We're regularly on the lookout for briliant user researchers to join the best UR community in government. We advertise new roles regularly, and we want to give every applicant the very best chance of success.
Where our job vacancies are advertised
All DfE user research permanent (civil servant) roles are advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website.
Our non-civil servant user researchers are all from a variety of managed service suppliers. We don't directly recruit contractors.
Qualities we're looking for
The skills and experience we need for each level of user researcher are set out in our job descriptions.
We want great user researchers, or people who show potential to be great user researchers. We also want you to share our community principles, and to be excited about making positive change to the users of DfE's policies and services.
Many of our user researchers started out in different roles and careers. They switched from academic research, other research disciplines like social research, design and other digital roles, other roles in the civil service, teaching roles, and more. This variety of backgrounds makes us stronger as a research community.
To switch careers into user research, there are some skills you will need to demonstrate. Look at our job descriptions, and think about your transferable skills and any gaps you might have. For people in other research and insight professions, think about how to apply your methods and experience to agile user research.
If you are already in DfE, you may be able to observe user research happening in one of our teams, and find opportunities to bring research into your current role.
Contact the head of user research or a lead user researcher, who can help you arrange this.
There are plenty of DfE user researchers who will talk to you about the role, and some might be interested in giving you mentoring support. Contact the head of user research, Tom Adams, who can talk about UR careers and introduce you to other DfE user researchers.
Application and interview tips
If you are used to private sector recruitment approaches, civil service applications and interviews can feel quite different. Knowing what to expect beforehand means you can plan how to show yourself and your skills effectively.
The job advert will list a number of 'essential criteria', and the level of experience we want to see against each of them.
These are what we will be assessing in your application, so make sure you clearly describe how you meet each one.
If your application is successful, and you are invited to interview, you will be asked in-depth questions about your experience of 3 or 4 of the essential criteria. For each one, you'll be asked to use an example from your career, so make sure you've prepared at least one or two good examples for each of the essential criteria.
We don't try and trick you or catch you out in our interview questions. We'll tell you which essential criteria we're assessing before asking the question, and it's important that the example you give fits that specific criteria. If your answer doesn't quite fit the essential criteria, you won't score highly.
You will also be given a task, normally to prepare beforehand and present to the panel during the interview. This task gives you a chance to give a more in-depth answer than you would in a normal interview question, and lets us see how you think about and approach your work.
Communication skills are important in user research, and so we are also taking this into account. Make sure your presentation keeps to the time limit you have been given, and that your slides and presenting style are good and well practised.
How the interview is scored
The task and questions in your interview will each be marked out of 7. If you score below 4 (the pass mark) in any of them, you will not be offered the job.
If more than one candidate scores above the pass mark, the highest scoring candidate will be offered the job. Everybody else will be added to the department's 'reserve list'. This means that for six months, anybody else with an equivalent user research role can contact you first to offer it to you before it is advertised on Civil Service Jobs.
Diversity and challenging biases
It's important to us that we recruit fairly, and that everybody has the best chance of success.
We don't see your name or any demographic details in your application, to reduce unconscious biases. Your interview panel will be gender diverse, and will include at least one person from an ethnic minority, or who identifies as disabled or neurodivergent.
Help us improve our interviews
It's important that our interviews recruit the best user researchers, but also that they are positive experiences for the person being interviewed. We want to continually improve the questions we ask, the way we ask them, and the overall format of our interviews.
If you've taken part in a DfE user research job interview, the head of user research would love to hear your feedback.
Further reading and listening
- Using the STAR (situation, task, action, and result) method when giving examples in applications and interviews - National Careers Service
- General tips for applying for civil service roles - Civil Service Careers
- DfE head of user research, Tom Adams, talking about civil service interview tips, and his own experiences of job interviews - ten minute DfE 'Think digital, act human' audio podcast, 10 minutes