contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/).

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