THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
This area will briefly look at the interview process that I went through when applying for this post. However it has recently come to my attention that the Probation Service will no longer be recruiting in this manner; instead it will look at training up its Probation Service Officers through a PSO role. It is my opinion that the current process was successful and does work well, and I can only imagine that issues relating to resources has once again reared its head.
THE APPLICATION FORM
I found that the NPS began its recruitment drive every February/March time by making the application packs available. These forms were massive and extremely taxing and required a lot of careful planning and application. Of particular note were the four skills areas, in which you needed to demonstrate how you possessed certain skills (i.e working as part of a team) and evidence it. There was also a section that wanted you to describe why you wanted the post, and given the space provided they were looking for depth and insight rather than one sentence. I can also recall that there were word limits when describing your skills.
The recruitment staff will use this form to decide whether or not you are suitable to progress through to the Stage 1 Assessment Centre.In my limited experience offilling out application forms this was probably the hardest, and I found myself making links to both my academic achievement and knowledge in the work place. I found that it was an advantage to have worked in a variety of places, upon which I could draw evidenc of skills in terms of teamwork and communication.
STAGE 1 ASSESSMENT CENTRE
If your application form proves to be successful then you are invited to the assessment centre stage one. Despite this being a National Probation Service I found that individual areas operate differently. Of the two areas I applied for the first assessment days were different in content - with one area requesting the completion of a written exercise only, and the second area asking for the completion of a written and group exercise.
The written exercise appears to have been designed for two primary reasons. The first of these is to test the basic skills of the candidate. The second is the ability of the candidate to solve a problem, not necessarily in terms of coming up with a specific answer - but rather the processes they adopt to reach a conclusion. The assessment was relatively short - lasting approximately forty five minutes. I cannot recall what the scenario was, although I do have a vague recollection of some community group encountering problems within the local community, and what it would need to do to alleviate this issue.
STAGE 2 ASSESSMENT CENTRE
During the Stage 2 Assessment Centre you will be required to pass a Scripted interview, a Semi-Structured interview, a group exercise and a Presentation.
I found this day to be particularly daunting, and can remember quite clearly the events that unfolded on that particular day. I was aware that I would be at the assessment centre for most of the day - and the information pack sent prior to my arrival outlined what was expected of the candidate. With reference to the presentation we were given the question beforehand and told that the presentation should last no longer than ten minutes. The question was as follows....
'The Practical Steps I Took To Solve A Specific Problem'
This question offers a wide scope for the candidate to work with, and as there were no further guidelines I initially struggled - thinking about conducting a presentation that explicitly linked to the Probation Service. However the more I thought about it the more I felt that the assessors were looking at the process of problem solving rather than the subject matter. I prepared for the presentation by relaying it back to family and friends, and making sure that it did not exceed the ten minute duration. On the day of undertaking the presentation I can remember standing in a small room with an OHP, and two assessors watching my every move. of course they attempted to relax me - yet I can just recall speeding through the presentation in seven minutes!!
The group exercise involved candidates sitting at a table and being read a scenario by one of the assessors. I cannot recall what my scenario was but the aim was in discussing/identifying a method to solve a certain problem - but on this occasion group members needed to demonstrate not only the ability to put forward their own ideas and communicate with other members, but also to listen to what others had to say and incorporate other peoples ideas and views. Given the fact that I had never met any of these people before this was to say the least, a difficult exercise, and my only consolation was that other group members were in the same boat. Perhaps what made it increasingly difficult was the fact that I had to undertake this exercise first, whereas others may have undertaken the interviews or presentation.
THE FORMAL OFFER
And so the application process was complete - I had began to fill the application form out in March and had attended assessment centre days in June and July - and it would not be until August until I discovered whether or not I had been sucessful. Of course I can remember the day I was offered a post with the Probation Service - these were exciting times and I would be moving to a different area of the country.
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