What is the Public Sector 

Clerical Officer’s are the staple of the Public Sector. But let’s being by exploring the latter. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform states that the Public Service of Ireland refers to the entirety of public administration within the state government apparatus. Often people are unclear about the difference between the pubic and civil service. Those who work directly for the government departments are usually called civil servants. However, civil servants are also public servants. The public service roles are very broad with lots of opportunity. They include Local Authority Personnel who work in city and county councils and an Garda Siochana. Added to this there are Doctors, Nurses and Teachers. You could summarise it as employees of other agencies that provide services to the public. 

Recruitment processes for the different sections are slightly different. The Civil Service as well as Local Authorities and the HSE have their own approaches to interviewing. While they all use the competency-based framework, the questions are structured differently. It pays to be familiar with the different requirements to prepare accordingly. H-Training can help you there. 

Let’s look at the different sections across this broad framework. 

Administrative Roles for Clerical Officers in Councils 

For employment in the administrative stream of the Civil Service the entry grade is clerical officer. This is an operational role.  Meaning it involves much of the day-to-day and task related work. The grade is open to school leavers and doesn’t require a third level qualification. However, having one can be useful. There is an educational attainment option on many applications. The competencies for this grade are as follows:   


Information Management/Processing 

Delivering Results 

 Customer Service/Communication Skills 

Specialist Knowledge/Expertise/Self 

Development and Commitment to Public Service values. 

In councils the operational roles are broader and not just confined to Clerical Officers. They include Assistant Engineers; General Operatives; Graduates Grade 3 and 4 and analogous. Analogous simply means a post where the duties and level of responsibility are comparable. The competencies are outlined under four pillars. Specific elements of each pillar are chosen for each job campaign’s competencies.  The four pillars are: Management and Change; Delivering Results; Performance through People; Personal Effectiveness. 

These can be seen as the broader part of what is required to deliver results in public service


The HSE and the Clerical Officer

The operational groups in the HSE are Grade 3 – Clerical Officer & Grade 4 – Asst. Staff Officer (also called Admin officer) & Analogous.  Analogous in the HSE is wide ranging and consists of various groups within the following categories:  

Medical Dental;  

Nursing and Midwifery;  

Health and Social Care Professionals;  

Management and Administration 

The HSE a unique Interviewing Process

The HSE has a very comprehensive competency model, which consists of the following categories: Managing the Service; Managing People; Managing Yourself and Managing Change. Specific competencies and their application are listed under each category and adapted for each role advertised. However, the HSE applications can be the most complex to fill out in certain scenarios. There is often and blended academic approach to competencies that can confuse the process. Competencies seek to assess your demonstrated ability under a particular heading. Properly trained interview boards want specific examples of you operating in such scenarios. They then assess these examples against the criteria. While knowledge is important competencies seek to discover more about the candidate. In essence they ask who you are. How will you respond under pressure or operating across a vast array of disciplines?  

In recent years H-Training has seen competency questions that ask candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of a given area. This is really a technical question an in one respect defeats the purpose of competencies. For example, if I was to demonstrate my knowledge of leadership, I could regale you with theories all day. But that wouldn’t suggest that I was actually able to lead. This sort of approach harkens back to secondary school examples of regurgitating knowledge. It is really a biographical assessment that often can be conducted without an interview. However, there are ways around this that we can help you with.  

Progression beyond Clerical Officer

The progression from the operational roles is to First-Line or Front-Line Management grades.  Holders for these posts are usually responsible for the work of others and themselves.  However, this is not always the case, because of the nature of roles across departments. A department, that interacts with the public will typically have first line managers. This is often because they have larger teams than none customer facing departments.  The Social Welfare and Passport Offices have higher numbers of Clerical Officers given the volume of people they deal with 

In the civil service the first line Manager (also referred to as front line Manager) is the Executive Officer or EO.  The competencies for this role are People Management, Analysis and Decision Making, Delivery of Results, Interpersonal and Communication Skills, Specialist knowledge & Expertise and Self-Development and Commitment to Public Service Values. The last four competencies here are similar to the operational roles. However, at interview they require broader examples and demonstration at a higher standard. 

Local Authority Levels After Clerical Officer

In Local authorities the following grades are considered First line Managers (also referred to as Front line Managers) Staff Officers; Executive Engineers; General Services Supervisors Grade 5s and analogous.  Again, the competencies have similar headings as the operational grades. However, the first pillar-Management and Change now becomes Strategic Management and Change. The level of expertise required at interview for the other three is broader still. The four pillars from which competencies are chosen for an interview campaign at this level are: Strategic Management and Change; Delivering Results; Performance through People and Personal Effectiveness. 

The HSE’s Next Level 

In the HSE the First line Management Role is not specifically categorised as first-line but rather as middle management. It is combined with Grade 6s and 7s in this Category. However, from our work with applicants for the grade 5 Role the Interview process is quite like that of other Government Bodies first Line Manager roles. The higher grades (6’s and 7s) require broader experience and knowledge than the Grade 5s. 

There is also an Administrative Officer Role between the EO (Executive Officer) and the HEO (Higher Executive Officer).  This is an entry level role for those who wish to start a career in the Civil Service but are experienced or have a higher academic achievement. In recent years, the government have been able to recruit expertise from the private sector at this grade level. The competencies are the same as for the HEO role apart from the first one which is Leadership Potential rather than Team Leadership. Many experienced people may not have directly lead people, but are skilled at influencing others across a range of settings. This requires candidates at interview to demonstrate how they have led in a sector outside the Civil Service.  

Higher Executive Officer 

In the civil service the Higher Executive Role (HEO) is a more senior management role. Effectively they manager the administrative function. While the role is broader than the EO, it is concerned with the day-to-day administration management of the department. HEO roles are wide ranging and may have a team complement of up to 100. While other HEO roles are more focused on the task area and may have small teams.  Despite this it is critical in a HEO interview to be able to demonstrate your ability to effectively lead a team in a modern and transparent manner.  The competencies for the HEO Role are:  

Team leadership 

Analysis and Decision Making 

Management and Delivery of results 

 Interpersonal and Communication Skills 

 Specialist Knowledge, Expertise and self -development  

Commitment to Public Service Values. 

Again the competencies that are similar to the lower Grades will require more robust examples. Candidates will need to demonstrate that they have fully developed in the previous role.  It is not based on length of service in a role, but rather on what one has achieved within the role. 

Many people who acquire these roles start out as clerical officers. This could be your journey and we can help you get there 

In a future article we will discuss the next grades at Middle Management: Grade 7, Administrative Officers; Senior Staff Officers; Senior Executive Engineers Grade 6 & 7 and analogous. 

If you’re looking for interview coaching or even further career coachingcareer guidanceemotional intelligence testing get in touch with Ciarán and the H-Training team today. If you’re located at the other side of the recruiting desk, H-Training also offers comprehensive interview panel trainingcorporate group interview training and effective sales training programs. Click on the Book Now tab to secure your plac

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