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Office of National Statistics (ONS) interview - any help appreciated!

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    (Original post by lightburns)
    I'd very much like help from anyone with experience from ONS! (Yes, I know it's the Office for National Statistics - can't edit the title!)

    I have an interview for HEO Social Researcher at Titchfield. This consists of a general competancies section, a presentation section (they send me data the week before), and technical interview questions section.

    I have read through some previous threads and found useful information, but the more I can get, the better! Especially anything to help direct revision of statistics.

    Some specific things I'd like to know, if possible:

    * What can I expect with the dataset that will arrive a week before?

    * Will I be asked general interview questions (e.g. why I want to work at ONS, what does ONS do, what are my strengths and weaknesses, etc.)?

    * I have heard that computer/programming knowledge is part of people's jobs at ONS. Is this the case?

    * General competancies - will they ask for my example(s) quite broadly (then ask further questions after I've given the example), or will they begin with a specific question that could prevent me from using an example I've prepared? I want to know whether I can pre-prepare a couple of strong examples for each, or whether I need to have a great range and be able to find a specific example that fits the situation they've requested.

    Many thanks!

    I work at ONS (Newport, not Titchfield) so can answer some of your questions.

    I'm not sure if you've read some other threads I've replied to before so sorry if I'm repeating myself.

    1) The dataset I'm afraid I can't shed much light on - I'm a statistician rather than a social researcher and this part of the interview process is different for us! At least know that you'll have time to get your head around it and google as much as needed!

    2) No - you shouldnt be asked general interview questions. It's a competency-based interview so everything will be based on examples/stories from your experience. The only situation where people might ask a vague "so why are you interested in ONS?"-type question is as a conversation-starter when you first arrive - it won't actually be part of the test!

    3) Yes. Most people starting fear they wont have enough stats knowledge but actually programming is what many people lack (myself included). You may be asked at the end of the interview what software packages you can use, but don't stress if you're not a programmer. From my experience this is more to help them decide which team to put you in, rather than deciding if you should get the job at all. I knew a little bit of SPSS from uni when I interviewed and that was fine. If you know something else like R or SAS then amazing, but it's not a prerequisite.

    4) Competencies: The interviewers should make it very clear which competency they are testing. So they will say "ok we are now going to talk about...." and then ask you a question. The structure of questions is normally "tell me about a time when you have....". I would recommend pre-preparing strong examples, as you've said, based on the bullet points for HEO level here: https://www.gov.uk/government/public...ency-framework. Make sure you example ticks off as many of the bullet points for the relevant competency as possible, and don't be afraid to really spell out why it fits that competency (assume they know nothing!). Questions should be fairly general, but it's good to have a back-up competency example in mind just in case your pre-prepared one goes out the window or doesn't fit the question (just so that you don't panic and have nothing to say). If you let me know which competencies that have specified for this board I can try to give some more specific advice.

    General advice: if you can't think of something to say at the time, don't be afraid to return later and say that you've remembered something for a previous question (I did this in mine). For competency examples use the STAR technique (or similar) -google this if you haven't come across it before. Basically, tell the example like a story: what was the situation, or problem? What did you (not your team, YOU specifically) do that was so amazing? Why was it challenging? What would you do in future to improve/do differently? What was the measurable impact of your actions/decisions?

    Hope this wasn't an overload of info and it helps somewhat - feel free to reply or private message me with any questions

    (Original post by lightburns)
    Thanks so much for replying, this was really helpful.

    1. Shame. I'm going to be abroad when it arrives - hopefully the weekend will give me enough time.

    2. Thanks, one less thing to worry about!

    3. Very helpful! I'm a complete amateur, but I've taken a personal interest in programming in my current job and want to learn more. One of my potential competency examples is a scenario involving programming, so it's good to know that's a decent thing to be waving about.

    4. My general competencies are "Changing and improving", "Delivering at pace" and "Collaborating and partnering". What I've currently done is detail 2 examples for each; one is the strongest, and the second a bit different and focusing on different bullet points. From what you say, though, I think I'll prepare them to point out more blatantly exactly how they fill the bullet points. My main fear is if they ask it in a way that I can't use my prepared examples.

    The scariest thing right now is the stats. Whilst my degrees were quite stats-heavy, I haven't done any stats since I graduated 2 years ago. I feel all I'm managing to do before the interview is a fly-by of revision, rather than demonstrating depth of knowledge...
    So for those general competencies the questions are likely to be something like:

    Can you tell me about a time when you've had to deliver at pace?
    .....you've had to prioritize in order to deliver at pace?
    Give an example of when you've collaborated and partnered with colleagues or other organisations.
    Can you describe a time when you've collaborated with people you haven't met before? (I had this specific one but luckily my prepared example was with strangers so it was ok!)

    Follow up qu's are likely to be around what you found hardest or what you would do to improve in future - so try to be critical of yourself and always look to improve on what you did even if it was a success.
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